Cape Town Burning

03 May 2021 | Words Clare Dembovsky. Photo Gallo Images / Brenton Geach.
The Table Mountain fire caused a lot of damage in Cape Town and destroyed some of UCT’s historical buildings.
The Table Mountain fire caused a lot of damage in Cape Town and destroyed some of UCT’s historical buildings.

Cape Town is burning

The fire rages within

My heart cries with the flames

leaping over our memories


Memories embedded

in the landscape of our youth

blossoming adulthood

I'm grasping at the smoking sounds


Sounds of curiosity

where knowledge meets intellect meets reading

into lines of texts and subtexts

Jammie steps meeting Jagger library


Libraries of our lives

The chapters and passages and volumes

That danced over Cape Town

Dancing still through waves of connection


Connecting to the sights

that cloud our eyes

Table Mountain bellowing in its cloth

Spread wide a canopy of love


Love that knows no bounds

We reach across oceans

in prayers and gratitude

For Cape Town mother soil


The soil of toil

Of all we worked toward

When campus burned

And where to run


Running round the slopes of Rhodes

And changing names

The winds set light

To all we need to see


The sight of fires raging

In our hearts and minds

Cape Town you burn so strong within

The passion of our souls


Solely Cape Town we will never leave you

We'll lift each fragment of our past

To paint together from the ashes

An archive of the future


A future that will heal and blend

The colours leaping

Lapping gently wholly now

The oceans of our time as one


© Clare Dembovsky

My love of Cape Town. My love of UCT. As student. As performer. As lecturer. As conference speaker. Cape Town we are with you, always, no matter where we are in the world.

This content has been published with no editorial intervention from UCT News.

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In an email to UCT students, Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng said:
“Thank you for your patience as we seek ways to return to full academic activity at the University of Cape Town under COVID-19 regulations. Our first priority is to ensure the health and safety of everyone who needs to return to campus buildings.”

UCT is deeply grateful to all the donors who supplied food and other essential items for our students, and to everyone who has so generously offered other forms of support and assistance.

Everyone who would like to support the #UCTFire emergency relief fund is urged to please make financial donations to UCT through the UCT Alumni Ways to Give web page.

Donations can also be made by EFT using the details below:
Account name: UCT Donations Account
Bank: Standard Bank of South Africa
Branch code: Rondebosch Branch, 025009
Account number: 07 152 2387
Swift code: SBZAZAJJ
Please include your donor name if you so wish, as well as the reference for your donation, e.g. Name Surname, #UCTFire.

Messages of support

Sciences Po, France 10:05, 4 May 2021
The University of Tokyo 09:00, 30 April 2021
McCall MacBain Foundation 16:00, 29 April 2021
Stephen Toope, Chair of IARU 23:50, 27 April 2021
Mazi Asset Management 21:00, 27 April 2021
The National Archives (UK) 17:40, 27 April 2021
Universiteit Antwerpen 16:20, 26 April 2021
Yale University 21:15, 23 April 2021
SOAS University of London 17:00, 23 April 2021
University of Nairobi 15:45, 23 April 2021
Zhejiang University 12:05, 23 April 2021
University of Glasgow 11:20, 23 April 2021
Durham University 18:20, 22 April 2021
Sanlam Corporate Team 16:00, 22 April 2021
MANCOSA 16:00, 22 April 2021
Worldwide Universities Network 19:10, 21 April 2021
Chinese Ambassador Chen Xiaodong 09:00, 21 April 2021
University of the Western Cape 09:00, 20 April 2021
Stellenbosch University 09:20, 19 April 2021
Minister Blade Nzimande 09:15, 19 April 2021
Committee on Higher Education 09:10, 19 April 2021
University of the Witwatersrand 09:05, 19 April 2021
University of Pretoria 09:00, 19 April 2021