All Fired-up

03 May 2021 | Words Danielle Bergh. Photo Gallo Images / Mike Hutchings. Read time 2 min.
“You do not notice how pervasive such a presence is until it steals your breath.” – Danielle Bergh
“You do not notice how pervasive such a presence is until it steals your breath.” – Danielle Bergh

In the distance a flickering light burns. Its soot hangs like a shadow in the air. The magnificence of such warmth cannot help but to spread as the wind picks it up and drops it in an unsynchronised fashion. The angst still dormant in our hearts as a threat is not a threat until named. The sun now dissipates; rays trying to get through the impenetrable smog. The smoke no longer an unwanted guest ringing the doorbell; now an invader claiming everything it touches. You do not notice how pervasive such a presence is until it steals your breath. It burns but not in the pacifying way nicotine does. In a daze you grab what you can and step outside to be greeted by a blaze. A gush of hot air sends your feet stumbling. Trying to shield your already red eyes seems to be an arbitrary act. Ash swoops up as you swing the car door open. You come to terms with the impermanence of perceived reality and any futile attempt to save it will leave you more powerless. Regret comes too late; I do not know if I should grieve the loss now or later, I think to myself as I am now another car lined up to escape the boiling oven. The thudding of the helicopter blades sends vibrations throughout the air as they appear one by one through the black clouds. There is not one moment of silence felt in the orange tinted view of the world; whether it is the voice of panic in our heads or the persistent white noise of the choppers and police sirens… our community can still “feel the heat”. Faith in the frontline is what soothes the mind. You only miss something once it’s gone is the tune everyone sings as your imagination displays your livelihood being consumed by the belly of the beast. With it our history, our education and unique artefacts now left up to our broken memory to salvage. It is words that create our future; all that was left to merge the minds of past and present is that which is written on paper. Paper now dispersed as grey matter on concrete floors is what is left of the progression of knowledge. Now all that can be experienced is the smell of war; the smell of worlds burning. Flames are created and it is the impartial human that is capable of such a creation; after-all what could go wrong imitating the sun? As a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so a community is only as strong as its impulsive arsonist. When the smoke clears and we return to our place of residence, we lay our heads to rest on our smoke-infused pillowcases and try to rest; tomorrow we wake up and tell our naïve hearts that it was all a dream. The blackened wasteland viewed from the highway is however a sore sight to behold. The table; once steadfast and varnished with evergreen trees; now limp, fragile, torched and stripped. As the ash fertilizes the soil for new life, so the ash from our old selves, who burned along with the forest, fertilizes the emergence of a better, virtuous, flourishing community.      

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#UCTFire – one year later

Jagger Library Memorial Exhibition opens on 20 April 2022

The Centre for Curating the Archive, in association with Michaelis Galleries (UCT) and UCT Libraries will stage a memorial exhibition marking the one-year anniversary of the tragic Jagger Library fire at the Michaelis Galleries. The exhibition will open to the public on Wednesday, 20 April 2022.

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Content submitted by members of the UCT community has been published with little to no editorial intervention from UCT News.

#UCTFire – stories from the UCT community

Content submitted by members of the UCT community has been published with little to no editorial intervention from UCT News. 


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:
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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

Cengage EMEA 17:00, 7 June 2021
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