View from a Wheelchair

View from a wheelchair

LOOK OVER PRETORIA they said. Look through the dust at the orange sunset! It is December and some of the dust has settled, most of Pretoria has emptied to the coast. We saw the orange of the last rays dramatic against the opalescent sky. Just my friends and I sharing a moment on the longest day, the Summer Solstice. The statue of Nelson Mandela, with his arms outstretched, blessing the nation like the orange rays bathing the gun-metal clouds. Gun-metal clouds. Gun. Metal. Who would have thought that we South Africans are continuing Madiba’s long walk to freedom? He has handed the baton over to us. It is as if guns and their miss-use are the symptom of a turbulent nation and metal is what we need to become to continue our rise out of oppression into democracy. From separation to integration of our diversity. We must reach deep within, over and over, to find the strength to keep on walking. To find our Metal.

Living in Pretoria I have seen the marches, heard the singing, particiapted in the protest. I have felt the “toyi-toying”, felt the Harley club as their bikes rumble past. The refugees, street kids and cavalcades. There is a stillness to be experienced in the centre of all this activity, it grows stronger the more you let it, the more you meditate. Until it reaches the point where it draws you into it like on That Day, the Longest Day, when my friends and I were suspended in the stillness of the evening. All one colour, one people, in the twilight savouring what it means to be alive on African soil. I have a new powerchair, it is my legs, and it purred like a big cat as it moved steadily up the steep hill that leads from the Administrative Capital. Sir Herbert Baker, who designed the Buildings, commented that this rolling landscape reminded him of Greece. Atlas and Hermes adorn the domes of the buildings.

These gods walked home with me and one of my closest friends that night – past the dark silhouette of Jacaranda trees. They told us to look deeper than politics, farther than this moment in time. They told me about the miracle that is life, the vastness that is the universe. My closest friend at my side is touched by chronic pain, but he is more than that. I am in a wheelchair, but I am more than that. This Christmas time, the gods told me, breathe deeply and vibrantly, and let your heart rejoice.

About the author

Erik Andersen

Erik enjoys dabbling in writing and poetry although he claims proficiency in neither. Perhaps his greatest gift is his tenacity and a kind of foolhardiness to embarrassing himself in public. Erik has been in a wheelchair for most of his adult life and writes from that perspective. He lives in the heart of Pretoria, South Africa, close to the Union Buildings, with his wife and child where we experience our Rainbow Nation in all its exciting diversity. You can follow him at

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