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When I came to Johannesburg from the countryside, I knew nobody, but many strangers were very kind to me. I then was dragged into politics, and then, subsequently, I became a lawyer.
I actually think Johannesburg represents the future. My version of what I think the world is going to become looks like Johannesburg.
In a lot of the really impoverished areas of Johannesburg you see these packets of cheesy puffs which are like 6 feet long and the width of a basketball, and they're transparent and they have like 10,000 cheesy puffs in them, and you can buy that for like 50 cents. It's kind of a weird treat that you'd see people having in the townships.
Johannesburg is weird, because half of it is like Los Angeles. It feels like just wealthy parts of L.A. But half of it is severe slummy, something like Rio De Janiero or something. So it's kind of weird, because it's both happening at the same time.
I lived at home and I cycled every morning to the railway station to travel by train to Johannesburg followed by a walk to the University, carrying sandwiches for my lunch and returning in the evening the same way.
I grew up in such a musical family, and my dad was the first chair in the Johannesburg Symphony Orchestra, and my mom was a piano teacher and a painter, so it was kind of a creative environment, and it was kind of in my DNA.
As a young woman, I attended Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, South Africa, which was then not segregated. But I witnessed the weight of apartheid everywhere around me.
Now that we have a democracy and you can go back and the airport air is not laden with evil any more, you can actually breathe oxygen when you land in Johannesburg.
South Africa is a whole other world. I went to grade school there and high school in Johannesburg, and before that, my family lived in Kenya in Nairobi where my brother was actually born, and my sister was born in Capetown. I spent the first 10 years of my life in South Africa.
Arthur Ashe had been the first black athlete to play Johannesburg at the time of apartheid.
There's no question that how Johannesburg operates is what made me interested in the idea of wealth discrepancy. 'Elysium' could be a metaphor for just Jo'burg, but it's also a metaphor for the Third World and the First World. And in science fiction, separation of wealth is a really interesting idea to mess with.
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