in conversation with the Jazz factor

You held my arm with both hands and looked at me mesmerized. In your own words: “This is the first time I have touched a German.” It was late in the evening, at a wedding celebration in the Eastern Cape, filled with moving declarations from the heart. I was taken back to Germany, where once children could not stop speaking about the black man they had seen in the street. His youthful confession was disarming and I did not know how to respond. It carried such honesty and innocence.

The service flowed from song to song. And in between a few words. So different from our services that move from word to word, and in between a song. There was no order of service, no hymn book, no printed responses. The whole congregation was simply leaning into the Spirit, listening and responding. And even though the minister presided over the proceedings, it was the choir of women that prompted song after song, taking us into a place of true celebration.

I hear you singing as you go about your work. A gentle, quiet chanting as you fill the store’s fridge with water bottles. It is a Xhosa chant, religious in nature, extremely soothing. But it is meant only for your own heart. And in your ears there must be a whole choir singing with you. You are never alone.

You wanted to be taken home, and I had to refuse your request, for medical reasons, for the sake of your own safety. But in my own anger about your stubbornness, I missed to be present to the profound fear and loneliness at the root of your outrage and rebellion.

On that day, at home affairs, you wore the recently introduced uniform, which made you look rather like a pilot, than a state official. And the tides turned into my favor. But from one week to the next I turned out to be Mr Eisenberger for you. You greeted me in such a friendly way, that I couldn't resist accepting my new name. And I kind of liked the Jewish sound of my new identity. Since then I continue to be Mr Eisenberger to you. I just hope my alter ego will always remain in your good books