Marie-Lais Emond
2 minute read
29 Mar 2014
12:00 pm

Other Side of the City: It’s a small world after all

Marie-Lais Emond

Like other kids, I love small-scale building models and, well, why not a whole country!

See that miniature version of Robben Island behind the Castle? Neither do we…

Santarama’s landmarks in miniature were constructed in 1973. Entrance fees still help to support Santa, the NGO that promotes control of TB.

We have been prepared for the sad facts that the Dromedaris was destroyed by fire and that the mini train that does rides is in for repair. But a giant, blue-eyed van Riebeeck stands guard. Inside, the Joburg Tower is dwarfed by another giant, Michael Jackson.

Outside the cafeteria we pass a R2-in-the-slot rocking giraffe in a top hat and a rocking Voortrekker wagon. But here is the miniature Big Hole, as in days of yore, with diggings and dozens of little green-overalled figures holding spades. Presumably a bit rough then, today it is full of tiny green men lying around in despair.


The approach to a miniature version of the Union Buildings is via some scarlet steps.

The Union Buildings loom, relatively undamaged. It is interesting to note what was regarded as relevant: the Donkin Memorial; the Settlers monument; the Cape Town castle.

I look for Robben Island. The schoolkids regularly bussed here might like to see that. All I can find besides wrecks in the waters is a shark with pretty eyelashes, newly painted, resting her jaw on a rusty support. I go to the office to buy a map. There doesn’t seem to be one.

On a separate mound stand huts, mostly similar cement splodges from a jelly mould but attributed to different tribes. For the “Xhosas”, I read, “Youth performing the Abak Wetha Initiation Dance”. Here’s a tumble of brown figurines in the mud.


The historical context in which this Santarama shark should be placed is uncertain. Pictures: Pawel Kot.

Recent paintwork might have been executed by infants with paintbrushes dipped in red, yellow and green, so that bright toadstool spots decorate South Africa’s huts, bridges, hotels, monuments.

There are some delights. One is a little church standing beside half a cannon, light streaming through stained glass windows, organ music gamely emanating from it. Another is finding Pawel lying on a path near mini Turffontein, photographing little racehorse survivors through their stable doors.

Santarama is close to the real Turffontein. Chewing full-size peri-peri chicken at Parreirinha, a street away, we discuss how to rescue our micro-country.

Santarama Miniland: 011 056 9859, Rosettenville Road. Reduced entrance fee of R20 while it’s in disrepair.  For constructive ideas and donations, contact Luyanada Mzangwe at Santa:

Each week Marie-Lais scouts another urban reach, tasting, testing alternative aspects to pique our curiosity about places and people we might have had no idea about.