F*ck this view, we’re heading north: Reliving ‘Mermaid Fillet’

When I met with Phumlani Pikoli and Tariq Munshi, I was reminded that Gauteng brasse skarrel differently. They think nothing of driving from one side of the city to the other. So as the tour-guide to the capital of spatial apartheid, I resolved to traverse the colony of Cape Town a bit. 

The first stop was to the heart of all things pretty and problematic, the Rhodes Memorial for the view and to make gat of the glorious shrine to that imperialist naai Cecil John. It was pleasing to see his great copper bust had been defaced. In Mermaid Fillet, this is the spot where the malnaai Isaac goes on his first killing mission and receives a gun silencer and a rosary. The Rhodes Memorial has 49 steps, one for each year that Rhodes lived while killing exponentially more indigenous South Africans. Walking down the steps, we admired the oxidised copper green lions and their weirdly magnificent arses. At the bottom, there’s a chiseled horseman looking out over Cape Town’s segregated suburbs. Fuck this view, we were heading north. 

In the northern suburbs, you cannot see the mountain or the ocean, but the drinks are cheaper and the people don’t try as hard. Home. Old Kanye and yaadt music blared on my 6 by 9s from a 2014 flashdrive as we drove to Goodwood in my Polo. The bars on Voortrekker Road hold a special place in my book and in my memory. But they look otherwise in the middle of a day. “That was alcoholism in there,” said Tariq about one of them. Phumlani reflected on feral whites, a phenomenon shared by both Pretoria and Bellville. We walked further and got to Open Arms where the character Isaac, an alcoholic bisexual killer, gets gesuip and cheats on his boyfriend throughout Mermaid Fillet. We settled on Planet, a bar I associate with festive dronk verdriet, Friday worship, karaoke, jazzing and bliss. But today, it was suitably empty for a pandemic and dark in the daylight. I’m relieved to learn we can still smoke inside. It’s the little things. 

Our third stop was in the CBD at the Book Lounge. And we saw our books as we walked in – something I never quite get used to. Both Born Freeloaders and Mermaid Fillet were centrally placed. So we had to flex with a couple ridiculous poses of authors vanging on kak. The Book Lounge is a Cape Town fave, a true gem with the jassest most relevant books (no bias). The kind of place where Stirvy kin Michaela would probably visit to find new queer, decolonial literature with her UCT friends before going to Yours Truly. 

We wrapped up at the Kimberley Hotel bar. Phumlani put a coin in the Jukebox and played Travis Scott’s Sicko Mode while we reflected on the song’s reference to Drake’s painfully weak tolerance for Xan. 

This video was produced as part of a partnership between the Mail and Guardian and the Goethe-Institut, focusing on various aspects of innovation

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Mia Arderne
Mia Arderne is a Cape Town-based writer with bylines at Cosmopolitan, the Mail & Guardian, Marie Claire, GQ, City Press and more. Her writing explores the politics of gender, race, identity, sexuality and mental health. She works as a journalist at Viewfinder, Accountability Journalism. Her debut novel Mermaid Fillet is published by Kwela, NB Publishers.

Related stories


Subscribers only

‘Terrorised’ family shines a light on traditional leadership for vulnerable...

The ambiguity between traditional and constitutional leadership has been exposed by the violent banishment of an Eastern Cape family

Matrics fail at critical subjects

The basic education minister talks of quality passes achieved by the class of 2020, but a closer look at the results tells a different story

More top stories

Zulu land body challenges audit outcome

Ingonyama Trust Board chairperson Jerome Ngwenya has challenged the audit process in the face of a series of unfavourable ratings

The many faces of Idi Amin

Was he a joke, an oaf, a hero, or the evil dictator the West loved to hate? Decades after his death, his legacy is still a puzzle.

Review: Volvo XC40 is never intimidating

When you’re asked to drive 400km on a business trip, it really helps if you don’t have to do it in an old skorokoro. In this Volvo, it becomes a road trip to rival others.

Aliens in Lagos: sci-fi novel Lagoon offers a bold new...

Nnedi Okorafor’s ‘Lagoon’ is an immersive reimagining of Nigerian society that transports us into a future where queerness is normalised

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…