BOULEVARDS AND BANNERS          - 21/6/2011      <--Prev : Next-->


Most cities have their own famous boulevards. Paris has the Avenue des Champs Elys es for which the name translates into "the place where heroes come to relax" - perhaps one of the most famous avenues in the world stretching from the Arc De Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde.

New York of course has Broadway one of the longest streets in the world, It may not be the favorite spot of New Yorkers themselves (except for New Year's Eve, when hordes gather to watch the annual ball drop down the One Times Square building), but tourists often make it a priority to step into the heart of the American Theatre Industry. And its not so much for the musicals, but rather for New York's archetypal street buzz and the world famous, scintillating billboards strung all over the Time Square area.

Venice has a river as its main boulevard - the famous Grand Canal and Las Vegas has its garish Las Vegas Boulevard, commonly known as the Strip, while Los Angeles has Sunset Boulevard. London has many famous boulevards, Piccadilly is a major street in central London, running from Hyde Park Corner in the west to Piccadilly Circus in the east, where wedding processions take place with all the pomp and ceremony that is England, and ofcouse they also have the famous Oxford Street.

Now little old Bulawayo has Leopold Takawira Avenue, once called Selborne Avenue, framed by our once beautiful Centenary Park, the Bulawayo Theatre, Eveline School the Museum of Natural History, and the historic hapless City Fountain, "now you see it,now you don't."

Once bordered with magnificent King Palms, Silver Oaks and Jacarandas, this monumental avenue features the towering Kenilworth Towers at one end and the city skyline at the other. Now I have lived two blocks from Takawira my entire life so I know this boulevard intimately. I know exactly where the policemen with radar guns hide. I have watched with sadness as the Christmas lights, which used to be so amazing, have dwindles to pathetic strings of indiscriminate globes strung carelessly across the Avenue.

I have watched the Silver Oaks die or being forcibly removed one by one. I have watched as the telecommunications companies have dug up the side of the road and left it in a disgusting mess along the north side, pavements askew, piles of dirt left unattended, the cycle and pedestrian paths a danger to to all who pass. I have watched the gigantic jacaranda trees wither to pitiful shadows of their former selves as the tar mac and litter builds up around them, choking the very life out of them.

I have watched our glorious park decay into a wilderness, the wonderful city folk regularly begin sporadic clean up exercises, but no one continues with the maintenance and it is now once again an appalling eye sore. In the olden days one could wander down to the lake in the Centenary Park and feed the white and black swans. The lake wound its way under the elegant bridge near the entrance to the park, one could sit and picnic on the beautiful manicured lawns, take the children to the magical Disney style lights at Christmas time. Wander across the boulevard to the beautifully and lovingly maintained Nativity Scene near the giant Christmas tree - but no more. Our park is now a haven for criminals, desperate lovers, and the homeless.

I have watched with interest recently as two gigantic foundations were dug near Park Road on the northern end. Perhaps tis to be an Independence Arch celebrating the fabulous years the city has been served so incredibly by the current government ? Perhaps its a memorial for our glorious ruler ? They are gigantic foundations, and then last week two enormous columns arrived, bright blue in colour, obviously the columns to be used to festoon our once beautiful boulevard with some sort of important historic event for the country ?

Alas no. As much as an Independence Arch would have been out of place and incongruous, my diminutive friend Rosemarie told me aghast, that these gigantic columns, not only will be placed here but at several other strategic places in the city and will support, almost as big as the Arc De Triomphe, signs for a cellular mobile phone company. !!! Emblazoned obscenely across a four lane highway leading into the City of Kings, without thought to beauty, without the permission of the populace, without thought to grace or appropriateness, once again, the people of Bulawayo will have a monstrosity forced upon them without their consent !!

Already the cities and the countryside areas are littered with hundreds of gargantuan red and white steel towers that are like blights on the face of the countryside. No effort at all has been made to disguise them as in other cities. Just as Rosemarie had circuited the city on the war path, I flew at HeeHoo for some advice and reassurance. He is after all my sounding board, my mentor, a great leveler, my sage in all things. "My dear" he said mildly, "there are millions of gigantic hideous billboards in all the cities all over the world!"

I stared at him in horror !! Philistine !! Uncaring fellow.. And then I realised that he is after all not a real Bulawegian. HeeHoo only came to Bulawayo in 1976. He is a new comer, interloper, new-kid-on-the-block, (a Shifty even !!)

For some time now I have had a sneaking suspicion that he patronizingly indulges me in my campaigns, causes, crusades and crises so his lack of sympathy is nothing new ..

Of course, I sniffed to myself, he would not understand my distress. Only a true blue dyed in the wool Bulawegian possesses this strange unfathomable passion for boulevards and all things Bulawayo.

Now what does one do under the circumstances. Beat ones head against the floor ? Rent one's clothes? March on City Hall ? Or pray that sanity will prevail, and if they have to desecrate our Beloved Bulawayo Boulevard - maybe the signage will read "Welcome to Bulawayo - City of Kings !! And in smaller letters "Home to so-and-so mobile cellular network"

And if we are really lucky maybe they will paint it the colour of the Jacarandas ??