Two men in their late 60s walk into Newlands Stadium early on Wednesday morning, and set up a camera and canvas. Envar Larney, a renowned impressionist painter, sets out to paint the stadium, Table Mountain included, over the next six-seven hours. Neil Frye, his friend and a producer, sets up his camera to film and photograph the process. This is a big moment of redemption for these two men.
As a kid, Larney, of coloured descent, once came to Newlands and had to sit in the coloured section. He decided he was not going to come back again, and eventually exiled himself from the country. Frye, his white friend who moved to Cape Town from Port Elizabeth at a young age, exiled himself because he didn't want to join the illegal war on Angola in 1975.
Since then, Frye found it tough to settle down in another country because of the restrictions against South Africa, and came back to his home country in the 1980s. Larney has never become a South African again, but in the post-Apartheid era he has come again and again, and painted the stunning scenery of South Africa.
His "through-the-magic-window" style is not that big on detail as it is on an abstract impression of what he sees over the course of the day. By the time he reaches the final stages of his work, Larney has added an abstract impression of the South African huddle, with the team having started training at 2.30pm.
The two are discussing how nice it would be if it turned cloudy because he won't add to the painting what doesn't exist. That is something for a man whom reality hurt badly when he was little.
Frye had to fight his own battles. He went to the first army training in 1971, but left nine months later. He came back two years later, fell in love with his best friend's sister, who lived next door, but had to then split in 1975 because of the Angola war. Those were terrible times for South Africans: Larney, who studied arts at the University of Cape Town, had a choice: either face persecution or stop being a South African, and Frye was forced to come back despite marrying in England because it was just not easy for him to live in a new country.
Frye remembers amusing stories, too, of white and coloured folk trying to be friends. Larney once happened to go to a whites-only job, and had the officers trying to remove him. Another friend of theirs, David Brown, another white person, then intervened: "You better watch out; this is the son of the Spanish ambassador. He does not speak a word of English, but if you say one thing to him, forget about your job."
Frye also remembers hiding under blankets in the back of the cars to enter coloured neighbourhoods to hang out with his friends. It wasn't easy for the conscientious white folk either. "A lot of my friends here were on both sides of the colour lines," Frye says. "Some of them were persecuted, like sleep deprivation for weeks, you could die of that. Because they refused to go to war."
As a kid Frye remembers he used to sit next to the coloured section at Newlands because their comments were funny compared to the "stiff-upper-lipped" white crowds. Larney, though, had to do without cricket in his home city, but he fell in love with cricket nonetheless. And now he is back to Newlands, his "holy grail", on an invite from CSA, to paint it and put it up for exhibition on day one of the Test against India.
That is a great moment for these friends. As sweet as the one Frye encountered and taped on video when England came here last. "The Barmy Army and the South African equivalent of that went at each other," Frye says. "The Barmy Army sang 'Moeeni, Moeeni Moeeni, Moeeni', and the South Africans went 'Hashim, Hashim, Hashim, Hashim.'
"Here you have an English Barmy Army singing and praising a Muslim who is English, and the South Africans right next to them - and they are predominantly white - chanting for another Muslim who is South African. That to me was quite fantastic. It gives one hope. You realise that as human beings, what we really want to do is enjoy ourselves."