Christiaan Barnard carried out the world’s first heart transplant in Cape Town. Photograph: Eric Wadsworth/taken from picture library
The most famous heart in history. Why Africa is poor. The right to and abuse of free speech. Searching for the Google or Twitter of Africa. A dream with Titania and Bottom beneath a baobab tree.
This was a slice of life in South Africa last week, a sample of the history, debate, entrepreneurship and artistry the country has to offer the curious interloper.
First I dropped in to the Heart of Cape Town Museum where, in 1967, Christiaan Barnard performed the world’s first heart transplant. My tour group was taken to the hospital operating theatre where the surgery happened, and where it had been painstakingly reconstructed with lifesize waxworks of the doctors at work, original equipment and instruments and, on the tiled wall, a clock stopped at the crucial moment.
Also on display, suspended in a glass case, is a brown-pink-purple fleshy organ: the heart itself. It grew in the chest of Denise Darvall and stopped in that of Louis Washkansky, who survived for 18 days after the transplant.