Thursday, 10 November 2011

A Long Walk to Divorce

In a peculiar set of circumstances I found myself on a bus on June 14 2011 headed towards Durban to meet a person I knew very little about. I knew his name was Miyere ole Miyandazi. I knew he had walked from Nairobi to Cape Town in 2004. I knew the spark was the violent response to protests by the Maasai around a lapsed colonial agreement regarding land; one that saw the Maasai restricted from accessing hundreds of thousands of acres of seasonal grazing. Instead they were pushed into unsuitable reserves that have damaged their whole way of life. I knew that he had been walking ever since. My understanding was that he was doing this to raise awareness about the situation of minority peoples, that this had something to do with some of his heritage coming from the nomadic Maasai. His message resonated with me. Instinct told me I should meet him. 

A handful of papers from his website were my only company on the 7 hour trip. They told me that he was speaking about access to land, freedom of movement and association, that his message was one of tolerance and peace. 

I would later learn that he was walking to break down the barriers dividing us as humanity. His was a journey into the self. Walking was his individual tool for coming to better know himself, a pilgrimage towards walking the path he is meant, to make his unique contribution to this earth. 

Return of the Mandelas

The air is thick, dry with heat, making it the parched companion to this arid environment. Thousands of aloes stand like stony sentries dotted along ridges, hills and plateaus, their headdresses a fiery red against the earth coloured surrounds. There is a deafening silence broken only by a gentle breeze that whistles in the ears.

Inside a nearby boma (traditional hut) sits the inkosi (chief). Traditional beadwork adorns his head, arms and ankles with a more elaborate piece covering his neck and torso, the lion skin that some moments ago hung from a shoulder now rest under him. To his left and right sit his headmen and advisors, they are locked in deliberation, he is only here for a few hours and so must deal with all matters requiring his attention. He sits silently, listening, before saying anything.

He is the embodiment of mediation, justice and leadership as is his duty through birth and custom, a heritage traced through a line of kings that go back twenty generations. History is alive in him today as he carries on his broad shoulders a responsibility to his people, both living and the dead. He is Inkosi Zwelivelile Mandlasizwe Dalibhunga Mandela.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Courting Development

It is getting late, the sun already set. A wind sweeps across the Cape Flats bringing with it the ocean chill. She walks alone through the bushy field, pointed home. Then something moves, stirs in the dark. It frightens, but she has no choice but to push on.

Moments later a young, broken body lies cold and lifeless, alone. A colder man, stinking of rape and murder, creeps away like a ghost into the night.

Morning brings discovery, one that shakes the small community of Heideveld to its core. In particular, sixteen year-old Sadick da Silva is moved to youthful anger by the gruesome murder of his sister’s best friend.

Nellie Court in Manenberg where CFSD held clinics and a street tournament in early 2010.

Monday, 29 August 2011

“Diski Yase Kasi”

A pitch of red earth, pebble and stone, its face pockmarked by the studs of a thousand boots, walked flat by thousands more. There is more green glass than green grass, with only a few tufts clinging stubbornly to life. The perimeter is fenced but this space is not closed.

The field is as much a sports ground as thoroughfare, meeting place, entertainment venue. Its identity is as diverse as the people who use it, changing from moment to moment.

Township life, the spaces in which it is lived, has few boundaries or compartments. All things mix to create a fusion of diversity, things which in other places would be kept separate play out shoulder to shoulder, stand together as twins; young and old together, languages and cultures, statuses in life.

This is a rainbow poured into a single pot with the beautiful game weaved into the different fabrics of social life. On this field a different kind of soccer is played.

From the gutter to the globe

The bus is about to leave. All know it is time to go. There are few words shared. She stops him, touches his arm gently. He is much taller and so she raises herself to her toes.
She steals a fleeting moment, one full of teenage awkwardness. A farewell kiss is hers. Running back to her friends she is greeted by their excited giggling. In this moment she is a hero.

She just kissed a street child but it does not matter, for what just happened here means so much more.

He grins shyly, looks at his friend for support. When the true meaning finds him, his confidence soars.
“He is so cute! I have to have his cell phone number or email address,” screams one of the girls in the group, here arms flapping like a bird's.


Writing a new, unified history

RESPLENDENT in her colourful traditional Zulu dress, she dances confidently as she moves across the field.

A seated man, demure in his traditional Xhosa garb, leaps from the crowd with determination in his eye, charges towards her. His stride grows in length. Behind him the crowd cheers. Still running, he pulls at the white blanket at his shoulders. In a single movement it slips free, releasing his upper body from its confining weight.

Within a metre of her he comes to a sudden halt. There is a moment’s pause. He lifts his arms, the blanket. His movements are quick and with clear intention. The blanket falls gently about her shoulders and together they synchronise their movements and begin to dance as one. The crowd finds its full voice, louder than before. Together as a nation, as abaThembu, they cheer their brother and sister.

A COMBINED VOICE: From across the country  abaThembu, including various Amakhosi, gathered at the historical Curries Fountain to celebrate the first step, a meeting, in unifying the clan. Pictures by Tom van der Leij 

Playing on the sands of hope

The sun rises slowly. It climbs the face of one hill, spreading it warm glow on a stretch of beach before climbing the next. This ritual is ancient, just as the ways of the people who live here. Modernity has not yet fully established itself here. This the Wild Coast of South Africa, the Transkei.

Second Beach, Port St. Johns, is home to a team of young men who are negotiating the contradictions between tradition and modernity, an inheritance over which they have little influence or control.

Work opportunities are limited for the players, nearly all are undereducated and unemployed, and the deeply entrenched poverty, product of the region’s turbulent history, is the root of many social ills. Some players have been involved in drugs, gangs and crime, alcohol abuse, some come from broken homes.

And yet the young men have found one arena where they can be their own masters.