Invasion of the Tiny People

I don’t spend a lot of time around small children. Very few of my friends have kids and there aren’t many children living in Melville. When I am thrown into a situation with a lot of little kids, I’m always taken aback by how tiny they are.

Interacting with a big hoard of tiny people like this is a novel experience for me. It makes me feel like I’m in the land of Oz. 

You may remember Lebo, the camp counselor from Soweto who I wrote about a couple of months back. Ever since we met, Lebo has been asking me to come visit his after-school program, Lebo’s Indigenous Games Project (LIGP), where he and his staff work to provide kids with a good start in life. For one reason or another I still haven’t made it to visit LIGP in Soweto, but Lebo is a persistent young man. He kept calling and calling, and finally convinced me to attend a “Children’s Day” event that he helped organize at the South African Airlines (SAA) Crèche near O.R. Tambo Airport. (“Crèche” is the South African term for a daycare center or nursery school.)

The event brought together a few hundred kids from Soweto crèches, who mingled and played with the kids who attend the SAA crèche. The purpose of the event was to give the kids a fun day out, and to raise awareness of the need for quality early childhood development programs in South Africa. The kids played games, got a nice meal, and even went to visit the airport. I played with the kids, met Lebo’s colleagues, and took photos.

It was a really fun day — I’m glad Lebo wore me down and got me to come. But boy, was I tired afterward. Tiny people are exhausting. (Two hours in Friday afternoon traffic on the way back to Joburg didn’t help.)

Here are my favorite photos.

Tiny people from the Funda crèche play on the playground. I love their tiny matching track suits. The back of the jackets say: “We don’t keep children. We educate them.”

Handsome tiny chaps.

Most African playgrounds are made from recycled materials. Rubber tires and pipes become swing sets. Old metal drums become tunnels. 

I love this tiny girl’s hair.

A tiny boy prepares to ride down the slide. I chatted for quite a while to this boy’s mother and father. Ntombi: If you’re out there and reading this, please email me! I have pictures for you.

At the end of the afternoon, Lebo gathered all the tiny people together for some singing and dancing. Are you surprised that this was my favorite part of the day?

Lebo rallies his tiny troops.

Tiny boy singing.

Tiny people dancing.

Tiny person jumping around with his tongue out, as tiny people like to do.

I spent a lot of time talking to one of Lebo’s staff members, a lovely young woman who was excited to visit the airport for the first time. Her name was — you guessed it — Tiny! Unfortunately I did not get a good photo of her. Sorry, Tiny. I promise to catch you on my next visit. I think I need to spend more time around tiny people.

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  • Reply Julie June 7, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    What no children in Melville, there are hundreds! Ever been to Babanani in 4 th Ave, its packed to capacity on most days, most kids are regulars and all live in Melville. They just hide behind their big walls and only play in safe areas, have a look out for them, you’ll be suprised!

    • Reply 2summers June 7, 2012 at 1:36 pm

      My apologies — you are exactly right! Especially about Bambanani. I guess that’s one of the strange things about living in Joburg…You don’t see or interact with kids unless you get behind the walls.

  • Reply Tonito June 7, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    Awesome photos! The kids in the drum one is my favourite! Your stories (through photography) is one of the reasons why I wrote a post about Expats bloggers in South Africa (like you, Joburg Expat, Story of Bing etc.) as it is giving me insights about my own country I was unaware of!

    • Reply 2summers June 7, 2012 at 2:29 pm

      Oh, I think I missed that post! Going to find it now. Thanks 🙂

  • Reply Kathryn McCullough June 7, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    I feel the same way when I’m around my brother’s boys. They are tiny, for sure. I, too, love the little girl’s hair. Isn’t she darling? Great photos, Heather!

    • Reply 2summers June 7, 2012 at 4:04 pm

      Thanks Kathy. Just multiply your brother’s kids by 100 — that’s what I saw last week!

  • Reply Howlin' Mad Heather June 7, 2012 at 9:39 pm

    Those are some great photos; look like they had a blast! (As for me I’m surrounded by tiny people at work for Summer Reading!)

    • Reply 2summers June 8, 2012 at 7:50 am

      Reading to tiny people must be fun! I’d like to do that sometime.

  • Reply Eugenia A Parrish June 8, 2012 at 3:36 am

    People are so beautiful at that age, and if we could bottle that energy and sell it, we’d be billionaires. In spite of the wild activity, your photos aren’t blurry like mine. How do you hold the camera still enough? Or is it the settings? I love taking pictures of people in motion, especially children, but most end up “jiggly”.

    • Reply 2summers June 8, 2012 at 7:54 am

      What kind of camera do you use? When it comes to capturing really fast movement, having a fast camera helps. It also helps to be shooting in bright light (which I was) and to set your ISO at a relatively high number. Also, I shoot LOTS of frames of each scene, not just one. It makes the editing process longer (and takes up hard drive space) but you’re much more likely to find a sharp frame if you have a whole bunch to choose from. Hope that helps!

      • Reply Eugenia A Parrish July 5, 2012 at 7:04 pm

        Hi! I’ve been having trouble with notifications of answers to my comments! Anyway, I’m not sure what a “fast” camera is, but I use a second-hand Olympus E500 dslr, which I’m still getting to know. I try to be out in bright light, and use a high ISO, and I have it set at multiple so the camera goes click-click-click just like a pro! One problem I have is bad eyes, which gives me fits when trying to judge if the camera is focusing properly. But I’ve finally found the “diopter” which I never knew existed, so I’m working on whether to set that to match my eyes with or without glasses. Almost seems too complicated, doesn’t it?

        • Reply 2summers July 5, 2012 at 7:53 pm

          Haha. Just use autofocus. It works better than your own eyes 🙂

  • Reply zimbo64 June 8, 2012 at 9:07 am

    I love your story about the tiny people! I have been a mother for almost 20 years and sometimes feel unable to make conversation with big people. I have got so good at answering all the ‘why’ questions that I feel like a talking children’s encyclopaedia! Today’s question was about why is it winter in South Africa and summer in Italy! Your photos are also beautiful, the joy in their faces has been captured well by your talented eye!

    • Reply 2summers June 8, 2012 at 9:24 am

      Thanks Debbie. I think we need to switch worlds for a day 🙂

  • Reply Lu June 8, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    Your photographs of tiny people are beautiful 🙂

  • Reply Fidel June 9, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    Not many people know to get a low vantage point when photographing children and animals for that matter. You know and you do such a great job at it. It really gives you an more a closeness with the subject.
    You definitely have a way with conveying the emotions of your subjects. I love seeing the happiness in the children eyes and smiles.

    • Reply 2summers June 9, 2012 at 3:05 pm

      Thanks Fidel. I was lucky to have an exceptional teacher. I learned so much by watching him work, without even realizing it.

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