This morning I got up early and went to take photos at the Melville food parcel program, as I always do on Thursday mornings. I arrived at the church around 6:30. Due to another commitment, I had to leave at 7:30. At 7:25, I met Josaya.
I overheard Josaya speaking to Sean, who co-founded the food parcel program. Sean asked Josaya where he lives, and Josaya said he doesn’t have a home currently. He used to be a student at the University of Johannesburg. Sometimes he stays with friends. Right now, he sleeps on the street. Last night his blanket was stolen.
Josaya’s outfit caught my eye immediately. Everything was in shades of blue and yellow, not matching (not even his shoes) and yet all going together. “Curated” is the word that comes to mind.
Josaya was saying something to Sean about the works of Francis Bacon — I assume he meant the 20th-century artist, not the 17th-century English Lord Chancellor, although I didn’t get the chance to find out. There was a paperback book sticking out of the pocket of Josaya’s dark blue robe.
“What are you reading?” I asked Josaya, pointing to the book, and he pulled it out: The Shooting of the Christmas Cows by David Medalie. I’d never heard of the book or the author, but somehow it also matched perfectly.
I asked if I could take Josaya’s photo holding the book. “He has a publisher,” Josaya said ruefully, pointing to Medalie’s name. “I don’t have a publisher.”
“Are you a writer?” I asked, and Josaya said yes. He’s a poet, in fact. He said I could google him to find his work.
It took me several attempts to type his name — Josaya Muianga — into a note on my phone. My fingers were cold and made clumsy by fingerless gloves. Autocorrect kept changing “Josaya” to “Joshua”, which Josaya patiently pointed out. Finally I got it right. I also took down Josaya’s email address. I wanted to whatsapp him his photo but he doesn’t have a phone.
A few hours later, I finally got the chance to google Josaya. His name popped right up, as he’d promised, on a page called Two Poems by Josaya Muianga. The first poem, About Perfection, starts like this:
You are too over cooked, I adored you when you were crisp and light, With the yellow scent of turmeric your edible enigma; But now you are over cooked Dripping, limp with oil like an obese pizza, the vacuum abhored by nature!
I suddenly realized I was late and had to say goodbye to Josaya rather abruptly. I hope he finds a publisher someday. I hope he finds a blanket tonight.
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If you’d like to donate to the food parcel program from within South Africa, please send a payment to the Viva Foundation using the following bank details:
Name: Viva Foundation
Branch: FNB Olympus Plaza Code 258155
Acc Nr.: 622 4884 3270
If you’d like to donate from overseas, please contact me.