A few weeks ago, I found myself in the middle of a grade R (the South African version of kindergarten) classroom in downtown Joburg, watching kids have fun with paper, glue, paint, and glitter. The kids were assembling and decorating big paper flowers for the nearby Joziburg Lane market at One Eloff Street. The flowers would be used to decorate Joziburg Lane for its opening festival during the last week of May. Cute kids, ready to paint. Birds-eye view of the painting underway. A happy girl with her completed flower. Pauline, a teacher who I believe is also the founder of the Grow Up and Learn School, with her flower. After the madness of the all the flower creation was dying down, I took two Instax pictures of each kid with his/her flower. One picture went home with the child and the other one went to One Eloff. A couple of weeks later, just before the Joziburg Lane Festival, I met the kids at One Eloff to photograph them decorating the Lane. There is nothing cuter than a nearly straight line of tiny children. The little girl on the left is not a student at the Grow Up and Learn School. Her parents were […]
I’ve been on five trips, to five South African provinces, over the last four weeks. On the road in KwaZulu-Natal. I’ve driven solo for hundreds of kilometers along barren country roads, blasting my iPod and singing at the top of my lungs. I’ve slept in airports and stayed in more quirky B&Bs (“quirky” is often a kind synonym for “dumpy”) than I can count. I’ve camped in the bush and eaten lots of junk food.
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.
Yesterday I attended the Founders Day ceremony at St. Stithians College, a Joburg prep school. I was invited by a wonderful lady named Debbie, whose children go to St. Stithians. Before yesterday morning I only knew Debbie through her 2Summers comments, and on Facebook. Now Debbie is a friend. This is why I love blogging. Jon graduated (or “matriculated”, as they say here) from St. Stithians in 1984. He and I drove past the school many times but never visited together. Jon wasn’t the type of person to be nostalgic for his school days — adolescence was a difficult time for him. But I do know that he had some good times at St. Stithians and the years he spent there are part of who he was. I’m grateful to have had the chance to visit the school on such a special day.
Last week I visited Camp Sizanani, a summer camp for vulnerable children and youth. Camp Sizanani, sponsored by Global Camps Africa, puts on several camps a year — both day camps and residential camps — for kids in Joburg. (Read about my visit to Camp Sizanani’s day camp last year.) Last week’s overnight camp took place at a retreat in the Magaliesburg Mountains. There are many things I want to write about this camp. I want to write about how, 30 minutes after I arrived, I was splattered head-to-toe with mud as the campers romped in a mud bath. (I wore mud-splattered pants for the next two days.) My pants were never the same after this moment.
I went to church with my friend Nina today. She invited me a while ago and I figured Easter is a good day to take her up on the offer. Nina attends a multicultural charismatic church called His People Christian Church of Johannesburg. Services take place in a large auditorium. There is a full band and lots of singing. My plan was to sit back, watch the service, and enjoy the music. The service kicked off with three or four hymns in a row. The words to the songs, which I would describe as modern religious ballads, were projected onto a screen at the front of the hall. The songs were all about death and rebirth and overcoming adversity.
Last week I went to Swaziland for a freelance assignment. The assignment was with Samaritan’s Purse UK, a charitable organization that does disaster relief and community development projects around the world. I went to Swaziland to take photos and write stories about the work Samaritan’s Purse is doing in a remote mountain community called Kaphunga. This assignment meant a lot to me. I love taking pictures, I love telling stories about people doing inspiring work, and I love Swaziland. Basically this was my dream job. If I could do this kind of work every day of the year for the rest of my life, I would happily do it. I’m still emotionally exhausted after writing my last post so I’m going to keep this one short. I really just want to show you the pictures.
Last weekend I attended a baptism for Kulani, the son of my friends Florence and Rob. You may remember Florence and Rob — they took me to my first South African wedding last month. St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Auckland Park, where Kulani’s baptism was held. It’s a small, intimate, beautiful church. Right around the corner from my house and I never knew it was there. It was such a lovely ceremony. As I listened to the service, I remembered something that a family member of Jon’s told me in the days after he died. She said that new people are constantly being born, so others have to die. How else could the world continue?
My first memory is of standing in the yard when I was about three years old, having my picture taken by my father. I spent hours in Dad’s basement darkroom, watching images come to life in trays of chemicals. We had slide shows in the living room every Sunday night. I’m a photographer’s daughter, and a childhood without photographs is unthinkable to me. But there are lots of kids in the world, especially around here, who have never had their picture taken. Help-Portrait is trying to change that. Help-Portrait recruits volunteer photographers to visit economically underprivileged communities, take pictures of kids (and adults) who live there, and then return later to deliver the prints to their subjects. For many of the recipients, this is the first photo of themselves that they’ve ever received.
Part 2 of a 3-part series about the Cederberg Heritage Route. Read Part 1 here and Part 3 here. When I left off at the end of my previous post, my two friends and I had just arrived via donkey cart in Heuningvlei, a traditional farming village in the Cederberg Wilderness Area. We were welcomed by three adorable children. You met the boy on the left in my previous post. I’m sort of at a loss on how to describe Heuningvlei. First, I’m incapable of pronouncing the word, which means ‘honey lake’ or ‘honey swamp’ in Afrikaans. It’s pronounced something like ‘HYEN-ing-fly’ but that’s not quite right. My friend Michelle (a fellow American non-Afrikaans speaker) christened the village ‘Hugel-Bugel’ and the name stuck.
Day camp in Kagiso — a township surrounded by factories and mine dumps on Johannesburg’s far western edge — is much like day camp at the average American YMCA. But with a lot more singing and dancing. Dance class at camp in Kagiso. (To learn more about Kagiso Township, read this article from the Mail & Guardian.) Most American kids go to summer camp, whether it’s local day camp or sleep-away camp, at least once in their lives. I attended countless sports camps, drama camps, and everyday camps as a child, and my first summer job was as a camp counselor. In South Africa, camp is a novel concept. Middle and upper class kids might go on camping ‘holidays’ with their families or with school groups. But organized camp programs, especially for underprivileged kids, didn’t really exist here until several years ago, when an American NGO called Global Camps Africa (GCA) and a South African NGO called HIVSA got together and started Camp Sizanani.