Wits Vuvuzela

DAY EIGHTEEN: POLICING PRAYER

On a scorching hot Saturday afternoon, I fell victim to the heat, the smell and look of Yeoville’s busy street. Having shared our sparse equipment among ourselves, my group member and I had to literally hustle other equipment from other groups who were not using them and this meant having to follow another group as they put the final touches to their videos. Following the traditions group we found about some interesting/ hidden stories of Yeoville. Our first stop was the Yeoville police station (the old one) where we took a little walk to the newly built Yeoville police station where we were met by sweat-drenched construction men who more than willing to show us around the newly constructed area. After spending some time in the new prison we decided to have a deep philosophical discussion on the representation of the space we were in, and how it anticipates a deeply corrupt society – of course a discussion my colleague had started.

We later found that we would be taking an adventure to the top of the Yeoville hill where we filmed from the extraordinary WESTMINSTER MANSIONS about the praying men and women on the mountain and the residents feelings towards the men of God who spend their days and some nights fervently praying. Our escorts where the police, who felt as though our safety would be compromised had we traveled alone and had enough patience to wait for some odd hours with us, when we finally decided to leave it was just the two of us who navigated our way on Yeoville’s streets.

We waited for some minutes at the store where we where meant to meet with my colleagues main character, but to much our disappointment he didn’t show. We later went to Kin-Malebo where I was meant to capture b-roll, but people weren’t too excited by the  presence of the cameras. We did however meet with one more of the La SAPE who spoke of the culture while promoting his new album. The day/evening ended late for us and we finally bid adieu to the neighbourhood.

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Wits Vuvuzela

DAY SEVENTEEN: “THEY’RE TRYNA CATCH ME RIDIN’ DIRTY”

Having spent the past two weeks in Yeoville and seen some weird stuff happen I was gobsmacked by what happened today, and to be honest I wasn’t emotionally prepared for what was to come. We drove into Yeoville looking to speak to one of my colleagues subjects on the hustle of Yeoville, but we were distracted by the police presence and the closed stores on Rockey’s alley way. According to the shop owners the police were conducting their usual rounds and were checking to look for any drugs or illegal possessions in the stores, including the illegal immigrants. My group members characters had also suspiciously disappeared from their stores, which become a site of comic relief for me – because what is there to do in the face of adversity but to laugh.

After trying to get a few comments from the on-lookers on their response to the police’ presence we decided to go back to the original characters who had come back, but quickly disappeared when they saw us with the camera equipment. We decided to retreat to the car, to essentially ‘gather ourselves’ when the we heard and saw the biggest crowd migrate to the sidelines of the street- and there before our eyes the perfect scene. A convoy of police vans and cars leading people towards the back of a police car. In an instant, we decided to get permission from the Constable to shoot, and he surprising agreed to the request. Minutes later a man came rushing towards us and screams by the police who were signalling to other police members to hold him down. The man was eventually caught by the police and given what could easily be referred to as a “beat down”.

Other members of the police were also searching the back of people’s cars and vendors plastics, including searching mens groin for “drugs” they said. The whole scene stopped being funny very quickly when a man roamed around in the street shouting at the police to arrest him, because it was obvious they were arresting people according to where they come from – the search had taken a clear xenophobic discourse.

The day ended with us having captured enough footage but the reality we left behind sat there in the back of minds like an ugly reminder of Yeoville’s reality.

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DAY SIXTEEN: “SHOW ME THE MONEY WHAT-WHAT?”

Disappointment takes different shapes and forms – and for the first time on my in-depth project I encountered the worst disappointment – my subjects wanted to be paid R500.00 to be exact. This was a conversation I had over the phone with one of the Sapeur who was meant to meet with me earlier on today. “Can you give me R500.00” asked the man who later retreated his statement saying we could meet on Saturday in Alberton for a video shoot, but didn’t answer his phone later that day. This was the first time I thought my multimedia was compromised  and for the first time I was worried at the prospect of it not being good enough. However, this also reminded me that our characters are taking time off their busy schedules to work with student journalists on a project that will benefit us instead of them.

To be fair I wasn’t surprised at the request my character made, because in Yeoville the hustle is everything and I was just a recipient of this culture and given the high levels of unemployment in the area I became sympathetic towards him. As a result I spent my day mourning the loss of my perfect video idea but later tried to piece out other ideas that would help my video project so that I would have something to produce to my mentors. I also spent most of my researching more video ideas and the things I had to do to achieve in order to make it a half decent video. I also managed to re-shoot more material of my subject so that more of my footage would be in-focus, which turned out to work out in my favor as I could control the image of the video and the course that I wanted the video to take. Hopefully, it will all work for the better.

 

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DAY FIFTEEN: “We keep spending most our lives living in a gangsters paradise”

Have you ever walked in a gangsters paradise? Well, for fifteen days, 360 hours and some sun burns later we experienced a real gangsters paradise. Our drive to the top of the Yeoville hill led to discussion on the safety of the people who spend their days praying on the hill with a brothel just a few streets down from the praying “hot-spot”. Capturing footage of the scenery my dare-devil colleagues decided to sit on the edge of the hill, to ‘gather themselves’ from the long day that was ahead. Feeling the pressure of the day that was ahead we decided to sing a song by Coolio – Gangsters Paradise while on the mountain, which made our day a little lighter and in fact brighter. Our first stop was the Green House pub in Yeoville where I met with an old  friend ID, who we had filmed as part of our television course. ID took us to the manager who secured an interview with one of my colleagues, while holding a beer in one hand and talking loudly to his friends. Being back at the pub reminded me of all the days we spent learning the Nigerian national anthem and trying to figure out how to focus images to make sure that we had enough footage to deliver to our television mentor.

Our last stop was the salon where we managed to get footage of one my subjects braiding hair whilst wearing Dior earrings and a blue velvet dress with 4-inch heels, an interesting contrast to her own lived reality. Patricia was fussy and a little impatient when we were filming her when she had her customers complaining about the video we were shooting. This was not the only difficulty that day. While attempting to capture the ‘journey’ of one of my other colleagues subjects we encountered some difficulty with a few men standing around BETXCHANGE who didn’t want us recording outside the store, which raised some suspicion among my group members – but after some careful persuasion and stubborness we finally took footage and called it a day.

 

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DAY FOURTEEN: “Are they doing in-depth too”

 

VERSACE, VERSACE, VERSACE: Ace looking into the distance at the Kin-Malebo pub.

VERSACE, VERSACE, VERSACE: Ace looking into the distance at the Kin-Malebo pub.

Driving in Yeoville on a late Sunday afternoon and after a long day of shooting, one can manage to find humour in odd  ways. One of these ways was when my group members and saw white people (according to the population groups act)  in the neighborhood we would jokingly  ask “Are they doing in-depth too”. The joke followed through the rest of our time in Yeoville, where we also had to a stop in Hillbrow to shoot an interview with Dorcus – an openly  gay Zimbabwean man living in Yeoville who has the personality of a thousand comedians. The visit to Dorcus’s place  became an adventure for me too, because it was also the first time I actually saw the beauty of Johannesburg’s inner city from the sixth floor of a building. After waiting for a few minutes for his sister to open the door for us, we walked into the  a decent living space with spacious rooms and hardwood floors that creaked every now then. We were welcomed by  a group of smiling loud women who, from the empty beer bottles it was clear that they had already indulged in some ‘happy juice’.

The interview was conducted in Zulu/Xhosa as Dorcus and laughs were had when at the mention of Dorcus’ past relationship experiences. After the interview we went back to Yeoville to do an interview with and mini-fashion show with Ace (pronounced A-say) who is a La Sape living in Yeoville. Ace is a feisty individual with an incredible sense of humor who unashamedly said that if he were to win the lottery he would get out of Yeoville. He tried on a number of different outfits for us for us to see, all of which were name brands that matched his personality but not his budget.

Driving in the city we also stopped to witness what looked like a Nigerian wedding, near the Mc Donalds but the convoy missed us just before we could take a picture,  we decided to go for ice-cream and to relax before heading out to shoot again.

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DAY THIRTEEN: “The clothes are our blood”

Starting off our day at 8:00am we found ourselves sitting in the car for an hour waiting for one of my colleagues subjects who had not kept the time of our appointment with him, a terrible lesson in the importance of punctuality.

After waiting for some time we decided to take a drive to Yeoville’s mountain top to get some shots of the city’s skyline and to our own surprise get a a little “spiritual healing”. The praying men and women who we found on the mountain gave me a little bit of security to the otherwise seemingly dangerous environment.
After warning my thrill seeking colleagues on the dangers of standing on the edge of the mountain, we decided to go and check on the late academic-barber Luc.
When Luc finally decided to arrive, we headed for the Yeoville library, where I felt like a kid in a candy store when I found a book written by Alice Walker which distracted from the project for a few minutes, but later brought me back to senses.

After the interview, we headed off to interview the extraordinary gentlemen at a tailor in the area Rue Du Fouburg, when met one of the most of my the extravagant men of them all, his name is Ace “like the mealie meal”, said the well-dressed gentleman who wore a black Dolce Gabbana coat and harem pants from Zara.

He was introduced to us by his cousin, Aladiji who is also a Sapeur but wore his everyday clothes when he met us. Aladiji unlike his cousin is more shy and soft spoken, which perhaps offered an interesting contrast to the two men who for that moment represented the difference between “ordinary men” and the La Sapeur.

“The clothes are our blood”, said Ace who echoed the attitudes of the La SAPE when he suggested that the price of the clothes don’t matter, it’s who wears the clothes that matters.

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Wits Vuvuzela

DAY TWELVE: Joie de Vivre

The Joy of Living, or as  French speakers would call it – Joie de Vivre can be the only way to mention this extraordinary group of men who may not have money, but know how to dress. The imagined lives that these men create for themselves creates a new dimension to the concept of living a “full life”, because the La Sape create their own happiness. This was the most important lesson I learned on my twelfth day in Yeoville whilst conducting an interview with the vice president of the African Diaspora Forum, Jean-Pierre Lukamba. Lukamba pointed out the most important aspects of being a La Sape mean creating a home away from home through their different cultural practices. Sapologie came out of the Congo as an attempt to re-define the  ideas associated with the Congolese, particularly after the civil war.

“The problem about the Sapeur is that people are passionate about that movement and they don’t have money, they end up doing criminal activity,” said Lukamba who suggested that the Yeoville community of La Sape are not wealthy and tend to be far more extravagant than other La Sape to prove their standing on the hierarchy of sapologie.  This made me realize that the nature of things in Yeoville, “Everyone just wants to be acknowledged” and with the danger that this blog post may fall into an Oprah quote session, my twelfth day in the community mades me realize just how much people are willing to tell their story to anyone who is willing to listen to them.

Today I also found myself in Rue du Faubourg, aptly named after the street with the same name in Paris, France. The Rue du Faubourg in Yeoville is supposedly where the La Sape spend most of their time buying suits and shoes, which can cost anywhere between R5000,00 to R20 000,00, depending on the type of material and tailoring is required said marketing manager at the store Shado Dlamini. These prices are surprising in an area where they are 1 189 people who do not have a formal income, but “many people buy from this store,” confirmed Dlamini.

 

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