By: Candice Morrow
So there I was posing for a picture in front of my aunt’s four-roomed house in the middle of Mdantsane feeling more alive at home than I have in ages and I got to thinking,” just why am I so happy and care free?” Simply put, because I was feeling Ghetto Fabulous. I’m not up to speed with much of the terms and conditions one has to abide by to be just that but whatever they, are somebody please check the ‘ I agree’ box because I’d rather be there in the streets of the townships than here inside the stifling suburban walls that keep life away.
I haven’t been there for many years but people still call me by name, they ask after my parents, am I married, and kids, what about modelling and how do I manage to be the same weight I was as a child. Of course a lot of the times it feels as though they are carrying shovels ready to dig into the story of your life until there’s nothing left to be unearthed before they can reconstruct it into their version of your truth. I spent the week watching kids play in the streets while battered cars known as ‘amaphela’ raced up and down the road transporting the locals to and from the taxi rank, all the while trying to keep the conversation going with each load of passengers they race around the labyrinth of township streets. I listened to the quarrels and watched screaming matches in the streets. Now, I realise that many would call all of these ‘ghetto’ but let’s face it, its life. The fashion on the streets, the language spoke, just the freedom and ease with which they move. The dancing and singing, the weekend vibe. It’s blissfully dangerous and is colourful beyond the rainbow that we call this nation, its life. Pure, unadulterated life lived by those brave enough to choose to live their how they choose.
Meanwhile back here at the house I call home, there is an entire street full of people and I cannot name a single one. On the odd occasion or by chance you’ll find a group of children who’ve managed to escape the watchful eye of their helper or parents and are playing and waving at you from the street only to be scolded a few minutes later and they, together with their dogs with their tails between their legs slow march back into their fort knox. The fences and the walls are high enough to keep a cold front out and as silent and peaceful as it may seem, this is a form of life and community slowly dying.
I’ve seen people being chastised on twitter because they live on the wrong side of the township to the point that they and many others spin their lives on social media to portray a socially acceptable kind of life, truth is, I’m rather envious of those youngsters who can walk up and down their streets greeting and making friends. The people who can shout loud enough for the neighbour to hear if trouble arises and the whole neighbourhood descends as if from the sky before you can count to ten. It is life indeed. It may not be perfect, it may at times be rowdy and seem like a dead end but truth be told, my truth be told, as I look out into the street with a branch as my only sign of life in this place. I count the so-called Ghetto to be a blessing.