Just another Number
A brief drive down the national road, a left drift onto the R300 and 5 minutes down AZ Berman drive.
Welcome to apartheids dumping ground.
The Cape Flats is recognized now only with violence, fear and pain. Where is the support? Why are these communities ignored?
As I drove into Mitchell’s Plain town centre, a lady struggled across the road in her wheel chair. My heart sank at the thought of what she must endure every day. It was then explained that she was the most successful thief in the town centre. My opinion did not change.
Fair enough, we are the makers of our own fate. But did she really have a chance…
The walls are riddled in graffiti, from one gang tag to the next. “I kill for love”, “Death iz eazy when you got nothing” “Gangsta hell”
Just try to imagine walking down those streets as a 5 year old. The eyes I saw that day were not filled with ambition, happiness and love. They were vacant. The flats are built on depression, large scale unemployment, homelessness and gangsterism.
I had a bodyguard with me today. It just makes more sense to take a local representative to handle the “exchanges” for the pictures I took. It can be a little tense when your eye is to the camera and you are frantically shooting in the 3 minutes you have with a 26 pointing a knife at you. The bodyguard moved me from location to location quite often to avoid a crowd that built behind me.
The characters I did meet were all members of the numbers gang. The numbers form a national brotherhood amongst all the prisons within South Africa and control every one of them.
They explained to me the ranking system and the role each rank must uphold. I tried to ignore the reality of what they had become, but concentrated more on what they have had to endure.
I wanted to know more than they were willing to reveal. What do these “tattoos” represent? I asked question after question… Education? Family? Sport? Work?
Surely these are all warranted when talking to a 27yeard old human being? All of which encouraged the same silent painful response. “I cannot say”
As you are ranked within the numbers gang they mark your shoulders with stars. The more stars, the higher the ranking. It’s that simple. The top members of the 28’s usually only “wear” their stars. You don’t often find other markings or tattoos on them. They are the generals and are not to be touched.
The men I took pictures of were riddled in cartoon characters, female and male genitalia, numbers, dollar signs, blades, badly spelt text, symbols of death and various animals. To me, it felt that these tattoos were not condoned and forced on the victim. It seems to be a demonstration of whose “bitch” is whose and what role they are now scarred to fulfill, within the number.
It does not seem like a pleasant experience. Using a blade to cut horrifying designs into your skin and rubbed over with ink creating your destiny.
I hope to spend more time within the flats, learning, helping and doing whatever I can to show you the reality that seems to be avoided. Is it really the case where South Africa has literally placed these people there with nothing but a painful destiny to dream of.
This entry was posted on Friday, May 18th, 2012 at 9:58 am
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