Silence… that’s always how it begins. Silence …and that’s exactly how it ends. Life growing up in Belhar is full of loud silences.
Yes, visitors chase after our rainbows. Yes, of course I own a lion – it resides at the Kruger National Park. Step right up, step right up for this riveting tale of appearance versus reality, because I’m loud so what I say must be important, right? Wrong. Looks can be deceiving.
I was born and raised in the infamous Belhar – the birthplace of my writing. You see, the thing is that a writer with no traumatic background is like a florist with no flowers. Like most writers, I’m a pessimist, proudly in fact. Without my pessimism I wouldn’t be able to dig deep and shake something within you if I didn’t feel it first. It was my beginning, I’d think. “The beginning. Those two words sound so strange. There are only beginnings if you’re an optimist, only endings if you’re a pessimist and only memories if you’re a realist. That is the thing about perception: yours is different to everyone else’s.” Like that quote? I made it up myself, naturally.
Let’s enter my world two years ago when I was young at heart but had a mature mind. My father always calls me “the oldest young person he knows”. That year I had made a promise to myself that I would overcome my problems with depression. At the time it seemed like such a reasonable goal. All I wanted was to like what I saw in the mirror.
The first step I took to reach this goal was to go and see the school’s counsellor. To know the lady was to love her. Now I know what you’re going to ask. Did it help? No, not even a little. I never believed in counselling which is why I waited so long before going. Well, I attended those sessions and hated them. It was weird because the way she understood it, was that once you spoke about what was bothering you, it should feel as if a weight had been lifted off your shoulders. But it didn’t feel like that.
The words felt like a snake, twisting itself tighter and tighter around my neck. The tears I shed in that room felt like heavy anchors nailing me to that uncomfortable couch.
We can control how we react to our situation, but unfortunately we cannot control which situation we are put in, as in what happened next: I recall the day they told me my closest cousin had been shot in what appeared to be gang-related violence. I can still remember what the people who shot him said: “We’re sorry, but he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.” I can remember the crowds of people who suffocated me with questions. His lifeless body, not recognizing his face and the police tape that kept me away from him. Everything went numb. I remember my aunt telling me, a sixteen-year old, to be strong as my dead cousin lay on the pavement with eight gunshot wounds on his body.
Eight. Because they had to make extra sure he was dead in case he was the guy they were looking for, but he wasn’t. Oh well, not their problem. They didn’t even know him. He was a child, a friend, a cousin, my boeta. He was just another innocent soul washed down the drain of the Cape Flats like so many before him. That day I heard the loudest silence of all. My cousin had stopped breathing.
That was my breaking point and my inspiration. After that I said no. I refused to sit and watch that happen to more innocent people.
So, my dear audience, I started writing. At first just for myself, but this year I was fortunate enough to be the director of two plays. The first was a one-act play with my adaptation of Pocahontas, and the second one was for the Arts Cape Drama Festival for which I wrote the play and am currently directing. My play is called The gods Must be Mad. It is a satire on South African politics mixed with some of the fantasy of Greek mythology. The message of my play is that the masses mustn’t forget that the true power lies within them and that looks can be deceiving.
Ladies and gentleman, thank you. You’ve been a spectacular audience.