The pupils and educators at Tshidzini Special School are bubbling with joy upon learning that Lutendo Munyaimukalanga has been selected to represent their District in the art competition. The winner from all the districts will be announced in Tzaneen at an award ceremony.
The day finally comes to travel to Tzaneen for the ceremony at the Convention Centre. Dr Mathambo, two other educators, both Lutendo’s parents, his friend Precious, and Malume Jackson go with him in a minibus, courtesy of the Education Department.
The auditorium is beautifully decorated with tables and flowers and a red carpet leading to the podium. Lutendo thinks he hasn’t ever felt so excited in his life. There are school representatives from all districts who have come with their pupils. A finely dressed man asks the people to stand and sing Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika and after the singing he declares the event open.
The MEC for Arts and Culture is requested to come forward and hand over the prizes to deserving artists who will be announced winners. Lutendo waits expectantly … he feels like he can hardly breathe.
She calls out the name of the first pupil and announces that the pupil has managed to take position three. She comes from a school in Capricorn District. Her painting comes up on a huge screen: an old woman harvesting mealies, in the greenest of green fields. It is a celebration of African culture. The artist is a small girl who comes up to accept her R1000 cash prize, and a set of paints and sketchbooks.
Lutendo prods Dr Mathambo on the arm and gives him a worried stare. “Principal, they didn’t call me. It seems we’ve just come all the way for nothing.”
“Hush, son. It’s not over yet,” he whispers back.
The second pupil is announced. It is not him either. It is one Ronald Sebokela from the Mopani District. His painting is of the street he lives in – showing the bustle of people going to work and others cooking meat on open fires. He receives the same prize as the girl.
Only one announcement is left. And then he hears his name.
He limps up onto the stage with a wide smile.
The hall bursts into a chorus of celebration. Then there is a hush as his painting comes up on the screen. And there it is, … terror and horror written on the boy’s face. He has escaped death by a whisker.
“We saw it fit to accord this illustration first position in this year’s competition,” says the MEC. “It is an outstanding painting that captures the emotions of the subjects, and is a brilliant composition.”
She announces Lutendo’s R5000 cash prize, and art supplies for his school.
But the biggest prize is the look on his parents’ faces, and next to them Precious and Malume Jackson.
Plus, this win means that he can now prepare to enter into the national competition with confidence.
The image of the drowning boy being rescued has opened up the world for him. It was not only the boy in the painting that was rescued that day, he thinks, as he smiles at Malume Jackson.
Tell us: What sort of life would Lutendo be leading if he had never been allowed to go to school?