Growing up was not all sunshine and rainbows for 25-year-old Amina Pululu. She was physically abused by her father and lost her mother when she was very young. Even though Amina experienced such harsh treatment and great tragedy, she never let this get in the way of achieving her dream of becoming a dancer.

Growing up

Amina was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and moved to Cape Town when she was four years old.

After her 5th birthday, her parents got divorced because her father abused her mother, her brother and her.

A few months after the divorce, her mom fell ill and wasn’t able to take care of Amina and her brother anymore. The siblings moved into Tenterden Place of Safety, a children’s home in Wynberg.

“My mom passed on in 2005 whilst my brother and I were still at Tenterden. We were then placed back with my father who was extremely abusive towards us.”

Her brother ran away from home, having had enough of the abuse, but Amina stayed, enduring her father’s wrath. A few years later though, she decided to run away too and was taken in by Sonya Schoeman. Sonya played the roles of mother, mentor and friend. Amina would sometimes go for weekends, then holidays and she would live on and off with Sonya at times. Sonya is still a part of Amina’s life today, as are her long-term mentors Carly and Nigel Cowling, who are like family to her.

After living with Sonya for some time, she was placed into another children’s home, St Michael’s Children’s Home for girls in Plumstead, and her brother was placed in a children’s home for boys.

Amina’s influences

“A lot of people that have supported me throughout the years have led me to where I am today. Caregivers, some family, friends that became family and mentors.”

Amina was taught by all these people how to be a strong and independent woman. She was taught to strive for her dreams and to use every opportunity given to her.

The passions that she had also influenced her goals.

“From a very young age I knew that I wanted to dance and that my Congolese father would never allow this nor pay for such studies as he didn’t think I could become anything with this.”

Amina not only followed her dreams, but she also wanted to prove her father wrong.

She loved kids and decided to become an au pair. This inspired her to merge her two passions and someday become a dance therapist.

“I found that kids, specifically at a young age, struggle to express themselves correctly or find the words to express their emotions so then instead of speaking they shout, have tantrums, meltdowns and just refuse to listen. They have so many emotions they cannot express and would like to use dance as a means of allowing them to express themselves through movement.”

Passion for dance

Amina’s passion for dance grew from a young age. Her family and friends had parties and her father and brother would have breakdancing competitions. These moments were precious to her, they would remind Amina of a time when her family was happy — a time before her father’s abusive ways tore her family apart.

“This is when dance became home for me. Something to bring joy, peace and people together.”

Amina didn’t really have any formal dance training until she reached high school. Until that point, her brother was her teacher.

She even used to participate in street battles.

“I remember winning a battle against a boy who was much older than me and the crowd in the street going wild. This is how my love for dance grew.”

Amina would go to Taryn’s House, a dance studio at St Michael’s Children’s Home, to dance her troubles away whenever she got the chance.

Amina’s love grew further for when she had various opportunities to see many dance performances at the Artscape and Baxter theatres. She knew she wanted to dance and for people to watch her and feel something stir inside of them. As they say, dance is the hidden language of the soul.

Life right now

Amina is currently studying at The Dance Centre, a dance company in Claremont, where she is doing the Association of International Dance Teachers (AIDT) syllabus. She is completing her dance training at the centre and will, once she has completed it, move on to psychology and major in dance therapy.

“I am now a model with Boss Models, a part time au pair, dance student and I have spent some time at a lovely studio in Stellenbosch teaching dance.”

Words of advice

Amina’s advice to anyone experiencing hardship in their life: “They should never be ashamed of their past or their story because it will inspire and encourage the next person… Don’t ever forget the people that helped along the way and that you are never alone even if it seems like it. There will always be someone who cares.”

Tell us: What stood out for you about Amina’s story?