He sat and toyed with the statuette. "Do you know what that is?" I asked. He shook his head. His face was expressionless - as always. He looked at me with his o...ne good eye, quickly turning away to hide the other. That blind eye had seen more than its fare share of this world. It had seen more of human nature than most people will see in their lifetime.
"It's like Jesus to the Hindus." He nodded. "Ganesha. He is the remover of all obstacles" I said as we sat in the car that would nolonger budge."He is a fat elephant with a broken tusk. You shouldn't really play with it." Carefully he replaced it in the notch behind the gear stick. I kept it there always. To keep me safe. I needed something always to keep me safe. (Particularly in my vehicle, as anyone who has ever ridden with me can attest to the fact that it is a hair raising joyride. My vision is not what it used to be (not that it was ever that great, and I dislike glasses - you get to see far too many things up close in the real world - things I'd rather not see.)
[Most of my friends don't like spirituality. It's not cool in this day and age. Each to their own. Personally I believe it is a powerful tool for wading through the twists and turns of life. I do not see it as a crutch but rather as a mechanism / an ideology by which to structure one's intentions / goals / rules of behaviour. What is ok.What is not ok. I prefer to believe in something rather than nothing. Belief allows for hope. In the absence of a comfortable life, hope is sometimes the only thing that keeps one going. Consider refugees, victims of abuse, burns victims... The list seems endless. For many, hope / belief, is the only thing that gives reason for carrying on. (Spirituality is cheaper and more affordable than drugs, alcohol, medication and the likes. It is less harmful than psychopathic behaviour. Escapism or relief through manipulations of body chemistry or acts of self empowerment by brutalising others - these are just as ludricous (if not more so) - ways of addressing the disgruntled psyche. (I choose my beliefs and stuffed cheerful toys. Each to their own.)
[Note relgion and spirituality are very different. While religions may be comparable to distinctive "brands", spirituality is the equivalent of a "no name brand". It's far less flashy and definitely far less noisy. It is uniquely and quietly defined by each individual's psyche. The need to survive. The need to not hurt or be hurt. The need to love and be loved. I would consider these to be the most basic principles of spirituality.]
I told him about the screening I had been to the evening before. Down in Obs., at the SWEAT shop (sex workers education and advocacy task force). I was impressed and depressed by what I had seen. (Camera stability would likely be an issue during editing, but the content was superb. The fact that it was done by the sex workers themselves, under some fantastic guidance, is a remarkable feat. This is what I want to see. Reality, truth, emotion. Hope, healing, a smile on the face of those at the point of no return. It was thrilling to see the healing process of art in action. To me the young mother of two, the remnants of a recovering tik addict and victim of sexual and physical violence, was a survivor, an actress, a child in the way of life. I liked the rag doll she held. I pointed to its smile. I touched her shoulder and told her I liked her work.
The abuse of the gangster's wife. How she kept her child between her legs at the bus stop, for protection, as she stabbed the Nigerian who was trying to steal it. The scars on this woman's face are real. No Hollywood makeup here. I listened to the woman who's mother rented her out for sex as a child. She stopped when she could. Her mother told her there was nolonger a home for her there. All I can hear this African woman say is: "We are human beings too." The words come out slowly as she stares downwards to the left. "We are human beings too."
These are people who have been strong enough to take on the challenges of facing reality and start the healing process. If I had the means I would empower and train these people, so that they could uplift others in society like them. People should be able to choose to not be abused. People should be able to choose how to earn a living to survive, and not be forced either way. More important than a minimum wage is a basic human right to survive and not be hurt by others.
I told these things to him. He listened quietly. He agreed. Yes it's important. Yes it's wrong for a mother to pimp her child out. He agreed with all, but showed no emotion. Another man's eyes may have dilated momentarily (provided he was not an abuser or psychopath). Instead he sat there expressionless. This was nothing new. Way of life. His world.
I recalled how he had told me how he'd come from Zim. Nothing had changed in his life from grade three. His parents had died in a car accident and left four children to fend for themselves. He washed cars because that was the only thing he had ever learnt. Thirty five years and nothing had changed in his life. I could see he was intelligent. Just untrained. Crushed. Robbed of self belief and hope.
ADT arrived with AA. He got out the car. Gave me the African handshake and smiled goodbye.
The hope for healing the pain in society lies in the hands of such individuals. Only they know what pain, abuse and trauma are like. Only they know the realities and hardships of their communities. Only they will be passionate enough to see the change through. They need guidance and training. They need to be consulted by those who devise the systems of governance and legislation. They need education. I am not talking politics and mass empowerment. I am talking targeting 6 or 7 people with previous histories of abuse and lack of education. A handful of people who have visited the edge of life and death. Communicate with them so that their voices can be heard and the issues of violence in society can start be addressed.(And yes while the audience will include government and politicians, the listening and transference of knowledge needs to be conducted by the likes of SWEAT and non politically aligned organisations. I hope SWEAT gets a lot more funding, because they are doing remarkable work.) In my opinion, (and yes, that is all it is) we spend far too much time and energy creating fictional dramatic stories, when life is already overflowing with real thrills, drama and suspense.
Attending the screening last was an enriching experience. I am grateful to Deborah and Guy and all others who were involved for creating and sharing this work.
And she said: "We are human beings too." Let that never be forgotten.
Thanks Deborah Anne Vieyra, Christine and Nellie, for recently visiting the Gr 9 LO class at Parklands College to tell them about the Cine-Ndaba project and raise awareness of gender-based violence. Valuable lessons learnt!
Thank you so much to everyone who made yesterday's Cine-Ndaba shoot happen. Thank you to the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce for opening up your doors to us, and to David for making sure that everything ran smoothly. Nomonde, thank you for the host of things you did to make this a success. Keenan, Cohen, Thabo and Layla, you are incredible! Thank you for all you did to bring these stories to life. Lesego, Francesca and Guy, thank you for all your support! And, of course, to the Cine participants who told their stories with extreme beauty, bravery and comic ability. So much love to all of you.
THIS IS THE INTERVIEW THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN:
Each woman in the Cine-Ndaba group chose someone they would like to interview.
We arrived to interview Dorothea, a social worker who works from her soul. A soulcial worker, I suppose.
Dorothea was there and waiting. But the interview didn’t happen.
The interview didn’t happen because the interviewer who had chosen to interview Dorothea was met in the street by her perpetrator after she had been out of the shelter for less than a week.
The interview didn’t happen because filming, recording sound, asking questions, was all so so so so… when her one eye was cut, bruised and swelling and both her eyes were pouring out whatever was being produced by the convulsions in her gut.
The interview didn’t happen because we had to get her children to safety.
The interview didn’t happen even though she had told me not two weeks ago that she was excited. to. make. a. life. on. her. Own. With. Her. Kids.
I told her she is strong.
She said I have to be.
And the interview didn’t happen.
She said, “And it’s women’s month” through a laugh-cry-twinkle-bruise-eye
It is now the most interviewing interview, this one that never happened.
A week of interviewing wise souls and playing around with visions, potential and dreams.
Thank you so much to Glynis Rhodes from the WC Network on Violence Against Women, Jackie Nakazibwe from SWEAT and Stacey-Leigh Manoek from the Women's Legal Centre for providing the Cine-Ndaba participants the opportunity to interview such inspiring women as yourselves!
Today, Jackie Nakazibwe from SWEAT visited our workshop. It was truly wonderful having her in the space and hearing her insights into Cine-Ndaba. Here is a short clip of her feedback at the end of the session.
Thank you so much to the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce for hosting us today.
Gulam wrote a film script about the violence and institutionalized discrimination faced by transgender sex workers.
Meisie and Christine are helping her read the script while Wendy and Vicky film.