As an attempt to connect more people around the world, to share knowledge on culture and open the eyes of those who have misconceptions of places around the world, I’ve started a spotlight feature on locals across the globe. I am starting with South Africa. The people in this country are extremely generous; the lady at the gas station calling me Sweets, the policeman on the road telling my friend and I to take care while walking to the local restaurant after dark. Everyone sings and dances from their hearts, happy to say hello, smile and this, I feel, is genuine. Let me introduce to you a few people of South Africa.
Nandi – Eastern Cape
Nandi was the first local I met who didn’t know I was in her country on business. She braided my hair in Earthy, an aesthetics shop in Newtown Workshop in Johannesburg. Though Nandi works as an aesthetician on the side, she finds true joy in performance arts. She previously studied at FUBA (the Federated Union of Black Artists) is an actress and musician but is most passionate about singing soul and reciting poetry. Nandi treated me like an old friend, offering a beer on the house (I later found out they don’t offer beer, but arranged to get it from a store close by) and telling me about her young daughter.
“More than anything you just need to be with good people.”
Brother James- Port Elizabeth
I met this soft spoken soul as our group went to lunch at Werk, a quaint warehouse turned to studio/restaurant/workspace area in Port Elizabeth. He sat on an old cloth couch, his toothless smile wide and dark eyes focusing on the ground. His materials, consisting of multiple tools and a black garbage bag of white leather scraps surrounded him. Born and raised in Port Elizabeth, James spends his days hand-crafting leather keychains, purses and hats from scratch. He even dyes them by hand. James sells his products to locals and tourists of Port Elizabeth. He’s been crafting this art since 1989 and has been making his living on it ever since. While consisting on calling me ma’am with every sentence, James tells me about his work.
“I love making handbags, ma’am. Because everybody loves handbags. Now it’s my hobby.”
When I asked to buy a piece that was at a 70 rand charge (about 6$ CAD), he tried to give me a discount. If people were this sweet around the world, it sure would be an easier place to live.
Joe Leone- Cape Town
Joe has Italian background but his family migrated to Africa many years ago. When he was nine-years-young he moved from Zimbabwe back to Italy and continued to serve for the Italian Navy. He later tried to return home to Africa but was denied access due to “deserting the country.” South Africa was the closest thing to home so he settled down and has been there ever since- now 23 years later. He loves South Africa because it reminds him of Zimbabwe with similar climate and friendly people. Originally he went to Johannesburg but six years ago moved with his wife and son to Cape Town and now works at Favor8, a cafe restaurant as the manager in charge.
“Yes there’s problems in Cape Town but there is also quality of life in Cape Town. No matter where you go in the world there are problems.”
Joe appreciates the quality of education in Cape Town for his eight-year-old son.
Taryn – Durban
Taryn has been crafting jewelry since 2008 when she started her education in jewelry design and manufacture. She eventually got her degree and continues to work on this fine art, selling from her own studio in Durban.
Her favourite part of creating this fine art is working with crystals because “they are the gem of the earth. I work around the crystal, the crystal doesn’t work around me.”
Taryn’s trade mark is her specialty in metal imprinting. With her small metal tools she works for hours at a time on a piece no bigger than a quarter, hammering away with precision, creating free-hand designs making each piece truly unique.
Born and raised in South Africa, Taryn has no desire to live any where else.
“I just love Durban so much because of the people, the good surf. And the beaches are cool.”
Senzo – Soweto
I first met the painting, I then met Senzo. It was the choice of colour that caught my attention; the face stood out while Senzo focused on his canvas. I asked to take a photo and he smiled and nodded. He continued to share his work with me through photos and stories of his artwork. He has been painting for 25 years. What keeps him going?
“Music brings the inspiration. Every time I paint I listen to a different song.”