When I visited South Africa last month I was planning on going on a township tour in one of the larger shanty towns in Cape Town. I didn’t want to go and take photos of poor people, I wanted to meet them and understand their situation. When I told the attendees of my workshop this, Werner, one of them, asked me if I wanted the real deal or just a tour. I told him that I wanted to meet some real people, talk to them and hopefully get them to invite me in.
Werner told me he works as a volunteer in one of the poorest makeshift settlements on the Cape Peninsula. There’s shanty towns and then there’s the slums to the shanty towns.
This particular one is called Overcome Heights.
The organisation he volunteers for is called True North and they’re doing some amazing work. If you feel you want to help or support them financially in their cause, I know it would be appreciated.
When I arrived, I really didn’t know what to expect. I had been told Overcome Heights was a very dangerous place ruled by gangs. Over 70% of the people in the settlement are substance abusers. Many have HIV. And yet I noticed very little of that. I met people making the most of their situation. I saw pride. Love. And human spirit.
Life always finds a way.
Werner started off by taking me to a kindergarten. As soon as I walked in I was jumped by 30 kids who wanted to hug and kiss me. All my concerns disappeared there and then. The overwhelming love I felt from the people in Overcome Heights, people shaking my hand, telling me their stories, others wanting me to take their photos, will always stay with me.
I didn’t see poor people.
I saw people.[audio:https://www.box.com/shared/static/6280854c868d209748bd.mp3]
All images shot on film with a Pentax 67ii.
music credit: Homeless – Ladysmith Black Mambazo (iTunes)