We all managed to fit into the 5-seater. It was actually a Toyota Corolla this time, many might also know it as ‘the Uber car’.
The only reason we managed to fit into the car, is because Linda has opted out of shoots, being cautious about her immune system. It was just Rama, Twiggy, Unkeli, Zenande and myself.
On our way to Soweto, as a group we came to realize that Rama’s sing-alongs in the car would be come an everyday thing. Rama will perform an entire backseat concert, then exhale afterwards from the excursion. It’s actually quite a sight to see.
In a neighborhood in Chiawelo, Soweto, there lives a young woman named Livhuwani who invited the crew into her home, so that she could tell us her story about her struggles during the Covid-19 pandemic.
On that that day we were joined by Twiggy’s friends who assisted in shooting Livhuwani’s story. Aviwe Zituta was the drone operator for the day, and Chuck Manganyi was cameraman number 2.
Livhuwani has been navigating her way around the lockdown rules and restrictions on a wheelchair as a person with disabilities. To say the least, the pandemic as well as the lockdown have not been so kind to her.
As a woman in her position, she has done everything is he is supposed to and done everything she could to put her life on the path she visualizes for herself. The obstacles have simply enlarged themselves and seek to block Livhuwani from advancing.
Livhuwani and her brother, who is also disabled, had to take the big step of moving out of her parent’s house, in order to live in a more wheelchair friendly place.
She also told us about her studies, and her activism for people with disabilities. Her proactivity seems like something she has no intention on giving up, which is what makes Covid-19’s threat to her independence all the more upsetting.
Livhuwani gave me a perspective that I’m sure most us don’t have about leaving the house to run errands during lockdown.
People who push wheelchairs are not being sufficiently tended to at shopping centers and malls by their sanitization protocols.
Sure, you can give a person I’m a wheel chair some hand sanitizer, but they are still going to have to touch the wheels of their wheelchair. So ask the question; what good is a dollop of hand sanitizer, to a person in a wheelchair?
Livhuwani said: “People with disabilities are only mentioned in passing. I’ve never been asked ‘if this works for you in your situation’, and a lot of it just isn’t effective. They just provide what they provide for the majority.”
During lockdown, Livhuwani’s grocery budget was cut in half, and as a woman and a person with disabilities, that is probably one’s biggest fear. As I’ve said previously, there is nothing wrong with knowing what you deserve. There is also no need for modesty in that respect.
The pandemic and lockdown has taken Livhuwani to a point where survival is her main priority. The fact that the pandemic has managed to change the standards of living of many people in this way is reinforcing the apocalyptic overtones of the entire experience.
We moved the set to Livhuwani’s parents how to have a look at why it would be so difficult for her to live there. The effort it too for to get through the front gate had already given us the explanation.
When we finally entered the premises, we were met with Livhuwani’s wonderful parents.
Since I was doing sound once again today, I had the chance to listen to all the soothing sounds of the trickling water and ringing of fabric as Livhuwani’s mother did the laundry. I was reminded of how I would watch and listen to my grandmother do the same thing as a child.
During lunch time we all went to this Chisanyama not far from Livhuwani’s place. This spot marks the beginning of our Chisanyama taste tests while on the road. This is where Livhuwani’s began to tell me about all her wild nights out, and that made me think about how ‘able-bodied’ people subconsciously exclude people with disabilities from the pleasures that ‘able-bodies people have. What makes you think that people with disabilities have no desire to partake in these activities, because of the risks involved? In my eyes, what it really is, is society refusing to acknowledge that they may be so self serving that the very thought of having a person with a disability in a space where they are their most ‘vulgar’ versions of themselves is the furthest thing from their mind. The world spends so much time looking down at people with disabilities.
We know how badly we treat our bodies as well…and the guilt translates into us looking down on the people that have triggered that guilt, because we are unwilling to take responsibility for our ungrateful ways of life.
There were also conversations about narcotics, weaves and temptation, during which Chuck and Aviwe spoke so passionately (and I use this word humorously).
As we were making our way out of Soweto, we stopped on the side of the road in order for Twiggy to shoot some of the signage in the area. Rama, Zenande and I were looking at some girls doing jump rope on the other side of the street. It was around 5 o’clock during sunset, and we were compelled to join this group of girls and young women. Rama’s inner child asked to be free for few minutes, and she became a part of the music that the ropes were making.
Witnessing a childhood in front of you can because something emotional as an adult, because you begin to revisit your own.
But looking there in front of me, I gathered that this is a part of a black girl’s joy growing up.
There is a watered down version of this as well in black suburbia which makes me think about what black children lose without township exposure. I also then think about everything we get out of being suburban. It’s clear that the system is rigged. It’s only allowing a certain amount of us succeed. A very small amount.