Nobuhle, Lulu, Pukkie and an older woman who shall remain nameless

This day was a combination of anxiety inducing as well as eye opening and quite enjoyable.

The anxiety came from the fact that I had to finish my final in-depth assignment for my honours degree in time for the deadline and be present for the shoot that day.

Our first destination was right outside Akeso Kenilworth Clinic (a rehabilitation centre), which was quite fitting considering that through Lorna we were given a bit of an exclusive take on the drug problem in Cape Town.

What I found particularly concerning were the drug users that were just sitting outside of the clinic, all of which were either black or coloured. The cars that were parked outside all belonged to white people that came to visit their loved ones in rehab baring flowers and all sorts of other gifts. Do you see the the problem that I’m seeing?

There were people outside in desperate need of these rehabilitation services but could not afford it, because the economic system in South Africa doesn’t give rehabilitation to marginalised groups pro-bono. How is South Africa supposed to give rise to a strong majority, if the previously oppressive minority are the only ones that have access to success?

I think a lot of us are already aware of the psychological impact marginalisation and oppression has had on people of colour in this country, which is why a lot of us have turned to alcohol and drugs. I mean, its no secret that South Africans have a serious alcohol problem, which has been amplified during these times of Covid-19 and rage inducing alcohol bans. It has been a coping mechanism for generations. There have been not actual psychological reparations since democracy, and I don’t have any clue how that would even work. All I know is that if rehabilitation isn’t easily accessible for South Africans, then I don’t feel like hearing people judge others for having a drug problem.

The woman who shall remain nameless and faceless

We interviewed an older woman right outside Kenilworth Clinic. We hadn’t interviewed a woman so full of fear until we met her, so we had to be careful about not getting her face in the shot for her own protection.

I notice that a lot of these women have visible scars as well as deep rooted emotional ones

Nobuhle was also there during her shoot, just hanging around. Then she mentioned that she was going to get a cold-drink, and that she would be back soon.

When she came back Sindi asked her where the cold-drink was. Nobuhle laughed at us because of how clueless we were. ‘Cold-drink’ is code for going to see a client. Nobuhle continues to prove to us how badass she is.

One thing about hanging around sex workers is that the police always seem to magically appear. Either to intimidate the sex workers, or intimidate us; the people that seek to humanise them.

During our time our time outside Kenilworth Clinic, all I could think about was whether I would be able to make my 4pm deadline. We still had to go to Nobuhle’s place to interview her, Lulu and Pukkie.

When we finally got around to their interview, my time was running out. I was finishing off my essay as I was helping with their interview and photographing them.

Their interview was actually quite interesting as they fed into each other’s stories.

Lulu, being quite a bright-spirited person had to talk about the difficult aspects of her life as a sex worker. It was an instant killer of her joy. She spoke of abuse and exposure to all sorts of sexually transmitted diseases. She said something along the lines of, “Rape is like an everyday thing for sex workers like us.”

Pukkie also had similar things to say, but also introduced the topic of the closeted men that he encounters daily. This reminded me of the violence that gay men experience when they have encounters with so-called ‘straight men’. Much like what I mentioned previously about men who are violent with sex workers; men who get violent with gay men that they have been sexual with are really just disgusted with themselves. It’s internalised homophobia.

At some point it was mentioned that all three of them had become HIV positive in the process. There is a high price that they have had to pay to survive, isn’t that enough to be respected in society?

Even being entangled in this painful lifestyle they find it in themselves to smile, to laugh and be kind. This is what black people have always done. It is part of black culture to laugh, sing and dance through the storms of existence. This may be the key to our survival as a race when many attempts at our destruction have been made; we still rise.

There is one more thing that kept gnawing at my attention; how have people who are HIV positive been dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic? Access to healthcare and medication has seemingly been challenging throughout the nation, how has that really affected the supply of ARVs?

By the way, I managed to submit my assignment with 45 seconds to spare.

On the car ride home, I had to ask Twiggy what she thought about the Chisanyama they had during my race against time.

“It was terrible,” she said.

This was the first time I had to put down a terrible rating for our Chisanyama tastings.

On the radio, there was breaking news that there was a shooting in Gugulethu, where we had just been the previous day. We quite literally dodged a bullet.

FUNDERS