It looks like one of those photos where you are asked to think up a caption.
Suburban life on a Saturday afternoon. Nellmapius is a fairly new housing area, east of Silverton, named after the man who held the dynamite monopoly in President Paul Kruger’s time, about 120 years ago. An upmarket suburb to the south is named after his daughter, Irene, after Irene Nelmapius. Most of the houses have been built there since the end of apartheid, but nearly all the residents are black. Is that an example of colonisation of the mind.
I read an article in a book about photography, documentary photography, documenting your community. Documentary photographs are not taken to be pleasing, visually, but rather to be a visual record. This is what things were like. So who are the people and why are they standing there, and what does the picture record?
They are standing there because I asked them to, because I wanted a photo. I asked them to stand there because I thought the rose bush was quite pretty, and the green lawn. It’s a while since I’ve been in Nellmapius, and the trees are growing quite tall. It’s clean, and looks rather nice in the afternoon sun. We were there on a pastoral visit.
I thought of the title of a blogging friend’s blog: Urban ministry live and unplugged.
Well, this is suburban ministry. And because it was a pastoral visit, the people have names, so I’d better put them in the picture. Father Frumentius came because he speaks North Sotho (Sepedi), which, in spite of having been involved in the area for over 11 years now, is one of the languages I know least about. They teach it in schools, or used to, but you can’t buy a teach yourself course in it for love or money. Zulu, yes. Xhosa yes. Tswana, sometimes. But North Sotho, no way.
There’s Lawrence Malahela, who lives over the railway line in Mamelodi. He’s come to show us the way to people who have drifted away from the church. And Glenda Rakabe, the widow of Johannes Rakabe, who died last year, and her young niece, and her father, Alpheus Matlala, a delightful old man.
After visiting them we drove a little way away to visit some of their relatives who had built a new house behind an RDP house. The RDP houses were built after the end of apartheid, and the name is all that is left of the ANC’s much-vaunted Reconstruction and Development Programme. But within a year of the ANC being elected, the RDP was lured down a dark alley and quietly strangled, and all that remains is a nickname for sub-standard housing.
And Nellmapius, whether you go to the upmarket end or the RDP end, is 99,9% black.
Have we really reached the end of apartheid?