Building happier stories

2014-09-07 12:27

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It was dusk on Thursday. A tide of hipsters swept through Bree Street’s Youngblood Gallery: an anti-clockwise human tide laced with discerning uhms and ahs.

On the redbrick walls were framed images by local news photographers.

There were some wonderful pictures. Highlights included a homeless man sleeping under a Cape Town bridge, his sneaker-clad prosthetic leg propped up next to him (by Thomas Holder), and Filipino children leaping into water, frolicking in the dire aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan last year (by Henk Kruger).

But what struck me hardest were three photographs, each raising bone-chilling questions on our country’s youth and the future they face.

A picture snapped by Lisa Skinner shows a row of animated teenagers with babies on their hips against a sandy, rural background.

The caption read: “I was drawn to how they mimic a family unit ... The bleak landscape reflects the almost inevitable bleakness of their future”.

A picture taken by Shelley Christians in the Bo-Kaap shows a hip-high kid playing on a stoep outside his house. Nonchalantly, he points a toy gun at a homeless man sleeping on the pavement below.

Conrad Bornman’s contribution is a close-up of a boy’s face. The youngster’s right cheek bulges around a lollipop, while a toy gun is raised menacingly next to his left cheek.

A book containing stories penned by mostly previously disadvantaged kids (aged from grades 4 to 6) provided a similarly chilling perspective.

Launched at the V&A Waterfront on Saturday, the book called “Children writing to be smart” is the culmination of the annual Growsmart writing competition, spearheaded by a property group and the Western Cape Education Government.

It constitutes 141 brightly illustrated pages of jarring insight into the minds of 20 youngsters, selected from 200 fiction-writing submissions.

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Most of these stories could use some serious band-aid. Isn’t it terrible how the most innocent souls usually end up paying for self-serving people’s bad-life decisions?

Violence, a by-product of poverty and hopelessness, is  in turn attributable to top-level corruption and squander.

#Paybackthemoney and build safe daycare centres with mentors; build art classes, tennis courts, ballet halls and soccer fields.

#Paybackthemoney and spend it on our children.

South Africa, we need to build happier stories and brighter tomorrows.

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