SLICE: Johannesburg will break, build you

The road to responsibility is one that we are all bound to take, and it comes with its negatives and positives. For me to come back to Johannesburg, was a decision that was based on events that acted as a double-edged sword in my life. 

Reflecting only on the bad experiences and telling myself that I would not come back to Johannesburg, I did not consider any life lessons to be drawn from the experiences. However, being back in the city and being able to do almost everything I wanted to do in 2017, I can see that the past experience has equipped me to adapt way better the second time around.

Growing up in Evaton West, a township in the Vaal Triangle where opportunities for the youth are few and a place the government couldn’t care less about, led me to consider moving to Johannesburg, where I thought I could kickstart my career as a photographer.

The younger me back then did not understand how to manoeuvre in the streets of Joburg, who to interact with and who to trust. I was enrolled at an institution named iCollege.

Having to travel to the Johannesburg CBD from the Vaal, some days I would squat at my classmate’s dorm as I did not have transport money. Travelling by Metrorail was another traumatic experienceas I would be forced to ride outside when the train was full, praying the whole time that I would make it home alive.

This ended up being a waste of my money and time because after completing the qualification it turned out that the college was not accredited for the course.  

This harsh experience, plus getting mugged on my way to Park Station and getting scammed of money and a phone in a banking queue, taught me a lot about Johannesburg. It’s what I see as a double-edged sword in my life, as these experiences broke me and, at the same time, built me. 

What made these experiences more traumatic was not having family to support me. I told myself that I would be better off completing my degree in the Vaal or another city or province, far away from Johannesburg. 

The city initiated me in a year to know how the world can be a cold place and that you are responsible for your own happiness in life. What I wished the younger me to have seen is that in whatever situation life places you, there is always a lesson, even in the mayhem. However, as the tinnybuddah website says: “Be kind to past versions of yourself that didn’t know the things you know now.”

My achievements from 2018 to 2020, which include acquiring a BA in communication from North-West University Vaal Triangle Campus, were a result of the hardships I experienced the first time I came to study in Joburg. Today I see the city of gold through a different lens, as a hub for creatives in the artistic fields that I desire to be part of, as well as an opportunity to study at one of the biggest universities in Africa.

The diversity in culture, lifestyle and way of doing things as I perceive it now is more unifying of various cultures to bring a different taste of life to the city and introduce a new culture. I gained this new perspective while travelling in and around the city taking pictures, and I found that I could be part of that new culture.

The Alfonso that is here today came back because of what the younger me experienced and what the younger me gained, which has made me the person I am proud to be today. I am no longer afraid of the city and now understand that life may not go as planned, but through all that, I should keep my chin up. Now I can honestly say, I have been through the most and I am ready for what life keeps bringing to the table, instead of running back home as I did before. 

FEATURED IMAGE: Alfonso Nqunjana

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Dancer not in the dark

PHYSICAL DANCING: Sthembiso Khalishwayo, recently choreographed a piece of physical theatre at the Dance Umbrella’s Young Choreographers programme, called The Life I Lived. Photo: Tanisha Heiberg

PHYSICAL DANCING: Sthembiso Khalishwayo, recently choreographed a piece
of physical theatre at the Dance Umbrella’s Young Choreographers programme,
called The Life I Lived. Photo: Tanisha Heiberg

Sthembiso  Khalishwayo grew up being told stories by his mother and in particular one about a fearsome snake on a mountain. But unlike other children Khalishwayo was not afraid, but rather intrigued as he wanted to climb this mountain and find the snake. It was this adventurous spirit that helped shape him into a choreographer and performer who wants to help others tell their own stories.

“That snake on the mountain top is that one thing I’m trying to find, that drama that I want to see happen in South Africa,” said Khalishwayo, MA in Applied Theatre.

Khalishwayo recently choreographed a physical theatre piece for the 2015 Dance Umbrella’s Young Choreographers platform. The work, titled The Life I Lived, is the journey of a 27-year-old man that explores the stories which unfold around us and affect the stories that we tell.

“As South Africans regardless of race we are born with stories being told to us … These stories are a fundamental piece of who we are,” explains Khalishwayo.

He is not only passionate about helping others find their voice but also teaching. Khalishwayo hopes that in the future children will be exposed to dance and physical theatre at schools.

Listening to the stories of others is what helped him create his productions, which he hopes will encourage others to find their own voice. This includes the tough issues such as women abuse which is depicted through gesture and movement in his production.

“For me that is a very important topic because I’ve known so many women that have gone through that … and the only way I can show their stories is through drama and theatre.”

Khalishwayo hopes the production will have a therapeutic effect and may encourage others to speak out.

He is not only passionate about helping others find their voice but also teaching. Khalishwayo hopes that in the future children will be exposed to dance and physical theatre at schools.

“If we don’t do those things then physical theatre and dance will fall away to the side and we will lose an important aspect of the arts,” he said.

Khalishwayo was first inspired to begin his journey to the mountian of being a peformer whilst singing in his primary school choir. He later developed a knack for acting in high school. But his appetite for dance only flourished while studying Physical Theatre and performance at Wits. The production, titled Touch and choreographed by Athena Mazarakis, was the first physical theatre production he saw which ignited his desire to be a choreographer.

“If we don’t do those things then physical theatre and dance will fall away to the side and we will lose an important aspect of the arts.”

Since then Khalishwayo has created over 25 productions and worked with industry professionals, including PJ Sabbagha, Gregory Maqoma, Nadine Joseph, Bailey Snyman and Tracy Human. He has many aspirations for the future and many snakes on many mountains to find, owning his own dance company, running a theatre and a school of arts.

The curtain comes down and the story is told but Khalishwayo will continue to look for that snake hiding on top of every mountain.