A more meaningful kind of dress-up

The Portrait Racket 1

Most of the portraits were retrieved from studios that closed down, where treasured images and documents were never collected.         Photo: Tendai Dube


Remember when you were a child playing dress-up? How when you wore your parents’ clothes you believed you were an adult – and for those few minutes, before you were reprimanded, you thought you could skip the 18 or more years of being a kid.

You became exactly what you saw in the mirror and owned it with a child-like confidence.

This is what the portraits on display at the Origins Centre did for people in the past, they created the best self-imagined version of people.

The Portrait Racket showcases portraits of ordinary people in South African history in a time where, for most people, the only photographs they had were the identity photo in their passbook.

According to curators Ruth Sack and Lisa Espi: “Airbrushed photographic portraiture was a widespread, flourishing business in South Africa for the greater part of the twentieth century, from the 1930s to the 1990s. The people in the business referred to it as ‘the portrait racket’.”

It was an affordable way to have a colour picture taken. The technique was reportedly brought to South Africa by a Mr. Popov from Chicago who opened the first studio.

The Portrait Racket 4

The Portrait Racket includes a selection of completed airbrushed portraits, and in some cases the original small photographs they were based on.   Photo: Tendai Dube

The studio salesmen went door-to-door and sold people the opportunity to have themselves remembered in a way that often differed from their circumstances.

The airbrush artists took a photo of you and one of your partner, enlarged them and put them alongside each other. The couple would then explain how they would want to be dressed up in the portrait, and usually that outfit portrayed a finer and more accomplished attire than the one they owned.

Whether it was a more tailored collar in one, or a more expensive wedding dress in another, most of the portraits told a better story than the reality. One of the stories was of an elderly woman requesting a wedding picture of her and her deceased husband based on a picture of him in his youth, since they never had one taken.

The exhibition includes a selection of completed airbrushed portraits and in some cases the original small photographs and the succinctly scrawled instructions that were submitted to the artists.

Take a timeline trip to the Origins Centre and read a few stories of the people who went to such lengths to redefine what their oppressive passbooks were in reality and turned it into something romantic.

Most of the portraits were retrieved from studios that closed down, where treasured images and documents were never collected. Some of these portraits could help others get reunited with their long-lost relatives.

The exhibition ends on March 31 and the display occupies one of the walls inside the building’s shop.


Wits boys shield their position on top

Tendai Dube and Lutho Mtongana

The Wits Varsity Shield team is back with a competitive bang, sitting top of the log with three wins and a draw in their first four matches of the season.
FNB Wits has been unstoppable since the season kicked off a month ago and this week was no different when the boys drew 37-all against the University of the Western Cape (UWC) at home.
Wits captain and flank Richard Crossman said the team has been fortunate in getting this far in the Cup.
“It’s been a huge transformation, we have a whole bunch of new guys, new management, and they are all fresh from matric. We only have two or three senior guys,” said Crossman.
Although they are currently leading the log, the team still have to work hard to stay ahead of the game and, according to Crossman, are training intensely.
“Our weaknesses is that we are young and inexperienced but that could also be our strength because our guys are young and are willing to learn,” Crossman said.
In their first game of the year the Wits boys went head-to-head against a normally challenging Fort Hare, and defeated them with a solid 39-24 win.
They then proceeded to squash the TUT Vikings with 71-36 in their next match on February 19.

CROSSING THE LINE: Richard Crossman, Wits Rugby Captain, flank  Photo: Tendai Dube

CROSSING THE LINE: Richard Crossman, Wits Rugby Captain, flank Photo: Tendai Dube

On March 9 Wits will be playing against Fort Hare on the Wits Rugby Field and Crossman is determine that they will come out on top once again with their home ground advantage.
There are five teams in the Varsity Shield this year: UWC, Wits, Fort Hare, University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT). Wits needs to finish at the top of the log at the end of the season to secure a chance to move back into the Varsity Cup.

NSFAS repayment for what?

Tendai NSFAS

FILL IN: A student fills in a NSFAS form to apply for university funding from the government. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

LERATO Morake* lives in a two-bedroom apartment in Pretoria. She drives a sleek, silver Audi to her job, where she earns R440 000 per annum.
She also has no plans to pay back the almost R200 000 she owes to NSFAS because no one has been around to collect.

Frustrated students across the country have protested a lack of funding provided for needy students by the National Student Financial Aids Scheme (NSFAS).

NSFAS is suffering a shortfall due in part to students not repaying their loans and replenishing the fund’s coffers.

But former students who are now successful say there is no reason to repay NSFAS because the scheme does not try to collect.

Morake started working in 2008 and said NSFAS has not attempted to reclaim any funds from her.

“They are not even trying to do anything, they aren’t even trying our phones, my number is the same number I used when I applied and they never even tried to call me,” Morake said.

They could’ve just used my ID number and the details of the people that owe them, then through that they can get us to pay back.

According to the NSFAS website, once a student starts working and earns more than R30 000 a year, they must pay back part of the loan. Meaning you would only pay back R900 a year on a salary of R30 000 a year, or R84 per month. A small price to pay considering the interest charged on the loan is subsidised at 80% of the rate that commercial banks would charge.

Students sign a legal contract to repay their loans and the scheme promises to “contact all students who graduate or stop studying to give consent for repayments to be deducted from their bank account every month,” according to the NSFAS website.

But this hasn’t been the experience of Morake: “I don’t think they tried to find me, I read somewhere in the papers that they were trying to find people but, because they are a government financial institution, if they wanted to catch us out, they could’ve gone to SARS, [SA Revenue Service]” she said.

“They could’ve just used my ID number and the details of the people that owe them, then through that they can get us to pay back,” she said.

Morake only knows how much she owes because of a statement she once saw at her cousin’s house in Croydon a few years ago. Her cousin has moved three times since then.

“My aunt also went through this programme, I think about seven years ago and she still hasn’t finished paying for it, so it’s just like donating money and no one sees where it’s going,” Morake said.
NSFAS receives a budget from government, which it then uses to provide a scholar with funds to pay for tuition, accommodation and books.

NSFAS was introduced by government in 1996 to provide poor matric-holders access to a university education. Students have their annual tuition paid and receive the rest of the amount for books and other course material as credit, not as cash, to avoid misuse.

NSFAS offers an income-dependent loan, meaning the student only begins to repay the loan once they start earning an income.

Morake received her undergraduate degree in corporate communications and development studies at the University of Johannesburg in 2008 and since then has worked at three different companies.

Her studies have resulted in her getting a job as a corporate communications consultant for a popular fast food franchise.

At the time she applied for NSFAS, Morake’s mother was unemployed and looked after their home in Alexandra township. Her dad could not afford to pay for her schooling as he did not earn much as a handyman and electrician.

I told them to send the banking details and stuff but they didn’t bother so I didn’t pay.

The cost of paying back a loan is burdensome, especially for an individual just entering the workforce and trying to start out their lives.

“When I first started working I worried, I said to myself, ‘okay, this is your first job, they said you have to pay them back or else they’ll find you’, so I called the call centre, they proofed my details then they told me I had to pay 10 percent of my salary and it was a ridiculous amount for me at the time,” Morake said.

Still, Morake told NSFAS to send her the relevant details to begin repaying her loan. However, the scheme never followed up with her.

“I told them to send the banking details and stuff but they didn’t bother so I didn’t pay,” she said.

“I just didn’t want to be the only one paying.”

Lerato is planning on studying further. She wants to do her honours in management but does not plan on using NSFAS again.

“This time I’ll pay for it myself, it would just be greedy otherwise,” she said.

*not her real name



Wits VuvuzelaThe devil wears NSFAS, February 27,

Initiation creates ‘camaraderie’

CORRECTION: Wits Vuvuzela initially reported that Joshua Ndlangamandla was from Men’s Res, but he is actually from EOH. We regret the error. The error has been corrected in the copy.


MARCH ON: “Freshmen” sing and dance as part of their first year initiation during O-week.                Photo: Roxanne Joseph

MARCH ON: “Freshmen” sing and dance as part of their first year initiation during O-week. Photo: Roxanne Joseph

DURING O-week the residences plan a highly interactive experience for the wide-eyed young adults in first year to help familiarise them with the university and each other.

Two years ago, Wits Vuvuzela reported on how two female students formally complained to the dean of students at the time, about unsanctioned initiations and how they were “victimised” and experienced sexism from students at a male residence.

“There’s a fine line between what the freshers can take and what they can’t and what they are going to complain to their parents about and what they are going to find fun,” said Priya Thakur, Sunnyside house committee chairperson.

“Right now we are still trying to get them used to the entire res and varsity, get them to mingle with other students because, in as much as they are going to be students who are alone, they are still going to meet with students from other res’s as well in their classes,” said Joshua Ndlangamandla, a BSc third year and the sports administrator at Ernest Oppenheimer Hall of residence (EOH).

Wits Vuvuzela spoke to house committee members at the residences about how first years were being initiated and if the acts were harmless or not.

The “freshmen”, as EOH call their first years, appear to be treated as cadets. Wits Vuvuzela witnessed Men’s res in their blue t-shirts doing a series of drills and push-ups, followed by dancing and singing.

The freshmen only earn their keep after the formal initiation, when the “freshmen” jump into the pool, and “depending on how we feel on the day, it might be fully clothed,” added Ndlangamandla. “They will no longer be called “freshmen” but “Ernest men”.

Sankie Kgatse, a first year staying in Sunnyside residence said it has been “fun”, that they were taught a lot of traditional songs and did some physical exercise. “We gym yoh! We do a lot of physical activities and they are very hard … We wake up around 5.30 every morning,” the first year added. The freshers do morning runs to get them used to waking up early for classes.

According to Sunnyside’s Thakur, one of the traditions they uphold is their pledge night with Ernest Oppenheimer Hall of residence (EOH), where the freshers pledge their allegiance to EOH. The pledge took place earlier this week.

“It’s fun because historically Knockando and Men’s Res hate each other and then Sunnyside and Jubilee are fighting over Men’s Res when EOH is not around, it’s a lot of res rivalry, which is pretty fun during the week.”

The pledge also included a wedding, where house committee chose the person they would marry, Kgatse explained to Wits Vuvuzela. Ndlangamandla regrets that he wasn’t initiated in his first year at EOH and found that he generally struggled in his first two years because he didn’t really know the people around him.

He sees the benefit in initiation because “you’re partnered with someone through initiation and you’ve been through the same struggles you’ve been telling each other, ‘oh that house comm manager is an asshole’, so you have something in common”.

“It builds that brotherhood, that camaraderie between people that if you’re struggling, don’t do it alone … Once you’re alone we can’t help you out because we don’t know where you are in life,” says Ndlangamandla.

“It’s all about building a proper rapport between the students and us so that they can come to because most of us have been there before,” he adds. When asked about any worrisome activities, Thakur said she could not reveal that to the Wits Vuvuzela, and doubts that any other res would.

“A lot of the things we do here are internal and house issues, it’s designed and meant specifically for Sunnysiders. If the university had to read about it, I don’t think they would understand – it’s a different thing living at res and the Vuvuzela has a much wider audience,” said Thakur.

Apart from morning drills, the first year are taken around Johannesburg to the Hector Peterson Museum, Vilakazi street and the South African Breweries to watch how beer is made.

VIDEO: In memory of Ruth First

Ruth First, a South African journalist, activist and former Witsie was assassinated 32 years ago, yesterday. Every year, Wits awards a fellowship in her name, to address the need for in-depth reporting on social issues. Wits Vuvuzela spoke to this year’s fellow and others about the impact of the fellowship on communities around the country.


Wits Hockey equalise in the last seconds against Madibaz

Madibaz (NMMU) in blue and Wits in yellow in focus during their Varsity Hockey tournament match on Wits turf yesterday afternoon. Photo: Tendai Dube

Madibaz (NMMU) in blue and Wits in yellow in focus during their Varsity Hockey tournament match on Wits turf yesterday afternoon.       Photo: Tendai Dube

In a foul-filled and frustrating game, Wits University drew one all Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) in the Varsity Hockey tournament at home yesterday.

NMMU, or the Madibaz, held a 1-0 advantage up until the last seventeen seconds of the game when Wits netted a goal to level the game.

The first chukka of the game was filled with fouls and green cards instead of goals with NMMU’s Chad Cairncross of the Madibaz getting the first warning within the two minutes off the turf.

Craig Daniel made the first real goal attempt for the Witsies that ended up just high of the post and the team found themselves with two fouls from both Matthew Povall and Michael Daniel before the first third was over.

The Madibaz found some luck in the last two minutes of the first third, when a Witsies’ foul resulted in a penalty. Madibaz Steven Dent then made short work of it, putting the score at 1 – 0 to the NMMU boys.

The second chukka began with a power play for the Madibaz but the boys failed to take advantage of the opportunity when Shawn Pautz was given a green card, soon after Wits captain and goalie, Cole Zondagh had received one too.

Madibaz (NMMU) in blue and Wits in yellow in focus during their Varsity Hockey tournament match on Wits turf yesterday afternoon. Photo: Tendai Dube

Madibaz (NMMU) in blue and Wits in yellow in focus during their Varsity Hockey tournament match on Wits turf yesterday afternoon. Photo: Tendai Dube

Brandon Downes was served with a yellow card, leaving him on the sidelines for the rest of the match.

“A tense game, playing guys who are quicker than us, sometimes we slip and make bad decisions, its just moving on. We played with ten players three times today and we didn’t concede when we had a player off and that’s all that matters,” said Wits captain Zondagh regarding the numerous fouls.

The Wits goal in those few seconds drew the score, 1 – 1 and had the home fans cheering in surprise.

“They were naught one down the whole event until about seconds before the final and they scored and came back, I tell you I have goosebumps, I’m proud of my team,” said Erika Venter, sports officer for Wits Hockey.

“I really feel like we did play really well, we just didn’t take our opportunities when they were given to us, we should have won the game but the boys really did put in an effort and I’m really proud of them,” said Jessica Dignon, manager and conditioner for the Wits hockey boys.

Zondagh won the super saver title for the second time in just as many days and Ignatius Malgraff from the Madibaz was named man of the match.

Wits will be playing against University of Cape Town (UCT) tonight at 18:45.

Man dies saving girlfriend

Charlie Gomez, the young man who died trying to prevent his girlfriend from falling from the fourth floor of Milpark Mews last Saturday, 26 April.      Photo: Provided

HERO: Charlie Gomez died trying to prevent his girlfriend from falling from the fourth floor of Milpark Mews last Saturday, April 26.       Photo: Provided

A twenty-one-year man old died a hero when he attempted to save his girlfriend after she fell from an Auckland Park apartment building on Saturday.

Charlie Gomez was carrying his girlfriend, Minikazi Jojo, 22, were getting ready for a night out on Saturday. Gomez was carrying Jojo in his arms on Saturday as they walked up an outdoor stairwell to their apartment. But as she was being carried up, Jojo lost her balance and fell over the railing of the fourth floor.

Gomez lunged over the railing in an attempt to save her but lost his balance and fell from the balcony.

Jojo’s cousin, who had gone ahead to collect a set of keys, came back to find the couple on the ground.

According to a close family friend, paramedics arrived on the scene and Jojo and Gomez were both rushed to the intensive care unit of Milpark Hospital.


Gomez arrived in hospital with his legs broken. He briefly woke up and attempted to get up  before his heart failed and Gomez died two hours after being admitted to hospital.

[pullquote]“He didn’t have to save me, but he died my hero”[/pullquote]

Jojo sustained injuries to her neck, broken bones near her spine and suffered small scratches to her face. According to the family friend, Jojo knows her boyfriend’s last act was an attempt to save her from falling.

“He didn’t have to save me, but he died my hero, ” Jojo was heard saying in the hospital.

Gomez and Jojo, both University of Johannesburg students, had been dating for about two months before the accident.

University of Johannesburg students, Minikazi Jojo, posing against the railing of the Milpark Mews apartment building.   Photo: Provided

University of Johannesburg students, Minikazi Jojo, posing against the railing of the Milpark Mews apartment building. Photo: Provided

Jojo is expected to be be discharged in two weeks’ time, but her family hopes she will be able to her attend Gomez’s funeral this coming Saturday.

This is not the first fatality to happen in the building. In 2011, two AFDA students fell from a balcony of the sixth floor. The estimated 15 metre drop killed one of the students instantly.

The safety of Milpark Mews’ balconies is a concern to some residents.

“Nothing is stable, there’s cracks all over the place, and the railings aren’t high enough. I’m just wondering how many people are still going to lose their lives here?” said Jojo’s friend.

Wits Vuvuzela approached Milpark Mews security guards for comment but they professed ignorance about Jojo and Gomez’s accident. The caretaker of Milpark Mews, known only as “Ozzy”, could not be reached at his flat in the building nor on any of the provided phone numbers.

Teams fail to pitch for Wits rugby


Men’s Residence team in celebration after beating Monash 24 – 18, in the first set of Wits internal rugby league on Wednesday.           Photo: Tendai Dube

The Wits internal rugby league got off to a trying start on Wednesday.

Knockando and Humanities supporters left after both of their teams didn’t pitch up for their matches.

“Knockando thought their game only started at 8.30pm and Humanities said they didn’t know they were starting this week,” said Masakhane player Junior Mnisi.

Despite the delayed kick-off, Masakhane thrashed the Engineers in a 38 – 0 win. The SA Union of Jewish Students team and Commerce wound up playing each other after their opponents didn’t pitch up. Commerce won that match 36 -24.

Despite the confusion, the cool night and the 90 minute delay in starting the match, the fans who caught on took to the stands excitedly and not a little rowdy.

The loudest bunch were the fans from Men’s res, who cheered and stamped through their team’s victory, 24-18, over Monash.

As soon as Men’s res won, their fans emptied the bleachers and rushed onto the field with singing and cheering.

The Men’s residence fans formed up in a circle on the field and posed for pictures, bringing the first night of amateur rugby to a close.

The Humanities team won the Wits Internal League last season and competed in the Varsity Cup Koshuis tournament. A new season and the title are all up for grabs again.

Texas Ranger starves over Nkandla

Warren Chalklen

Warren Chalklen in his protest against corruption in Nkandla from Texas, USA.
Photo: Provided

Former Witsie Warren Chalklen embarked on a twenty-four hour hunger strike that ended yesterday, in a peaceful protest against corruption by South African leaders.

The former Witsie and many other supporters of the cause were “protesting against the alleged Nkandla corruption and to protect the dignity of all South Africans” according to Chalklen. The strike began on Wednesday in Texas, from 7am to 7am the following morning.

The protest comes a week after Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s release of the Nkandla report that accused President Jacob Zuma of unfairly benefitting from security upgrades to his private residence in Nkandla. The President is yet to respond to the report.

[pullquote]“How else can I voice my disgust at this situation than to ally with the poor who will go hungry as a result of this?”[/pullquote]

Zuma now has less than a week to respond to the prosecutors report claiming that he should return a portion of the money used on his Nkandla home.

Chalklen believes that if ordinary citizens can go for a full day without food and have the discipline to voluntarily starve, by the same logic, South African leaders can discipline themselves to reduce spending for personal gain.

Chalklen's final words as he concludes his twenty-four hour protest on Thursday morning. Photo: Provided

Chalklen’s final signage as he concludes his twenty-four hour protest on Thursday morning.                       Photo: Provided

When asked why he chose to do a hunger strike as his form of protest, Chalklen responded: “This is a moral issue that requires a moral response …Through peaceful protest we show them that we will not stand for this impunity.”

Chalklen said his aim with the hunger strike was to stimulate discussion and encourage people to build a better South Africa. “The principle of the matter in my context, how else can I voice my disgust at this situation than to ally with the poor who will go hungry as a result of this?”

Many of his social media peers supported his plight by liking and sharing his posts. However, some criticised Chalken, questioning his rationale in not waiting until after Madonsela’s deadline and then to strike if he did not get answers.

“The aim of the strike is not to gain support, the aim is to use our energies to send a message that each citizen has the power to utilise their democratic freedoms to hold leaders accountable. There is never a good time to act. Corruption happened, powerful people are unaccountable, individuals feel hopeless, and we need, in the short term, something to give people purpose, hope and a sense that they matter. It is likely this will not conquer anything, but that’s not the point nor purpose.”

Chalklen, a South African,  graduated from the University of Witwatersrand with a Bachelor of Education where he also received the Jack Hutton Memorial Award. He has since graduated as a Master in Public Service and Administration (MPSA), at a university in Texas, where he currently resides.

Jazz: The pulse of the city


PLANET JAZZ: Jazz great, double bass legend, Herbie Tsoaeli rehearses for his performance at The Orbit. The new Braamfontein hotspot is the perfect night out for jazz music lovers.                         Photo: Tendai Dube

THE ORBIT, a sleek new jazz club and bistro, stands out with its frosted glass and bright green wall from the surrounding concrete and face-brick of the neighbouring Braamfontein buildings.

As you approach The Orbit’s transparent doors, you are lured in by the out-of-place music amidst the sound of midday traffic.

[pullquote]”The Orbit is devoted to contributing to the development and refurbishment of the performing arts.”[/pullquote]

Three lovers of jazz music conceived the concept of a jazz club in the middle of the city. Aymeric Péguillan, Dan Sermand and Kevin Naidoo said they wanted to create a platform for creative expression for jazz musicians in Johannesburg.

The Orbit is devoted to contributing to the development and refurbishment of the performing arts in Johannesburg and has entered a partnership with the University of Witwaterand’s music department.

The collaboration will see Wits music students being invited to perform during lunchtime sessions every day. “The Orbit is not just about showcasing professional established musicians. It’s also about giving a chance to young artists to display their talents in a proper professional environment,” Péguillan said. Wits music students will be performing everyday during lunchtime. ‘Jam Sessions’ hosted on Tuesday nights at the club with an entrance fee of R40 is part of The Orbit’s plan to appeal to students.

“We loved the idea of jazz in the city. [Jazz] draws its influences from the pulse of the city,” Péguillan said explaining the choice of Braamfontein as their location. “It has this very interesting mix of people.” The Orbit hopes to reestablish the concept of a permanent venue for people to listen to jazz music instead of waiting for events.

As you cross the threshold and enter the club, you are engulfed in the romance and warmth of the wood, leather and glass-themed venue. True lovers of the genre surround the stage and absorb the instrumentals in a room with the ambience of a family room with a fireplace.

The Orbit is located on 81 De Korte street, the former venue of the Puma Social Club, and is open from 11.30am from Tuesday to Sunday. The venue can seat about 200 people in the theatre upstairs, and 100 in the restaurant downstairs where the live lunchtime performances will take place.

A night out for R100


BOWL ME OVER: Bowls at Zoo Lake caters for the student wallet with affordable food and drink. Enjoy an entertaining environment with friends.     Photo: Tendai Dube

WE AT Wits Vuvuzela feel it is our civic duty to make sure students new to Wits and the Braamfontein area do not blow their allowances or hard-earned cash before you try out the treasure known as “Bowls”.

The Zoo Lake Bowling Club has an inviting and casual setup experienced by many Braamfontein students.

Ask anyone why you should go there and the answer is the same: Bowls is affordable, convenient and relaxed.

Except for Friday nights when the resident DJ performs or on Mondays when a local band is on stage.

[pullquote]”Ask anyone why you should go there and the answer is the same: Bowls is affordable, convenient and relaxed.”[/pullquote]

The menu covers a wide variety of pub food, from a large portion of ribs for R80 to slap chips for R15 and a burger or prego roll for R40. You can expect to pay R18.50 for a beer and R22 for a draft, while ciders are R16 and shots are between R15 and R18.

Founded in 1932, Bowls is one of the oldest sports clubs of its kind in South Africa, located just off Jan Smuts avenue on Prince of Wales Drive, inside Zoo Lake.

It is a members-only spot, so for a once-off fee of R20 you receive a card that grants you free entrance for the year.

Order their popular pizza and do yourself a favour: ask for a serving of their famous (and free) chilli sauce. You will not regret it.

A R35 pizza, two R22 drafts and a R16 shot (just to be social) all amounts to R95.

Play a game of pool with your R5 change and it will have been R100 well spent.