Hope Joannaby Samora Chapman / 10.07.2013
I’m used to getting chased by cops… as a graffiti artist you get used to being on the wrong side of the law. So it was a refreshing change to be shooting the ‘Police Band’ with my 50mm, as they jammed Eddie Grant’s ‘Hope Joanna’ in the park down the road from my love shack. It was a family affair, down at Essenwood Market last Saturday, when I was met with the bizarre sight – the Men in Blue wielding their musical instruments like groovy blues masters, badges glinting in the afternoon sun.
It’s a strange thing… to fear the law. I suppose that’s what happens when you’re a criminal. I got off lucky. The worst I got was being pistol whipped on the collar-bone when I was caught on a dark night with a giant marker pen in my sock. That was a long time ago. But I’m still holding the pen, and I’ve got something to say…
I’ve seen cops do many odd things in my time. Here’s just one scenario: I recently saw three cops beat a street kid into a bloody heap on the beach for supposedly nicking someone’s bag. I approached them and asked them to please stop. They looked at me like I was mad and dragged him off to dish out their violent punishment out of public view.
Three brave men taking it upon themselves to weigh up the severity of a crime and deliver instantaneous judgement and retribution. No need for a trial. One stolen bag equals six elbows to the head. That’s swift justice for you.
But what I’m talking about here is petty crime… a thief and a vandal being given a little beating for their sins. Violent crime is a whole other ballgame. And frankly I’ll take the pistol-whipping over a holding cell any day. The proverbial ‘slap on the wrist”. Thanks Mr Booysen (yep… I still remember your name.)
Back to reality, Essenwood Park in the golden glow of the afternoon, and the Police Band wind up their set with the resounding words “Gimme hope Joanna / Hope Joanna / Gimme hope before the morning comes!” and I’m grinning from ear to ear at the irony of the entertainment.
But what followed was a hard dose of reality. Like a karate chop to the jugular or a kick in the stomach that takes your breath away and leaves you gasping like a fish in the dust.
A beautiful, confident young lady stepped up and took the mic. Her name is Jes Foord and her testimony goes like this: One fine day she was walking her dogs with her dad down at Shongweni Dam… when she was ambushed and gang raped by four men while her father watched.
She now runs an organization that supports rape victims and educates people about the realities of rape in South Africa. I sat under a tree clutching my perfect son in the dappled sun and listened to her communicate the cold facts.
A woman is raped every 17 seconds in our beloved country. One in three women will be raped. The average rapist that is caught has already raped 30 women. A woman has more chance of being raped than being hit by a car while crossing the road in this our beloved country.
Sometimes I feel sad about this beautiful world we live in. There is so much suffering that sometimes the only way to go on is to forget about it. As long as it’s not happening to me, it’s all right… right? Or you could drop some hard cash in the bank account of the Jes Foord Foundation, which has a trauma unit dedicated to the holistic, free treatment of rape victims.
As for the men in blue… despite my personal gripes, mistrust and fear, we’ll always turn to the cops when shit hits the proverbial. Many would argue that the criminals in this country are so frightening, the criminal justice system so overwrought and the jails so overcrowded that the cops need to be the most fearless and hardened thugs on the planet to deal with the anarchy. Or so the dominant theory goes. Stomach in, chest out. Shoot to kill! And the cycle continues.
* All images © Samora Chapman