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I Art SA project

I’m wearing sunglasses. What are you doing for the community?

by Montle Moorosi, images Andy Davis / 11.04.2011

It smells of shit everywhere it’s that all familiar hint of adverse poverty, the real scent of South Africa. Its 11am and the cups of beer are out already. My kind of people, but not really. There’s a row of wooden shacks, right in the middle of Woodstock, just off Gympie Street… and there I was thinking that shacks were only for the darker shade of poor.

A few seconds ago I was in a factory type space with an art gallery, some book stores and coffee shops serving hot ciabatta bread. Now I’m watching mangy dogs dying in front of me, tip toeing, doing a modern dance over a medley of sewage, broken bottles, broken dreams and, of course, that old chorus of used tampons and condoms.

I Art SA project

Ricky Lee Gordon is a large man, he has brown hair which is cut close on the sides and the top part is combed backwards. A large art fag, I first thought when I met him at the Toffie Festival, but his silent demeanour bespoke a menace “an art fag who will fuck you up”. He isn’t fat but he isn’t exactly Henry Cele either. Around us are white walls filled with framed pictures, a television screen with flashing images of coloured children and Andy Davis dressed in a pair of blue and white striped pants, Camps Bay Auschwitz chic. Him and Ricky go off and chat in a corner while I take a look at the gallery. I steal a book… but I think its for free anyway, Southern Suburb gangster. A blonde girl walks in, Anthea Duce. Hug, chit chat, look intently in her eyes and then stare at my feet for approximately 15 seconds. She walks out. I watch her ass and silently fall in love again. I see a coloured man with missing teeth and milky red eyes, in a black leather bikers jacket, blue jeans, shoes hardly there, disintegrated. The coloured man talks to Ricky, and Ricky calls us over.
“Ok, lets go.” The tour of the art begins.
“Hi, Im Rashid.” He says as we set off in the drizzle.
“Montle.”
“Munte?”
“MONTLE!”
“Monte… howzit man.”
“Aweh, im good bra.”

I Art SA project

To my right in what looks like a car lot for old unused cars is a large iron eagle or falcon, some sort of imposing but beautiful sculpture, slightly terrifying too. As I move in closer I realise that it’s actually a painting done with spray paint, with amazing intricate line work in a dark metallic grey, which is why I thought it was a sculpture. I wasn’t high.
“That’s Dissident, Faith’s husband.” Says Ricky.
“The Chinese guy in the picture?”
“Ja.”
“He’s great.” We all agree.

I Art SA project

“The I ART SA Community Mural Project, a collaboration between A WORD OF ART and Adidas Originals, aims to promote and celebrate local artists, mural art and the original culture found within the communities we interact in. Starting in Woodstock and then moving on to Soweto, thirteen artists have been selected and assigned one wall per venue and will create public art to a brief, either I ART WOODSTOCK or I ART SOWETO” This is what the press package said, but haven’t artists like Faith and countless others been painting in Woodstock on their own volition for ages now? Ok some of them aren’t going around doing wheat pasties of rats copulating or pictures of Marilyn Monroe changing her douche, they just have cans and markers and no sponsorship or permission whatsoever. Is this Adidas sponsored art project the advance guard of gentrification? The first tentacle of capital?
“So Rashid, how did you get involved with this project?” Andy disrupts my revolutionary thought process.
“I’ve always been into art… I did that one over there, the one that says FREE PALESTINE… I saw Faith and Ricky here painting before, and I’d assist them with not being harassed by gangsters and thieves… you know.”

I Art SA project

“So you’re the muscle?”
“No, not the muscle, more of an arbitrator, you know.” I wasn’t going to argue with him. Not a chance. Ricky then tells us a story about when he was painting one of the first murals while Rowan Pybus was shooting and that there were these two kids who kept watching them. Eventually Rowan got comfortable and forgot to lock the car. His R30 000 camera was stolen, and it contained pictures of the U2 concert, which somehow were more valuable than the camera. Rowan offered a R1000 reward for the flash drive alone, and within an hour Rasheed had returned with the camera and its memory. We come across a mural of a pitbull by Dathini Mzanyiya from the Gugulective, the iconic ghetto dog, the protector of the poor and not so weak.

I Art SA project

At this point we’re confronted by a short man with scruffy hair, a gold tooth and a weary youngish face and we ask him for his time. It turns out he’s 41. He’s just been drinking black label quarts.
“So Sean, what do you think about all the art they’re doing here in Woodstock?”
“It’s more attracting… to.. err… it’s attracting to people… people come take pictures… it’s from nothing to richness you know.”
“Ja, cause usually outsiders who come to Woodstock only come here to buy drugs, you know.” Rashid adds. A slight man dressed in a black tracksuit and Air Jordans walks up and down the street watching us, always on his phone. He gets into his red BMW 318, circles the block and returns. He walks into a house opposite the shacks and walks out as quick as he got in and continues to slowly stroll up and down the row of shacks. A few minutes later another man, about 40 with gelled hair and a white hoodie and that all familiar Cape Town gangster walk; hands crossed behind the back, shoulders slunched forward, a white milky substance at the corners of his mouth. I suddenly realise that I’m wearing a thick gold chain. He says something to Rasheed none of us can hear or understand and quickly walks away.

I Art SA project

“So Rashid what do you think about gentrification?”
“I think its going to benefit the community as a whole, it’s changing the mind focus from gangsterism and drugs to something different that the kids can be involved in.”
I thought about downtown Johannesburg and its inner city art projects, apartment blocks for the creatives amongst the illiterati; derelicts, bums, the semi-working class and immigrants. The Italian deli next to the Hungry Lion, across the road is a general surgeon and abortionist. The rye bread always beats the pap and mogudu.

Ricky jumps in, “look, I was hearing about how gentrification fucked up New York and Berlin, and it’s just going to be exactly the same… but I was recently talking to someone from the community while working on this project and they said ‘look if it means that someone’s going to buy my house, then I’m going to buy another house with an extra room for my kids…’ How do you stop gentrification if the community supports it? I’d love to stop the gentrification of Woodstock because this place will change irreversibly, but how do you do it unless some leader is orchestrating a massive urban planning project? And it really sucks because with gentrification you’re losing all the people and their culture.” Ricky looks kind of exasperated by his position. Stuck in the middle, a street artist with his own gallery, part of the first wave of Woodstock’s “urban renewal”, but not entirely comfortable with what that might mean for both the place and the community.

I Art SA project

Have you ever seen a dog that’s been castrated trying to hump everything it sees? Legs, chair legs, other dogs, it keeps fucking and fucking but it never gets to cum. It’s the saddest thing I have ever seen. That’s gentrification. It kills nature and culture; that natural thing born out of a collective of people living and sharing experiences. It creates aesthetically pretty but sterile environments. However it’s important not to lump all the baggage of gentrification on a lowly urban art project. The art that is being made on the walls of Woodstock has had a beneficial effect, not just for artfags, but for the people who live in Woodstock. On a rudimentary level, their morning views don’t only consist of tik addicts and someone being raped, they can now enjoy it with the extra ambience of great artists like Mr Fuzz Slipperz and Boa Mistura from Madrid – encouraging the population to “fight for your dreams”. I’m being facetious here but no matter what anyone says about the dire social reality, the art does have an effect. It forces a reappraisal from both the residents and the more moneyed cultural activists it attracts. It facilitates these conversations around gentrification and development. The real culture and essence of Woodstock resides in the streets, and trying to move this culture from the street into galleries would be the first act of a willful exclusion of the community. Perhaps Andy Davis said it best. “Culture only really exists when there’s a real environment for it. Not some sweet saccharine bourgeois bullshit nuclear family, corporate advertising people who want to own coffee shops”

I Art SA project

“I’d say about two thirds of Woodstock comes from District 6, and we don’t want to lose the culture and the heritage because this place has so much history, you know.” Rashid says. “The Woodstock developers say that within 20 years Woodstock will be the next Green Point.”
“But I think we should take a lesson from Berlin and New York.” Ricky picks up the thread. “Look, if the property developers and art galleries are gonna come in then they should keep the community in tact because the community is the culture… otherwise you can’t call yourself a cultural precinct… When you gentrify with one goal… for capital gain…” And he pauses and seems unable to cap the thought.
“I think there is a way to work within that, to stop and ask the community, what is the solution to preserve this culture? I don’t know and..sometimes I feel crap that I’ve been part of it and stayed on the fence… but then again street artists enjoy street life, they don’t wanna go buy groceries and get in their car, they wanna go across the road and talk to the guy on the corner and actually be in the street… and development will also destroy that.” Ricky adds. Smart guy.

I Art SA project

We take a walk down the infamous Gympie street, it’s surprisingly empty, just a young mother and her child watching us from her porch as we take a picture of an old house with an amazing oversized tree taking up most of the tiny garden, making our own plans to develop the land.
“Ja fuck, how cool would it be if we bought this house and turned it into a little café?” Says Andy, that ol’ capitalism gleaming in his eyes.
“Or why don’t we have a Gympie Street amusement park with a tram that takes you up the street.” Ricky reacts.
“And you’d get a free hit of tik on your way up… after paying a cover charge of course.”

I Art SA project

We stop by a house where Ricky and Rashid are trying to get permission to paint in future, the owner of the house, an Imam, agrees but expressly forbids any pictures of “animals or faces” because as he says “I’m an old school muslim… cause I’m old.” Next to that house is Rashid’s painting of “Free Palestine”.
“So Rasheed, Ricky, can I ask you guys something that might be a bit thouchy?” Says Andy, he doesn’t wait for them to agree. “Ricky, are you Jewish? Cause I’m Jewish, and Rasheed you’re Muslim? So how does that work?”
“I believe in love you see.” Says Rashid, as he sets sail on a long diatribe about how people are just people and if we respect our humanity and treat each other with love and respect we can resolve any issues and ends with: “I used to date a girl who was in the Israeli army…”
“We’re ambassadors for peace!” Laughs Andy.

Dissident Art

Ok…so the art does generate debate… and not only that, but it brings people into the environment, who on a normal occasion, would never think to visit Woodstock. But at the community braai launch event, there was was a sea of white bodies in slim fit jeans, vans sneakers and checkered shirts. We danced the night away to ou Kaapse music, giving the toothless percussionists high fives. Life was great, we were famous, and I really felt good about buying a boerewors roll and a cup of Cream Soda Jive for just R1.50… R1.50 for a cup of Jive. I fucking love Woodstock. We danced with the gangsters and the old drunk women buzzing on Grandpa sachets and a hard days work at a sewing factory. Gentrification all of a sudden didn’t seem that bad. I guess in the end it’s all about choosing who you want to go to bed with. If you sleep with the devil, obviously your cock is going to get 3rd degree burns. At least people like Rashid, Ricky Gordon and Anthea Duce are searching for some kind of “middle way” for gentrification to not screw over the culture and community of Woodstock?
Like: “Hey, I’m wearing sunglasses, what are you doing for the community?”

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*All images © Andy Davis.

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RESPONSES (44)
  1. YsterHart says:

    At first I was annoyed, but I actually kinda like that this article doesnt answer any of its own questions.

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  2. the opressor says:

    mont-claire, you have to stop speaking like white rondebosch kids at homegrown parties. enough with the aweh bras already!

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  3. layla says:

    great article. great photos.

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  4. hater says:

    gentrification means the restoration of run-down urban areas by the middle class (resulting in the displacement of low-income residents)… no art is going to result in the displacement of anyone! so this article is cool in that it makes us aware of whats going down in woodstock, but actually it’s position is total hype! get it right dudes! more sloppy journo mahala!

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  5. lu says:

    the pics rock. nice work.

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  6. Anonymous says:

    Haha, Montel crushes on Anthea Duce, while Anthea Duce crushes on the collective indie boys of SA and makes a little blog about it.

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  7. MonTEL says:

    MONTEL CRUSHES ON EVERYONE…EVERDAY IS A WEEKEND

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  8. Anonymous says:

    “Live for yourself – there’s no one else more worth living for
    Begging hands and bleeding hearts will only cry out for more”

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  9. riff raff says:

    “Live for yourself – there’s no one else more worth living for
    Begging hands and bleeding hearts will only cry out for more”

    what the fuck does that mean?

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  10. Kontlap says:

    He isn’t fat but he isn’t exactly Henry Cele either! – My man! This is y im dating your sister.

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  11. Andy says:

    so what you saying anonymous? That people must just sommer pull themselves up by their boot straps? And how does that relate to the debate around art and gentrification?

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  12. nissim says:

    Graf might mean a lot to Mahala readers.

    But I imagine that most lower Woodstock residents would have preferred it if Addidas had chosen to plaster some walls, and paint them a nice colour.

    Graf on their houses just highlights the fact that they are living in sub-economic squalor (good people don’t graf nice hoods)

    Saying that graf gentrifies these houses is like saying that tatts ennoble their occupants.

    Gentrification se cat!

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  13. YsterHart says:

    nissim has a point. You dont see any graffiti in the bo kaap. Those moslem tannies will whip your butt if they catch you.

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  14. DH says:

    Very interesting article. Especially on the angle of gentrification and art! Glad to see some white kids from the burbs understands the cost of gentrification.

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  15. Montle says:

    Who you calling white? Bitch!

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  16. DH says:

    Wasn’t me…

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  17. Mufasa says:

    Gentrification starts with cheap rents. People move in. Rents go up.
    Blah blah – you know the rest.

    Investigating why the rents are cheap is more interesting.
    Because the buildings are empty.

    Why? Because they are no longer needed.
    Why? Because there are no more jobs there

    cheap eastern imports of clothes

    Where does adidas have half their clothes made?

    ironic isn’t it

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  18. EGOR says:

    well said Nissim! i feel the exact same way. Even though these sorts of community projects bring some much needed colour, care and attention to the ‘forgotten’ areas, i can’t help but wonder to what extent these initiatives truly uplift/empower these people/places. It is not, after all, just another function of our economically divided society that the affluent can go play artsy artsy on the old urban canvas? i tend to favour community projects that have real benefits (like running water, electricity, recreational parks etc) for and that require the participation of the communities involved.

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  19. Baddassbitches says:

    All I can see is that this author is a dooshbag. Keep wanking asshole

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  20. Badassbitches says:

    Author = dooshbag = coin operator = 5

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  21. montle says:

    @badassbitches…you read this at 1am in the morning..you fucking love me..hope you enjoyed playing with yourself.

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  22. Anonymous says:

    the artist who did the pieces of the grey sculptural skeleton like animals (that are mentioned first in the article) his name is not “Dissident”, its Dal
    http://www.daleast.com/

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  23. Andy says:

    Thanks Anonymous… DAL is insane

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  24. faith47 says:

    faith47 and DAL [not ‘dissident’] were not part of of this adidas project.

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  25. Andy says:

    Yes we know… sorry it wasn’t clear in the article! You both rock for doing it on your own steam (for years now) and your art contributes to the greater good of the whole world… love your work!

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  26. post says:

    watch the video and read over the whole website of the project,the is article doesnt seem to give the full perspective of what the project accomplished
    be sure to watch the video,its shows you what the community has to say
    http://www.i-art-sa-project.com

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  27. Ro says:

    I enjoyed the article and enjoyed the project. Although i have a small correction, Rashid did not go get my camera. I met the Lady that…lets just say runs shit on Gimpy, and had to pay a “donation” to her to get my camera back from her son. Rashid helped in so many ways unrelated to crime itself. 

    At first the project was presented to me as I-art-SA and I was keen to film as a video artist, at Rickys invatarion. But when we were told it was supported by Adidas I was concerned that the film would be subject to head office approval, and be a form of commercial. So I told Ricky that, like the films I have done with Faith47, I would prefer to thank those who helped make it possible in the credits rather than ad a corporate logo. He agreed. 

    With that in mind I looked over what was shot and can say as one of the creatives involved i felt blessed to have worked in that area. I make no debate. I am terrible at it. But that said believe we are accountable for how we spend our time. If not to God than to ourselves. I have chosen to believe that any care and attention given that is openly received like our efforts were and are as the artists of this project, by that small part of the Woodstock community, brand or no brand, made for real connections between people. Long term connections, and feel most importantly that it was a great use of our time. 

    The old lady in the film summed it best. She told me that business not “hipsters” were trying to evict her. 87 years in the house she was born in and the factory across the road wants her and her frail husband out. Art can do many things, in this case as in many others it simply turning some heads in the direction most are not looking. 

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  28. Andy says:

    Viva Makhulu Viva! Thanks for the intimate perspective Ro!

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  29. Anonymous says:

    They probably saw the U2 photos and decided ‘fuck it’.

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  30. kyla says:

    <3 u montle

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  31. montle says:

    see you at the sizzler in sea point…..

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  32. bones says:

    I just found the i art woodstock video on youtube…worth the watch.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKy4wFat5UE

    These locals seem to really dig it…so…eh..?
    If it has this kind of effect on the local community…nice one i guess…

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  33. Anonymous says:

    i think adidas did a great thing with this project and merely chose to support a bunch of artists that wanted to share their work and creativity with the woodstock community. it wasn’t about throwing the adidas brand in peoples faces, they were merely a supporter and clearly let the project find it’s own course, i don’t see a single adidas logo in any of the murals and the documentary merely thanks adidas for their support – i bet that they actually funded that documentary and saw it before it was revealed to the rest of the public – therefore approving it without insisting that their logo to be thrown in at the end and merely wanting to be subtly acknowledged at the end. i love this project and think that the voices in the documentary speak louder than all the ‘anti-gentrificationers’ out there – who cares what you want for the woodstock community, watch the documentary and listen to what they want…

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  34. Moose says:

    This is the best art/culture article I’ve read on Mahala.
    Really great job Montle and Andy.

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  35. UrOverlord says:

    Pretty amazing art. I live about a block from Gympie and have done so for about a year. Being white I’m too shit scared to wander around and get to know the area properly so there are a few pieces here I haven’t seen before. They are uniformly awesome.

    I have however met plenty of people from around the area and I’m not so sure everybody is as enthusiastic about gentrification as this piece makes out. Plenty of folk around the lower woodstock area rent – they have nothing to gain from higher house prices besides higher rents and/or the pain of finding a newer spot in an even poorer area. Most are struggling too hard to worry about house prices in the years ahead.

    PS Montle. Your writing rocks. Fuck your critics – they are uncultured cretins.

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  36. graham says:

    not really a ‘community’ mural project IMO. doesn’t look like there was any real community involvement? we just finished a community mural project in atlantis – a real lost city – forgotten by just about everyone and in no danger of gentrification.
    we were sponsored by the city and did a 6 day project involving 3 professionals + 6 local youth as mural interns – so there was a training element too. we were based at the local primary school and held community consultation sessions with local residents to input on the design/content. the result may not be the quality of public art seen here in woodstock but it was a community mural!

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  37. Azzerotica says:

    SICK

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  38. fuck says:

    First a kak rapper,then a kak Dj now you a kak writer…wow time to reassess!

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  39. montle says:

    @ fuck….we obviously know each other..you probably smile in my face and shake my hand..say it to my face please so i can kick your cunt in next time…youre either a girl i ignored or a guy whose girl likes me..im sorry…i cant help it.

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  40. post says:

    @ graham check the website
    there was community involvement in many ways
    lost of artist let the kids help paint in there walls
    the pavement specials created a street photo booth for the community to interact in and get there photos taken and printed out for them then and there,
    then the gallery was open everyday to the kids of woodstock for 2 weeks for them to come and make art themselves,
    i was also told that the community also decided to host the braai,
    and at the concert the community and the kids were involved in the line up,,and a word of art told me that at the end of the project a giant “paint by numbers” community mural saying I ART WOODSTOCK is going to be created with the help of the community
    so this project seems like it did have alot of community involvement,

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  41. whatever says:

    when i was growing up my father made many a trip to gympie street. u c his dealer lived their his name was camel.it was a very odd sort off u shaped drive around the block side street with semi-detached houses.he would leave me in the car while he went to bank ,as he called it,with camel those days,plz note pre-1994 i an eight year old white girl was safe.it was only later after the woodstock wars and the ravaging of tik that they managed to reallydegrade woodstock to that point ,glad to see it being upgraded but sad 2 see the people being ousted fromwithin the own communities.thaught more would come to these people after appartied than unemployment,ravaging of drugs,etc.and yes very sad to see the cmt’s out of work cape town used to have a really good clothing industry with people coming from all over the world to buy our locally manufatured high quality clothing and shoes.actually i miss wearing it myself!really thaught the drugs and prostitution would make way to a more impowered people and that they would flourish in the new SA.

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  42. Anonymous says:

    So after Faith47 goes into the community to write other peoples words does she return to her closed off community and lock the gate? Poverty always makes for a good picture honey!

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  43. bridget says:

    “The Italian deli next to the Hungry Lion, across the road is a general surgeon and abortionist. The rye bread always beats the pap and mogudu.” hahahaha

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  44. Barney says:

    Surprise importante comportement grossi

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