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Praca de Touros

by pop skiet / 09.10.2012

With dedicated intent I asked around where Maputo’s old bullring was, nobody knew. Eventually I was directed to the Shopright Checkers, on the East side of the city. The ring stood unceremoniously, forgotten, across the street, surrounded by an array of rackety fruit and veg stalls and make-shift car garages. As I approached the main gate, small hands around a rusty lock and big brown eyes peering, greeted me.

I was told entry was forbidden and under no circumstances was I allowed in. After a negotiation of 50 Mets the metal gate creaked open. A bunch of suspicious kids led me inside, the stench of urine and faeces was overwhelming. After some adjustment and cross-questioning I was told they were homeless kids who had squatted the premises. This was their home. I reach for my camera, the boys jump, hostile words fly out of young mouths. For a moment it felt like I was re-imagining our school textbook William Golding’s Lord of the Flies.

I followed the troop into an unimpressive, ageing arena. It was marked by the typical tropical decay and faded history; fragments of former glory barely visible. The arena was being used as a home, soccer and bicycle track. From the top seating area the tip of Maputo’s skyline was a charcoal smear set in a haze of pollution. After a quick look around, I was told my time is up, this was an invasion of their privacy. As I handed over the 50 Mets, I wondered about these boys future, they all need square meals, education and some adult supervision. Living in an abandoned, decaying bullring is no place for children to grow up.

I am escorted out hastily, back through the stinky foyer. Another, bigger boy tells me to hand over more cash, 50 is not enough. The additional 30 Mets I offer is rejected. The boy screams at me loudly. He follows me to the car with a few of his friends in tow. As I get into gear he jumps onto my bonnet, he waves a protruding middle finger in my direction with the intention of pulling off my windscreen wipers, all while yelling a string of abusive epithets in both Portuguese and Tsonga. Any bit of motherly compassion I once had for the homeless kids of the bullring is replaced with rage and a desperate urge to get the fuck out of there. I step it up and he hops off with a misdirected kick towards my door. I drive through the grease, grime, potholes and banana peels happy to see the end of that.

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