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Culture, Reality
Village Life

Work and Fire

by Morrel Shilenge / 09.12.2010

Village life has a bad reputation. People immediately think of the uneducated, unwashed and unemployed. The word “backwards”. This is a quest to portray village life as it is. The pureness… Somewhere cows pose on the streets, everywhere the stench of cow dung. Somewhere, in the backyards of mud houses, graveyards of loved ones, buried. Outside lavatories. Primitive as it is. Gogo’s become models and pose for a camera for the first time. Pure as it is.

Like the beginning, with the caveman. Street water pipes. Darkness everywhere. A witches’ playground. No fancy street lights. The beginning and end of civilization. Loud traditional music piped through old speakers next door. Unpolluted air. Stars. Scary at night. Young men drink umqomboti to pass time, and think because they went to the mountains and their dicks are now carved, they are now men. Young women taught to be sex-silly and trap men with their initiated viginas.

In the village, there’s a visible line between the haves and the have nots. Un-urban. No KFC. No McDonalds. The village is hated by coconuts. But it’s the beginning of me. Inhabited by dark skinned people burnt black by the sun and smelling of work and fire. Where birds, locusts and shrubs are dinner. No genetically modified food here. The garden at the back of my house produces fresh vegetables and fruit. Hard mkokorosh chickens in the hock.

South African Village Life

The traditional way of life is easier. A life of peace and unity, there’s no competition here. There’s less noise pollution, the environment is silent, less cluttered. You can hear your thoughts loud and clear. You know your neighbours. In the city there’s competition for space, housing, jobs. Competition for esteem. Respect. Here there’s freedom. There are enough homes and land for all. Abundance.

How does your city life compare?

Sometimes you may think the city is more comfortable. There are more opportunities. Progress. And you’d be right. There are facilities for people in the city. City kids get better education and healthcare. There are large shopping complexes, banks, offices, cinemas, hostels, clubs. There’s transport. Electricity, highways, telecommunications, plumbing facilities and the Gautrain.

But the cost of living is high. Social status demands: “what car do you drive?” Let’s compete to see who’s better, richer, more worthy. There is no fresh air and pure water. The environment is polluted with dust, smoke, noise, garbage and dioxide gases from factories. The city slowly corrupts its citizens. Crime. Murder. Theft. Streets kids everywhere… have you ever seen streets kids in a village?

Rural South Africa

Read the first part of this series Kasi Musings.

*All images © Morrel Shilenge.

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