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White people don’t walk here

White people don’t walk here

by Samora Chapman / 23.04.2010

Hey Mister I like your tattoos, I’ve been thinking of getting decorated myself.
“Lemme ask you something son, did god make you with tattoos on your skin? No. These are prison tattoos, I was possessed when I was I laaitie. You’re a nice boy, don’t go destroying something that’s perfect. And be careful around here ma bru, I’m a nice guy now but if you’d come across me 20 years ago I would have fucked you up and taken your camera!”

I stepped down the road to the sound of bird’s song. Cheap radio speakers, street karaoke sing along.

She sits in the same spot everyday, her back turned to the street. Every woman looks better in a sun dress. But we know better don’t we? Those pretty prison pinafores.

Hiding behind a plastic halo. The reflections an imperfection. “What you want? Chewing gum or cigarettes? Now it’s best you keep those feet walking on down that street.”

“Hey wena, give me money for photo. R30 please man, I need gwaais. What’s your name?”
“What? Samora! Hayibo, Samora Machel! Are you a black man?”

Black and white is a misnomer. There’s always a few shades of grey. During Apartheid we were segregated into the racial groups Black, White, Indian and Coloured. And then came the white elephant.

Street corner Numzans.

Catatonia: a form of schizophrenia characterised by a general demeanour of stupour with outbreaks of chronic excitement. Moses the quiet street vendor posed for a flick and was suddenly possessed by a wailing ancestor. His eyes bugged out of his head like a dying fish as he bared his broken teeth. He then sat back down on his milk crate and chuckled.
“Hehe did you see the look on that umlungus face?’”

The beachfront has been torn, gutted and mangled to the point that it resembles a butchered victim. Palm trees droop like forlorn refugees on deaths doorstep, the earth opens out like a carcass as wire and pylons poke the sky. The ‘Something Fishy’ sign has been a melted and grotesque statue for months. A symbol of a world gone mad. They had to tear apart the beachfront to make it shcick and modern so that it matches the stadium.

The graffiti kid crouched on this sidewalk at 2 am. I hope gods got his back Amen. Human faeces clung to his feet like bubblegum. Chrome to the concrete like a sunbirds hum. Stop talking. Keep walking.

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  1. judy says:

    ‘then came the white elephant’ – jeezus dude that’s an albino. maybe, i don’t know, ask her how she’s doing, get a name – you’ve turned a biological misfire into a bad joke. not cool.

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  2. RM @judy says:

    “white elephant (plural white elephants)
    1. (idiomatic) An ornament etc that is unwanted or is a financial burden; an unprofitable investment.”

    judy, you’re looking at something that isn’t there. Read that line again, in context.

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  3. sara says:

    Where exactly is it that you should not walk? Are we in Durbs?

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  4. crayon says:

    the buildings looks like capetown.

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  5. joegz says:

    I did not mean white elephant in the sense of being a curse. I was’nt even aware of that definition. And i never chose the title of this piece ‘white people dont walk here’. Ed’s discretion. But i guesse the vibe of the piece communicates the fact that when i walk through town i often feel like a white elephant myself. Like some kind of anomaly.

    White elpephant:
    ‘To possess a white elephant was regarded (and is still regarded in Thailand and Burma) as a sign that the monarch reigned with justice and power, and that the kingdom was blessed with peace and prosperity. The tradition derives from tales which associate a white elephant with the birth of Buddha, as his mother was reputed to have dreamed of a white elephant presenting her with a lotus flower, a symbol of wisdom and purity, on the eve of giving birth.’

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  6. joegz says:

    And the obvious reference in the story itself was the question of which racial group the apartheid government would have classified an albino as; white, black, coloured or Indian.

    Oh ya and im an Albino. I got an African soul and a white skin. So come dance with me baby.

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  7. Anonymous says:

    @Sara…read the SWC 2010 tourist handbooks for that handy info.

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  8. Anonymous says:

    “white people dont DARE walk here” maybe would have been more accurate or, considering Mahala is post-race (going to get that on a shirt one day) and all, maybe “people who do not need to risk walking here – dont dare walk here” have been better

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  9. another son says:

    this beats yesterday’s booby-fest by more than a long shot… Samora, if you keep doing this, I really am gonna name my first son after you and leave his raising and education to you. big up.

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  10. mother says:

    having different title would change this whole story’s tone for the better…well, depending on what it was.

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  11. mother says:

    Anyway its more like rich people dont walk here. i walked there only when taxi’s were the only transport i could afford.

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  12. Island Mentality says:

    Are you one of those dysfunctional dudes that go buy a few beers at a shebeen,and then present it as an adventure!!!!!!?

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  13. The JZA says:

    wtf people? this is awesome.

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  14. nice says:

    best pics

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  15. snapper says:

    agreed – great pics, terrible title
    ps i’m white and i walk in this area almost every day – best places for lunch (little gujurat 2’s new dosa counter mmm….)

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  16. will says:

    nice joeg! Starting to flare them edges bro! .

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  17. Tess says:

    nice one Joeg. the pics are beautiful-you have a very creative eye!

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  18. Fatts Mernandes says:

    dear artist,

    you portray truth, i love the snaps, your literature walking hand in hand with images you captured. i think you know the streets and what you done here is good for me too see therefore i give you a thumbs up. a discount for my eyes.

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  19. Anonymous says:

    where are these pics taken???

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  20. You'll get it if you think says:

    Nice piece brother. Much love from Jozi side!

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  21. Claire says:

    Great pictures, the text accompanying them could have been cut down a little… and the white elephant joke may be a bit insensitive. The idea that this is a really dangerous place he’s photographing in is perhaps exaggerated a little, perhaps he wants to appear fearless and heroic but compared to *real* dangerous areas it seems a bit silly.

    In short, great pictures, keep the text to where you are elucidating who/ what is in the pic, perhaps.

    Also – why not name the location when this is photo journalism?!

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  22. IntellectualSlumming says:


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