A lot of you may know that i stayed in the ghetto for a few nights this week to experience how the boys featured in my documentary lived. I wanted to shadow their lives and to understand how much ‘Dance’ means to them. These boys literally have nothing, but have so many dreams. This is just a brief summary of my last few days…
Ok, so on monday we went to Chitingwiza (ghetto) to stay with one of the dancers, Brendon. Brendon is the youngest out of the boys – he is 16 years of age. He lives with his 5 siblings and his parents. Out of the 6 boys in the dance group ‘Extreme Vision’ – Brendon probably has it the best (if you could even say his situation is good?!) We arrived at his house which on first impressions i thought it was rather ‘cosy’ with a decent size and sofas! But it was far from what people in the uk would class as… cosy!! We ditched most equipment and bags and went for a stroll to experience night life in the ghetto! They had fires everywhere and some shacks played music. It was what you would expect walking through the slum to be like! A lot of stares (with me being white!) and a lot of questions shouted in shona (i have no idea what they were saying).We came to what i would call a ‘pub.’ It was more like a shack where people gathered and had a few drinks. They were cooking chicken heads outside on the BBQ which they eat with salt… totally yuck! I was filming the chicken heads getting stirred around when a very drunk man tried to kick my camera! And then it got a bit chaotic as it instantly turned into a street fight. You hear about street life but until your thrown into the middle .. literally stood in a dusty alleyway with fighting men at every angle.. its pretty scary! Luckily for me – Adonis and Brendon calmed it down (after a few kicks and punches) which gave me and my aunty time to run off! It was a bit hectic!
We went back to meet the family, then kipped in the living room. Within 5 mins the dogs outside were going crazy! Honestly, i have never heard anything like it in my life! It was so loud! And that’s when we realised they didn’t have a brick wall?! It was just a waterproof sheet behind the curtain! So it was pretty cold, and was invested with mosquito’s and rats! We were literally eaten alive – and the mosi’s would buzz SO LOUD round your face all night! So i’d be constantly clapping my hands trying to kill them! ha! And of course the sound of BIG rats running about on the roof was pretty horrific!
The morning at Brendons was productive as i shadowed Brendon’s morning routine for my new documentary ‘Dust.’ After very little sleep our morning began at 5am! I followed Brendon out of his bed – which he shares with his little brother. He went out door in the rain to bath! The rest of the morning was interviews with his parents to get some more information on his upbringing, school situation, money etc – which was really interesting. And as i said previously – Brendon is the one that is clearly better off from the other boys.
We then went to China’s house. China prefers to be called ‘Trickstar’ which is he dancer name. But people call him ‘China’ because he looks Chinese lol. His situation is very different from Brendons. He lives with his grandma – as he was abandoned by his parents. He is 18 years old and sleeps in a tiny living room on the floor. His grandma lives in what we would call ‘ A junk space’ surrounded by broken bikes, un-used items etc. As none of the boys work – China’s grandma supports the ‘shack’ by renting out sections of what was once all their house. To get to China’s small living space – you have to go round the back of the property and down a very dark, grotty alleyway - where very very poor families lodge. This is the only source of income for Chinas household.
We then followed China and Brendon as they went to practice their dance routines and stunts. It was actually unbelievable how hard it was for them to find somewhere to practice when the majority of space surrounding them is un-used! Everywhere they went people would kick up a fuss and i felt sorry for them as this is their daily routine.. EVERY DAY! We ended up in what i could only describe as a school yard? There was huts with young children there – but not 100% sure how they got permission to practice And communication is so ridiculous – the boys don’t have phones and those that do either get them stolen from them or never ever have credit to communicate anyway! So arranging times to practice and meet for dancing is just insane! A lot of walking to meet up is the norm! Makes me realise how much i depend on my phone – which i totally take for granted.
Tuesday evening now… and it was time to stay with ‘Treasure’ who is 19 years old. His story is so so sad and if you ever met him – he is the nicest and kindest guy you would ever ever meet. He is classed as homeless as he doesn’t have a permanent place to stay so he moves between family homes (who don’t want him). We were scheduled to stay with treasure on Monday evening but we couldn’t find where he was staying, which was very sad.
So after the dance rehearsal we went to stay at his aunties place – his situation there is hard to explain – but in a nutshell he is neglected and is clearly not welcome. We arrived and went straight into his living room. Which was beautiful actually! They had sofas, flowers on the coffee table and all lit by candle as there was no electric. We all sat round with his aunt and younger cousins and got to know them more. I then went to film preparation of meal time. Each plate was mounted with food and i generally thought (treasure doesn’t have it that bad really?) until we went into his ‘room’ (more like a concrete cell) and the truth was told.
Treasure sat in his wheelbarrow which was his bed.. and the quilts and sheets were just there for show. He said ‘They have only given me a candle because you are here, usually id eat in the dark - so i usually take it outside and sit by myself. I don’t usually get sheets – its just for show because they knew you were coming.’
They mounted his food up on his plate – but actually they give him a portion the size of a Teacup saucer. Although he hadn’t eaten at all today – he was only ‘allowed’ to eat a quarter of the portion he was plated and then had to give it back. He then took us outside where he practices with his reflection through his shadows created by the moonlight (not like our dance studios pimped with mirrors!) This was the hardest bit of the night for me.. as the neighboring shack was filled with a child’s scream. This boy couldn’t have been more than 4 years of age and he was screaming in Shona ‘Daddy stop’ at the top of his lungs. I literally felt sick - knowing there was nothing i could do about this child literally being abused a meter away from me. Treasure said ‘They do this every night – they’re just playing.’ He knew they weren’t playing but like me – he knew he couldn’t do anything to stop it so hes told himself that many times whilst sitting in his wheelbarrow listening to abuse – that they are just ‘Playing.’ Awful.
We interviewed treasure about his life and asked him some hard questions which i cried to hear the response whilst trying to film. His interviews will be in the documentary ‘Dust – A Journey through the Ghetto.’ This documentary will be going to festivals to raise awareness for not just these selected boys with dreams – but all young people in Zimbabwe that have dreams of a better life but are trapped in hopeless situations.
Thanks for reading guys. This week has been especially hard for me – and i truly appreciate my life more than ever after experiencing just ONE evening in their lives that they live EVERY SINGLE DAY.