Changing the perceptions of pole dancing

I met Anita Jack at a business conference in Los Angeles in 2013 and was surprised to learn that she is also a pole dancer. Stop. Not the raunchy videos but rather as an athletic sport. I interviewed her to help me debunk the stereotypes we all have around pole dancing and to understand it as a sport. The Sunday Independent published on Sunday 23 February 2014.

Changing the perceptions of pole dancing


Dreaming of a new Jerusalem

FAITH (not her real name) is in her 20s, tall and slender. She wears a red T-shirt. A checked cotton skirt peeps out from under the threadbare maroon towel wrapped around her waist. Her blue-cloth shoes have seen many washing days. She carries her 21-month-old daughter in one arm and clutches a phone in her free hand. Faith has lived in Jerusalem, an informal settlement between Boksburg and Germiston, since 2006, but only started playing Fafi last year.

She is one of many. Gloria Azwidohi Ramasunzi, 52, one of the first residents and proprietor of the only crèche in the settlement, says Jerusalem was created in 1998 after the Jordan Mining Company closed. Ramasunzi came to Jerusalem in May 1998 from Goodhope. “People said Jerusalem had space. So we came and started to build shacks.” The shacks are made of old bricks, iron sheets, car tyres, cardboard and whatever materials the residents come up with.

There are salons, a metal furniture shop and spaza shops. There is no electricity. Many of the women who have no jobs make a little money through gambling. Faith speaks softly when she talks about the Fafi numbers game. “Fafi or the China Game is about a Chinese girl who used to gamble with black p e o p l e ,” she says. Players choose which numbers to gamble based on what they dreamt the night before. A group representative takes the bets in one bag to the “China Man”, or “Fafi ”, as they call him.

“He comes at 12.30pm and at 5pm,” says Faith. “We bet on numbers ranging from 1 to 36. He gives  number and each person who wrote the winning number wins.” From memory, she recounts the numbers and their meanings, giving insight into the dreams of those who play: “1. King. 2 Monkey. 3. Big Water. 4. Dead. 5 Tiger. 6. Cow. 7. Knife. 8. Pregnant woman. 9. Hat or blood. 10. Eggs. 11. Small car. 12. Dead woman. 13. Big fish. 14. Granny. 15. Bitch. 16. Cloth. 17. A beautiful woman. 18. Silver money or gold. 19. Girls. 20. Cat 21. Elephant. 22. Big car. 23. Horse. 24. Mouth. 25. Big house. 26. Soldier. 27. Police. 28. Shoes. 29. Small water. 30. Pastor. 31. Fire. 32. Money. 33. Boys. 34. Fees. 35. Hole. 36. Gun.”

“When I dream about my father,” she says, “I know that when Fafi comes, I will write 1 or 4 or 30. I choose the numbers that represent my dad.” Bets and payouts are limited, she says. “If I bet five bob [50 cents] and my number is the one Fafi says, then I win R14. If I bet with R2, Fafi pays me R56 if I win. (Read full article: Dreaming of a new Jerusalem March 3 2013 )

Homeless: Sleeping outside, in silent protest

First published in the M&G online on January 31, 2013:

Following the police incidence in which, Mido Macia, a Mozambican taxi driver was dragged on the streets of Johannesburg and later died from his injuries, I repost an article I published early in the year based on interviews with homeless migrants in Pretoria and their interactions with the South African police and other institutions.

Nasfim Kapley, a migrant from Ethiopia, indicates the spaces he navigates in Pretoria.
Photo: Jackee Budesta Batanda

We first meet Patrick Naimana on a Tuesday evening at a soup kitchen outreach with staff from the Tswhane Leadership Foundation. We ask him whether we can meet with more of his colleagues for an interview. He agrees to set up the meeting.

Home for Naimana and his colleagues is a car park on Prinsloo Street next to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) offices on Francis Baard Street (formerly Schoeman Street). This is the first stop for the soup kitchen van after it leaves the foundation’s premises.

A man emerges from the shadows and comes to the van when we park. He says he will run and alert the others. The lilt of his voice makes me know that he is from Uganda. I can trace that accent anywhere. I learn his name is John.

John returns with five men. One of them, Mohammed, stands tall and distinguished. He softly requests for two soup bowls. We want to chat with him but he is hesitant to talk. He asks if we can return another time. He tells us to ask for Mohammed. He says he is from Somalia and has to rush back to his ailing brother. His brother, he says, is sick and is lying under a tree. He needs to take him food. He dashes off into the darkness.

Naimana interjects that the metro police beat up Mohammed’s brother. He is too weak to walk but is getting better he says, but needs prayers. We promise to say a prayer for him.

We schedule an interview and exchange numbers with Naimana. He tells us to be in Pretoria at 6am before everyone leaves in search for the day’s meal. We agree to have breakfast with them.

Breaking the news
On the Friday morning, when we arrive at the car park a little after 6am, we find that Naimana has spoken to his colleagues about us as promised. We have carried breakfast to share with the group. We set up the picnic basket and put clothes on the grass which will serve as our mats. Breakfast is tea, coffee, a mix of vegetable and meat sandwiches, and apples.

Naimana breaks the news to us. He says there was a police operation the previous night and some men were captured and will be deported. John, the Ugandan, was among those captured.

He adds that Mohammed’s brother died on Wednesday night, just after our first visit with the soup kitchen outreach. Mohammed cannot take part in the group session. We offer him tea and he goes away. We sit in silence. We finally learn his brother’s name: Abdi Rashid.

Nasfim Kapley, a migrant from Ethiopia breaks the silence. He blames the metro police for indiscriminate abuse.

“They come here. It’s very cold at nights and the only blanket you have, they come and take it to be burned or put in their car,” he says.

He adds that sometimes when the police bloodily assault the migrants, they do not take them to the police station.

 Read more: Mail&Guardian Online

On the streets, Rocky and Lacosta dream of a music career

Sylvester Masiba (Rocky) and Lucky Ndaba (Lacosta) have been brought together by a mutual love for music.
Photo: Jackee Budesta Batanda

Sylvester Masiba (27), whose music name is Rocky, is one of the homeless migrants who go to the Tshwane Leadership Foundation every day for breakfast. He also benefits from the Tuesday evening soup kitchens. We first meet in the Foundation dining room, where we wait for other homeless men to come and participate in the research.

Donning a dirty cream hooded sweatshirt and black jeans, Masiba carries an air of confidence. He asks to know what the program is about. I explain to him that we are interested in having a conversation about their experiences on the street and to assess their vulnerabilities.

Masiba looks me straight in the eye and says that being on the street does not mean that they have no dreams or wishes.

Read more: Mail & Guardian

Homeless and hopeless: Sleeping on the street

A group of homeless migrants share their experiences with researchers from the African Center for Migration and Society at a car park on Prinsloo Street, Pretoria
Photo image: Jackee Budesta Batanda

Every morning several homeless people flock to the Tshwane Leadership Foundation for breakfast at 8am. Breakfast time is a good time to meet with them.

Stephen Themba, a social worker at the foundation, has organised the meeting with some of the men. My colleagues and I are here to listen to the personal narratives of the homeless men in order to understand what their needs are. The meeting is part of a broader research on the needs and vulnerabilities of the homeless.

The foundation offices were busy when we arrived. We were ushered through to the dining area, where the tables were filled with cabbages and other vegetables that due to be prepared for the evening meal.

The meeting was to take place at one of the dining tables. We waited for over an hour but no one came to the table for the session.

At 10am, Themba and my colleague Aline went out to the streets to try and convince a group of eight to 10 homeless men to speak to us.

Read more: Mail&Guardian

The world responds to Wikipedia shutdown

Tired of getting to Wikipedia content by looking at the cached versions on Google and other workarounds? Relax, it was for a good cause.

Wikipedia’s day offline for its English language content (many non-English Wikipedias followed suit) was annoying to some, especially when thousands of other sites also went dark. But the 24-hour blackout inspired some serious global concerns about the U.S. and two of its efforts to combat online piracy, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA).

The rest of the article is available on Latitude News