Shadow Children: Life and Strife
On the outskirts of cities world-wide, sub-cultures exist of displaced people. Often these groups of diverse cultures and race form unique partnerships.
Over the last six years I have been visiting such a partnership on the outskirts of Pretoria regularly. The first time I visited this settlement in 2010 I carefully walked around the settlement and took very few photos since the people of the settlement were very apprehensive. I later returned with some photos and old clothes I collected from friends without taking photos, this earned a little trust with the society. Early the following year I again returned with more clothes and toys for the children and was allowed to take photos in and around the settlement. Over the next few years I visited the settlement regularly always giving something to the people, be it food, clothes, toys and or sweets, but never money or alcoholic drinks. With this earned trust I got to know some of the families on a first name basis and was allowed to move around freely to take photos, however, I was never allowed to take any photos inside the rooms.
These people run a beer hall (known as a ‘shibeen’ in South Africa), some of the younger women work as prostitutes and older ones as pedlars. They feed from passing traffic, but this income cannot sustain their destitute children who almost invariably turn to the same lifestyle.
Their basic living conditions are compromised:
- Families of up to 6 people live in a shack (make-shift room) of approximately 3x3 metres.
- Structures are made of reed, corrugated iron, wood and plastic sheeting.
- There are no ablution facilities in the settlement itself, children use the rubble strewn area around the settlement as their toilet. Many adults use the top of an overhead pedestrian bridge crossing the railway behind the settlement as a toilet.
- There is only one water point on the corner of the shibeen for this informal settlement.
The children of this village are mostly quiet and on their own. Schools are quite a distance from the settlement but lately there is a free bus for those children who wish to go to school. The children in are in contact with prostitution, alcohol abuse, violence and of course extreme poverty every day of their lives. They are also exposed to the unhealthy pollution and stench of decomposing materials, including human excrement, around the settlement.
I call them the shadow children...
On a good Sunday the mothers will take care of and play with their children.
Over the last seven years the population escalated, people from as far as Kenya are now settling here, despite a cloud of possible xenophobia hanging over their heads. New corrugated shacks are being erected constantly. With facilities which have not improved and also the total lack of basic facilities like toilets this settlement is heading for disaster.
However 2016 do present some elements of hope...
All photos and story by Hein Waschefort 2016