Once upon a time two years ago:
Life sets the stage for an intersection of paths with visitors into the scenes of being that we will only share the juncture with for but a few moments before they vanish, yet their impact leaves an impression so powerful that you cannot help but be changed in a way so sweet that gratitude has a new found existence in your heart.
Enter Ntombi at centre stage. We sat side by side at Nandos waiting for our orders in silence. My daughter Montanna, affectionately known as Monti, wanted to go outside for some fresh air and I asked her to stay put because I did not want to miss our order number being read. Ntombi opened her mouth and what came out of her lips made it feel as though someone had poured crushed ice directly into the centre of my spine. She gently told Monti that she should listen to her Mommy because even grown-ups get kidnapped because it happened to her father. My eyes widened at the same time as Monti’s and I asked her to tell me the story. Her father was a taxi owner and driver and he was last seen on his final shift from Muldersdrift to Krugersdorp. According to the two witnesses that were left in his completed drop off, he was allegedly arrested for drunken driving and was never to be seen again. This happened in 1990, before our country became a democracy which is why there was never an enquiry or investigation commanded into his disappearance. He was just gone!
I asked her how she coped with never knowing what had really happened to her father and what she uttered was so incredibly potent that every hair on the back of my neck stood up. “This may sound unemotional but for my own sanity and peace of mind I had to accept the fact that I would never see my father alive again. It was painful initially but I am not a victim, even though I have been abused and raped more than once, I have a life to live and a goal to achieve. I cannot be held back by my grief because it will slowly kill me. I want to better myself in a country that failed my father”.
She completed her matric in Mpumalanga and came back to her home, the Westrand to make a better life for herself. She had no job and often contemplated suicide, resorting to prostitution or selling drugs to make money. She said something inside her knew that she was worth so much more than buckling under the pressure to endure a life on the streets. She humbled herself into becoming a domestic worker, the job her mother had done all her life, in the hopes that her employer would see her potential, which is exactly what happened. She now works for Telkom who have blessed her with a bursary and she is in the final stages of completing her honours. When I asked her what it is she wants to do with her degree, she looked humorously at me with the most beautiful smile and answered, “One step at a time, I first need to achieve this goal”.
Ntombi is incredibly intelligent, not through methods of study but through methods of life and her experiences that have made her so street-wise; the kind of intelligence I myself am drawn to. She has a lovely openly inviting face and is probably older than she looks, the only evidence of that is the windows to her soul; her eyes are saturated in wisdom, deeply set in a life of hardship yet certainly not blinded to the possibilities that lay before her. Her sunny apparel of yellow and white brought lightness to the heaviness of what she had expressed to me in the frozen ten minutes we shared on that platform of togetherness. When she tells her story she frequently gets met with sympathetic “Ah shames” from those who are on the receiving end of her history. Her response is unpretentious, “I’m not looking for sympathy; I’m looking to move beyond my past; an opportunity to grow”.
Our conversation ended abruptly by the simultaneous calling out of our order numbers. Her eyes met mine as the curtain began drawing to a close on our briefly united moment on the stage of life. She thanked me for listening to her and smiled before saying it was a pleasure to meet me. I responded with these parting words, “I think you are amazing! Thank YOU!” Ntombi disappeared out of my life as suddenly as she had entered, much like her father had out of hers but she left me in the air of her rawness and beauty, a path of motivation that she had laid out for me that I don’t even think she is aware of.
Ntombi is an African Zulu name meaning “Lady”, a name so fitting it was as if she had chosen it herself before she was born in the knowledge that her life would take her to the places she had been. Her circumstances could have made her into a bitter old bag. She chose instead to be a ‘lady’ and walked off that stage with her head held high.
How I see it...
I see, speak and write in metaphors because I feel there is much we can learn from nature, people and our surroundings as depicted in my photographs and why I enjoy sharing my thoughts. Not in any attempt to convince or convert you to my way of thinking, seeing or feeling but to share how I see and experience MY mind map of the world. You at no time have to agree, all I ask is that my views and the views of others who wish to express theirs are kindly respected. So relax, get comfy and just enjoy. Happy reading!