I am one of those lucky few who by virtue of skin colour, education and community are able to move in and out of most spaces with ease. Up until now, most spaces have been black or white, rich or poor, western educated or so-called uneducated. Up until now coloured space is not a space that I have had the chance to learn in.
I had a coloured boyfriend in high school. He asked me out on my 17th birthday. It was fun, our relationship was based on mixit chats and smoking weed, eating at spur and walking around cape town. It was fun, it was young. He broke up with me over mixit and told me that we were too different. I was sad, but I agreed with him. We were very different.
I soon got over him, I was young and everything was fast and silly. I started looking to my coloured friends for subliminal messages and lessons but many of my coloured friends, like me, in our predominantly white school, were just trying really hard to fit in and not call attention to our differences. So sadly I learned nothing other than the stereotypes.
So a month ago when I saw Open streets Mitchells Plain advertised I decided that I was going to go.Mitchell’s Plain is predominantly coloured, predominantly unknown to me. So I went a black woman, on her own, to see what was happening and how, when and where it was happening.
I was a little nervous, on my own I had no one to rely on or share with but I was determined to learn and see. Mitchells Plain is raw, it is rough around the edges, or at least what I saw, but it’s alive. Bustling and pulsing, sweating and gyrating. It’s loud and aggressive and confident. It is unapologetic and crass.
I had attended Mitchells Plain open streets specifically for the dancing, singing and poetry. Black and coloured people in this country have stories. The more physically creative among us tell these stories through movement and sound. I was open and excited to listen and see, hear and taste the stories of Mitchells Plain and the coloured people who live there.
The day started slowly, families of different colours and cultures, walked lazily through the streets. Cyclists, rollerbladers and skateboarders zoomed pasted in all directions. Some for the fun of being on wheels, others for the thrill of showing off their agility and trickery.
Dance groups rehearsed on the side of the road, all dressed in matching costumes, all enthusiastic and anxious. Singers stood doing vocal warm-ups, poets stood in DJ booths reciting their lines and hip hop infused rhymes.It was a sensory overload but my eyes and all my time were captured by the magical movements and energy of the b- boys .
As a professional dancer and as an ex-professional circus artist I know what it means to practise. What it means to perform and truely master your art. But I have only ever performed in conditions where it was safe and secure. I have always been encouraged to walk away from a performance if the setting was not secure and the platform was not safe.
The boys and girls, men and women who captured my senses in Mitchells Plain were dancing on tar, somersaulting, twisting, jumping and crumping on cold, rough, hard tar. I was entranced. Captured, I could not blink or move. I was enchanted by their movements and strength. The crowd that gathered as I watched grew quiet and sat, stood and pushed in order to get the best view.
The MC informed us that we were watching some of the best b-boys in South Africa. Some of the champions were living here in Mitchells Plain, playing on the street, here at Open streets. Champions who have been flown around the world to represent South Africa, hip hop, the coloured communities and the talent that lives here in the communities flowing into the street. We attending open streets were quite literally sitting on their door steps watching them play.
There is a toughness and an attitude that comes with b-boying the way that these guys do it, but when little kids got up and tried to copy them, these champions were so genuinely supportive. There was a real strong sense of sharing and caring for each other.
A white, German rasta jumped into the circle and broke into some insane robotic moves and patterns with his wrists and elbows doing things that my brain could not quite understand. At first, I had assumed that the b-boys in the coloured community would just support,
At first, I had assumed that the b-boys in the coloured community would just support, shout and clap for their own, but they went crazy for this guy. If I had not been wearing a dress and slip-slops, I would have been in that circle breaking my back too.
My dream is to learn to crump. Now I know where to go. Just 20mins from where I stay, the youth in Mitchells Plain are teaching crump and hip hop classes. I would never have known had I not taken that step in a direction that felt at first, some what unnatural and scary. Take that step. Your dream might be sitting waiting for you in a place where “the media” says you should not be. You’ll never know if you don’t go.