Telling our own stories: Black women from SA using radio & photography
I was excited when I first heard about attending a training in Gugulethu, and that we were going to help train the youth to use radio equipment. There was a session during the training where we had to share skills that we have, and so I shared my photography skills. That day we also had to share our personal stories.
There was this girl in our group called Nolusindiso, and she shared a beautiful and positive story, even though she is living with HIV. I was so proud of a young girl like her, sharing her status in a group of people that she didn’t even know. Later when we were divided into groups, I was lucky enough to be part of her group.
We had to decide whose story we would use to make an audio slideshow, and Nolusindiso volunteered her story. It was also decided that I would be the photographer.
I was excited because, in our country, young black women's stories are not usually told by by South Africans, but by outsiders. So as a young black South African woman, I was so proud and excited to photograph another young black South African.
I had to spent quite a lot of time with Nolusindiso and listened while she shared her personal feelings about her HIV status. It was so touching to hear that. Going to her house to record the audio and take photos, it was also touching. Her mother was there all along, since Nolusindiso found about her status. Nolusindiso was raised by a single mother.
She is blessed to be supported by her mother all the way, even though her mother doesn’t have work. Sometimes they don’t have money to get to the clinic. In Wesbank there is no clinic for HIV people; Nolusindiso has to walk miles away to Khayelitsha to get ARVs. Sometimes she walks, or sometimes she gets a lift to go to Khayelitsha clinic.
When we were taking the photos of her walking from Wesbank to Khayelitsha, I realised what a long walk it is for her. Sometimes she wakes up very early around 6am, and she must just go. Sometimes in Wesbank it is very dangerous, there’re are gangsters around. It is a dangerous walk as she is alone, and she is a woman.
Sometimes she passes Delft, Lusuko, Site C. Sometimes she passes men and they whistle at her and pass comments. For me, it was scary, but she has to walk to the clinic. She must get her ARVs. She keeps on going. She has no choice. She depends on those ARVs. If she doesn’t go, her health could be in danger.
Because Khayelitsha is so full of crime we had look for particular places to do the photoshoot. The crime rate is so high, we had to work in a group of maybe 7 or 8. We took certain pictures of her walking. If we saw guys that are coming, we had to move from that place. At Wesbank, we were filming the part with Nolusindiso’s daughter at a park.
She said we had to work fast, as it was soon time for the school kids to come out, and that the school had gangsters in it. We had to go to another place and could only work for a certain time period, because of the gangsterism in that area. It was a dangerous shoot, and we had to be careful, since we might have been robbed of all the materials and equipment that we had.
During the workshop, and the photoshoot, and during post production, it was very sad at some points. I said to myself, "I must do this, as I want the story to be a good story told by a black woman, and photographed by me". So I had to stop feeling sad about her, and I had to do what was best for the story. I had to take away my emotion and just do it.
After Children’s Radio Foundation put it on Facebook and Instagram, I was very proud. People were asking questions over social media and Nolusindiso replied. Now she is not scared to comment. She is proud about her status. She doesn’t care if you say bad things about her. When I saw the comments, I felt "We did it, me and her, we did the best thing”.
About Velisa Jara
Velisa Jara joined the Future Positives project in March 2014. She is an activist for black lesbian rights in South Africa. She previously worked with Free Gender – a black lesbian support group based in Khayelitsha – where she did communications and advocacy work for a number of local cases of hate crimes and ‘corrective rape’ of young women from her community.
She is passionate about photography and addressing the South African justice system’s failure to protect the rights of vulnerable groups in South Africa, especially black lesbian women.
In 2016 Velisa joined the CRF Cape Town team and now she is lead facilitator for a group of youth reporters based in Khayelitsha and Cape Town called, Leaders in Diversity. Velisa’s understanding and passion for photography has facilitated her group of young reporters’ learning a new form of storytelling i.e. audio slideshows.