Photographer Masixole Feni captured children at play in Sea Point, Green Point, Mfuleni, Khayelitsha Site C, Happy Valley in Blackheath, and New Beginnings in Blue Downs. After taking these photographs, he reflected on the assignment.
Everywhere you go, children gather in groups and play. Everywhere, running, playing. Even in town, kids don’t remain by themselves. But it became evident that in townships, kids will gather by themselves, not attended by parents or guardians.
Noticing that, I realised that there’s not much time for people living in townships to spend with their kids because they have more serious things to attend to or they’re too tired. There’s just more time for people who are in the wealthier suburbs.
I was born and raised in Mfuleni. As a child, I would go out with friends to a place like a nearby river or open field, without telling our parents or big brothers. We would go out to play as a group and come back together.
We would go play on the sand dunes in the nature reserve, running up the sand and racing down. We explored and would be shocked when we found insects and big spiders. We were oblivious to any harm without someone older looking after us.
There was a river where the older kids played, and we would follow and watch how they swam. But this kid, my friend, went alone and waded into the deep part, and was taken by the water. He didn’t know it wasn’t a safe space, since there was nobody supervising.
I have two boys, aged three and seven. We go to the playpark to mingle with other kids or I let them play on the street in front of my house while I keep an eye on them. They decide how they want to play, but I always want to see, in case I need to intervene. I don’t want to decide who they play with – let the kids decide. As I watch, I learn more about them and see how they operate.
Where we live, it’s not the usual thing for parents to go to the park and play with their kids. Uptown, they arrange to meet as friends and bring all the kids together, but the culture is not really the same for us.
The spaces to play
It was very hot in Cape Town while I was taking these photos. I went in the early morning since the sun is not as harsh, but later in the day, it was too hot for kids to play with water and splash around. But it was different in Sea Point. The kids were on the beach, happy to play in a cooler environment.
The parks in Mfuleni and New Beginnings were ruined. The equipment was vandalised, the fencing cut away and sold to people for their own fences. In general, in townships, you will see parks without fences or swings, items missing or vandalised, and beer bottles everywhere. It’s not safe.
Children will play together even if they don’t know each other and playing would be the thing that brings them to know each other.
Sometimes children fight. Parents will notice and come to defend their own, and maybe shout at each other.
But even an hour later, these same kids will be playing together again, having forgotten all about their fight, while the parents will still be looking at each other, red-eyed.
Kids hold no grudges. They always fight, they always make up by playing.