Wadzanai Mokonza, William Nicol & Sandton Drive

29 Nov

Homeless Talk

Wadzanai Mokonza is 39 years old, though she looks younger. She has a quiet, refined beauty to her – not so much in the physical sense, but what radiates from her being. In 2008, she arrived in South Africa from Zimbabwe after her brother was beaten for his political views. She lives in Ellis Park and sells Homeless Talk to get by.

I first met Wadzanai when I shot this photo in early November while filming with Lourie Campher. Back then, I’d run out of cash and only had R10 to give her. Today, on the way back from my framers in Parkhurst, I took a different route in order to avoid traffic problems on the William Nicol. As luck would have it, there was a red robot at the intersection where she sells her newspapers. I had one R100 note left, and I gave it to her.

She was thrilled. I observed yesterday that most beggars I’ve given to during this campaign don’t display any difference in degree of emotion – whether you give them R5 or R100, the response is the same. But Wadzanai was genuinely thrilled. “May the Lord give you many blessings,” she said, smiling with delight. “Many, many blessings.”

I am not doing this because I want gratitude, necessarily. It’s far more complicated than that, and I’m too aware of how much power motorists have and how little beggars can claim for themselves in these exchanges. But of all my encounters so far, this is the one that left me with the biggest smile and the warmest, fuzziest feeling in my heart.

Thank you Wadzanai.




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