Home of Hope

15 May

Tonight I attended an art auction, GIBS Project Art. It’s to raise funds for a charity I know well: Home of Hope. I donated part of the proceeds from my art to Mam Khanyi and her girls with my solo exhibition last year. Funny to think how hard I was working on my art this time last year; this year I’ve virtually abandoned it.

Mam Khanyi at my solo exhibition launch

I saw her for the first time in many months this evening. “Mam Khanyi, it’s me, Sarah!” I said. I always say my name when greeting people – I’m terrible with names myself, so it’s safer to assume nobody remembers me.

I asked her how things were going.

“We are struggling,” she said. “I want to cry.” 

I wanted to cry then too, like the MC of the auction did a little later when introducing her.  I’d spent much of the evening crying already, sitting in my father’s Volvo – he’s overseas, and I’m driving it while he’s away – and watching the guineafowl peck at the lawn in the fading light. I won’t lie to you: I’m taking strain. I work until midnight most nights, but despite my busyness I seem incapable of earning a decent living. Oh, I cover most of my costs, even if Discovery pays for fuck all, and I do far better than most people in a country where far too many have no source of income. But I live in Sandton and I’m supposed to be middle class, so in my immediate context I’m a bit of a financial disaster. I do a lot of work for free, writing pays badly if at all; many of the projects I work on can’t be billed in the short term, and others are on hold or have encountered hiccups, and some clients want my services for nothing, or next to nothing and and and. The usual story with freelancers. I am not motivated by money, which is part of the problem, or I’d be much more upfront about it and much less willing to do things out of the goodness of my heart. If I didn’t have my pension payout and my money from Australia I’d be in serious shit.

So I’ve been wondering what this is all for, beyond providing a convenient hamster wheel to distract me from the deeper existential questions which have plagued me for years. (More about the hamster wheel and the rat race in another post.) The important stuff, the writing, remains neglected because it’s easier when I’m tired and distracted to focus on PowerPoint presentations and blog posts. Writing a book requires levels of self-belief I just don’t have. The books remain as they were when I left Timbavati for Johannesburg, pickled in specimen jars filled with my own procrastination.

I didn’t bid for any of the art. I’m sorry I didn’t buy the William Kentridge poster, which went for R7500. I’ve always wanted to own one of his works  – I’ll never have a wall of my own to put it on, but at least I’ll have a Kentridge. I had no intention of bidding because I don’t have the money, not really, not when I’m battling to make even a quarter of what I used to take home and I keep lending money to friends or giving it to charity. I don’t own a car and all my clothes are old or from Pick n Pay for good reason. I can tell you this now that I don’t drive a free Range Rover.

Which is obviously why, when I got home, I donated well over double what I would have paid for the Kentridge to Home of Hope, more than I will earn this month. If I were sensible, I’d probably want to hold onto the cash, but something about Mam Khanyi struck a chord. How she genuinely seemed on the verge of tears, and how well I know that feeling. I’ve emailed her a screengrab of the deposit; I hope it cheers her up, at least a little. This may well be an attempt on my part to buy my own love, the one thing I will never have.

Having money for a rainy day is pointless, I’ve decided, and owning things even more so. It’s just as well I didn’t bid for the Kentridge. I’m never going to own my own home again, and I’ve pretty much given up on that dream of having walls to hang things on. I’ll live on the margins as I do now, my existence defined more by experiences than possessions. And this, as it happens, frees up capital to give to others who can do something useful with it. Who knows? Maybe there’s some hope in that.


One Response to “Home of Hope”


  1. A story about money, La Mer and tears | The Red Robot Project - May 27, 2013

    […] he ever needed it. (As luck would have it, he did.) My young blogger friend needed another R5000. I met Mam Khanyi from Home of Hope at an art auction, and my heart ached for her, so I transferred R20,000 into her bank account when […]

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