Been mulling over this one for around 10 days or so and decided to ruminate here.
I recently attended a cultural and language day in a Cape Town township and 99% of it was really very cool – I took R with and we got to meet new people, learn some phrases in a language other than our own, take a bus ride and walking tour through shacklands as well as government housing – basically got to interact with fellow SAffas and see a little more upclose and personal how some of our neighbours live.
I didn’t feel in any way unsafe (in fact I have spent a fair amount of time in townships in PE, KZN and Cape Town and have never felt unsafe) and our welcome was very warm.
But two things made me uncomfortable…
The first issue I had was with the tripe. I am pretty brave to try new foods – if they smell good. But man oh man the big boiling pots of tripe made by the very warm welcoming local ‘mamas’ smelled (to my white nose) absolutely dis.gus.ting. Seriaaas. It had the aroma of sewerage being cooked. When my friend AvR who drove through with us mentioned he’d seen ‘bits of lung’ floating in the watery gravy I nearly heaved. I was however super hungry by the time lunch was served and really did enjoy the rest of the food (veg, potato and pap).
But that’s not what I’m really wanting to discuss.
While we were eating outside we visitors were entertained by a group of young school kids singing and dancing for us. The first several dances were great – these kids have real natural rhythm and the dances were pretty polished considering some of the kids were really young.
Then they trooped off and on came another 6 kids – my guess is that they were 11 – 14 years old, I wouldn’t reckon older. 3 boys, and 3 girls. The girls were wearing teeny tight denim shorts and pink hoodies and shoes with thigh high stripey socks. They divided into 3 couples, the music began – and they danced. Although “close to dry humping’ may have been closer to an accurate description. These youngsters were good dancers – maybe even excellent – but the moves were so suggestive – no – graphic – that I didn’t know where to look. Nor did my son and nor did AvR who was sitting with us. I looked around and there was a fair amount of discomfort in the faces of the other visitors. There were other families present and I saw one boy of about 8 shoot his father a look of shock and his dad didn’t know what to do. Many of us had to avert our eyes – and whenever I looked up (as one dance led to another, equally sexual dance) it didn’t ease up any.
The 6 of them (the girls had soon stripped off the hoodies and were parading around in blue bikini tops/bras) had moves I’ve since seen in the new Alejandro music video from Lady Gaga (not ALL the moves of course).
So on the way home we discussed it and it seems we felt similarly uncomfortable – AvR said as a man he didn’t know where to look – as a mom I felt really uncomfortable, and while R was quite amused in a giggly way I noticed he too had kept his eyes on his plate a lot of the time.
What I am left wondering is this:
Someone choreographed those dances and helped the kids practice – I imagine this would have been a teacher or dance teacher. In a country where HIV and Aids are so rife, where unwanted babies are regularly aborted, abandoned or abused; where rape – including the rape of children and even babies – is a scourge – who would encourage such young kids to enact such blatantly sexual dance moves? Do any of their parents or guardians feel this to be inappropriate, to be sending the wrong message?
Or are the cultural difference so diverse in our country that I (and some other visitors present) am just naïve to the way sexuality is portrayed and experienced in the townships – not in secret or behind closed doors but everywhere. I know of course that the lack of privacy in the shackland situation means many young children get to be exposed to sex in their homes at a very early age – but somehow I still thought there would have been some acknowledgement of the fact that sexual activity can cause so many serious, even life threatening problems – and that somehow more wisdom would be used by those who are leaders – including the teachers or whoever taught these kids to do these dances.