Township Holiday, photo essay by Madeleine Bazil
Holiday camp is a glorious fever dream, and it means a lot to all involved. In 2016 and 2017, I followed along and saw for myself.
Western Cape, South Africa: 60 kilometres north of Cape Town proper, in the heart of the Cape Winelands, hectares of idyllic sun-dappled vineyards and sprawling candy-coloured farmhouses line the N1. Out here, the place names are rarely Anglophone; the town of Paarl is the birthplace of the Afrikaans language. If you squint, you can imagine that it likely didn’t look all that different back in the 17th century when the Dutch East India Company first set up shop.
45 minutes away in the impoverished Cape Flats, an antipodean South Africa is visible. Geopolitics in the Rainbow Nation are no longer bound by the rigidity of Apartheid-era laws, yet invisible lines of entrenched socioeconomic strata and endemic cycles of poverty remain. Labyrinthine township streets see open-fire braais, gated spaza shops, stray dogs, women chatting in groups sitting on upturned buckets in front of hair salons with impeccably hand-painted service lists. It is in 5 such neighbourhoods that the Amy Foundation, a South African not-for-profit organisation, offers daily after-school programmes to over 2000 township youth.
How do these two disparate worlds collide? Twice a year, during school vacations, the Amy Foundation holds two consecutive weeklong holiday camps in the Winelands for a group of the best-behaved students from its after-school programmes. Think classic Americana sleep-away camp mixed with vibrant Xhosa and Coloured tradition and close-knit township culture, all combined in a decaying historic Cape Dutch building surrounded by vineyards. It is a lot of planning, and a dash of chaos, topped off with the giddy excitement of several dozen energetic kids eager and apprehensive about making new friends from other schools.
In Township Holiday I am telling a story of students at play, capturing moments of joy, exploration, culture, sportsmanship, and camaraderie – sentiments part of any childhood but rarely focused on by photographers when working in indigent communities like the Cape Flats. This is the long-delayed fulfilment of a birthright which has for decades been denied the children of the townships: the opportunity to play soccer, kwaito dance in a talent show, lip-sync Mafikizolo songs over dinner – all on the very land which spawned their systematic oppression.
(by Madeleine Bazil)