Thursday, 28 June 2012


We had a PPG excursion today.
The peculiar kind.
The type which is nothing like you what you had expected.
The sort which makes so much more than an impression.
An imprint.

 Starting shot at 07:00.
We drove for nearly one and a half hour to get there.
The sky cleared up along the way and the stunning countryside unfolded around us.
Green fields. Green leaves. Green feelings.
Whooshing by outside the window.
Green green green.
The steep mountains sideswiped the heavy rainclouds still trying to beat the sunshine up there.
Last night was a persistent harsh storm.
The air was still chilly.

We arrived.
Somewhere in the middle of nowhere.
Leave the cell phones.
No cameras allowed.
Guns & orange.
Escort in uniforms.
Bars & bricked walls.

Medium security. For those of you who are not familiar with the concept; it means that all the inmates at place have passed a psych-evaluation. It also includes that one can survey the walls from the inside and actually catch a glimpse of the mountains far away.

We were invited to celebrate a youth day with them.
Join them behind bars.

All these orange inmates.
Hundreds, gathered in the outside square, awaiting us.
Walls with barb-wire on top. Mud & puddles everywhere.
Some chairs and a home-made stage in the middle.
Standing right beside us now. All around us. No fences. No walls. Nothing between us.
Completely unexpected.
A slight twinge of fear.

They sang. They danced. They acted out poems.
We sang. We danced.
One stage.
One square.
One blue sky above us.
The same will to be at that very spot in that very moment.
Sudden unforgettable together-ness.

A PPG-employee, who has spent years in jail, held a speech.
He is a legend in bad circles. The old him, as he puts it.
His name was said out loud. He went up on stage. He took the mic.
Silence descended like an invisible veil over the whole crowd.
Everyone listened.

"You are my brothers. I was here".
He spoke about life on the outside. About the difference between fear and respect.
About education versus just "tagging along" thoughtlessly, not-knowing.
"Change is possible" he said.
"Look at me. I work in a NGO in Langa. We have more than 200 children coming to us every week. We make a difference in their lives".

Change is possible.

One could hear his voice crumble.
"Do not fear to do good".

Full of emotions. Brimful. Ready to blow-up.
Orange murderers dancing in gumboots.
Prayers of mercy to a common God.
Memories of cruel betrayals and vain wishes of forgiveness.
Tears shed for brutal, heartless mistakes and failures and sincere hopes of a second chance.
People for whom it is eternally too late.  
Entire lives spent in captivity.
The deep sadness and the concurrent mindless  joy. The raw reality. The beauty.
The unlikelihood of the experience.
The overwhelming realization that all people are somehow nothing but broken children.
The gratitude.
The children performing for the inmates.
The bottom and the summit.

They are people
We are people.
Everyone is just people.


Change is possible.

Behind those bars, I was captured.

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