KIDS . the first time face-to-face . 2001
I am sitting in front of the house, outside the door, at the staircase, in the morning light and it’s quiet. The three little rooms, where we, the four artists, spend the night, are on the first floor of the double-story house, the only one around; downstairs there is a medical ambulance – once a week it is open, and then crowds of people are waiting to be treated.
On one side I have an overview over the stone houses at ground level, little elongated building blocks, pale yellow, pale pink whitewashed, surrounded by concrete walls, built on sand – no green, as far as I can see. Behind me, in the back environment, there are houses made out of corrugated metal, of cardboard, attached, built-on and repaired again and again, with mesh and fences. At this time in the morning, everybody is resting, it’s still quiet and the noises of the night, the music, shouts and screams, the barking of the dogs are fallen silent. – Slowly the every-days-life here in Khayelitsha begins anew, people walk the paths and streets, some of them with briefcases, lots of moms with their kids.
Opposite, in one of the houses, there is a crèche. Every morning the little ones come to this place, the moms disappear to do their normal day-to-day work. After some days there is a little ritual: older girls come close to the fence with the very young ones, some of them can’t even walk yet. They look up to me, wave tentative with their hands, smile, saying something in Xhosa, which I can’t understand. I feel shy as well – it is the year 2001, for the first time in my life I am in Cape Town, for the first time I am living in a so called township, I don’t trust my English skills, I am unsure how to behave. – At some point I am stepping down and over the street, asking who can speak English; one of the bigger girls exchanges some words with me.
I see the eyes of the small one in front of me, she is carried by another girl – she looks at me with big black and curious eyes. Slowly her arm stretches, little fingers grab into my hair, touch it, pull it a bit; then the touch of my skin, just a breeze, very careful. The little one says something, it means “beautiful” – someone translates. I respond the gesture, feel the strong curly black kids’ hair, touch, tickle, pet the small round kids’ cheek, I see the astonishment in the kids’ face – and I say “beautiful” to her. All the kids giggle and laugh; the ban is broken. – From this point a happy “hallo” crosses the street, when I sit outside to read and to enjoy the morning. “Oudah” they call me and write my name as they pronounce it – I can see that when I receive a letter after the 4 weeks of our stay, it’s a drawn letter with lots of suns and hearts.
In my heart, in my remembrances the feeling of this soft touch lives as a magic moment, the childlike curiousness, a shy coming-together and a first approach – somehow my “first touch“ with the black continent.