Who Are You When No One’s Watching?

“Be the person you want to become”, the famous wise words that drive a lot ambitious people to a point of success. These words say forget the things you do not like about your life, the type of lifestyle you are living and focus your energies on the future and the life you wish to live. For many who have always been aware of their surroundings yet focus toward the future find this to be another level of schizophrenia, well socially acceptable schizophrenia. No I’m not talking about Superman by day and Clarke Kent by night or stripper turns to beast, prince to frog  or batman or any character humans have created to live out their alter egos.

For many of us growing up in South Africa you’ve had to be more than one thing, sometimes when people are watching and sometimes behind closets and closed doors, yet for some it’s a survival mechanism to eat instead of being eaten, and at most times you are forced to pretend.

Take Sgo for instance, this young vibrant, motivated, ambitious guy raised by both his parents in the Eastern Cape, had a good life until his parents got divorced and together with his siblings left the rural area for the semi-big city. He has now adapted to city life and has been living in the township for most of his life. He has become top-shayela, the guluva. To his friends this guy is considered to be the typical township chap. He wears his Chuck Tailor sneakers tongue out, shops at the best shoe shops. He wears his double- Messaris tops and his chino pants, sporting a khaki hat flipped on the side. Township slang flows off his lips. The whole neighborhood knows him. If Sgo knows you, then you are out of harms way. In eKasi you are guaranteed to find him sitting at his usual spot on a crate mocking the guy driving the pick ‘n Pay trolley collecting tins and cans about how he managed to get the trolley out the Mall’s parking bay. He has the occasional smoke leaning on the electric box checking out the passer bys. This guy is a kleva from the township and is proud.

Until the clock strikes 12:00, well, unlike Cinderella, the clock strikes 19:00 for Sgo, the street lights are on and he starts smelling the chicken frying from the corner, the drag racers are now pacing themselves and Sgo limps home. Like our fairy Tale, Sgo’s appearance transforms, sporty hats go off and are crinkled at the hands, feet are wiped at the door, shirts are tucked in and collar buttons are loosened. Sgo now moves form gangster to mama’s boy, Sgo after 19:00 is Sizwe.

Sizwe is the church loving good boy, he has a great vocabulary, will not touch a drop of alcohol and every time he gets into a fight with one of the boys in his neighborhood the entire family will come out with high heels, wooden spoons and the lot, rollers on head and aprons on wastes to protect him, at home he is loved and adored and does his homework every night. Unlike Sgo, Sizwe goes to A Model C School and plays rugby with his best friend Chris. Sizwe is a prefect and is one of the most respected boys in the school for his sports and he’s Mathematics skills. At school Sizwe is Siz.

Time ticks and Sizwe leaves high school and back at the range he still is Sgo.

Sizwe studies at Uct and passes well, he lives at the varsity’s residents and this is where he gets to live out his ‘real life.’ Vacation times comes when he goes home and he as to live his ‘other real life’.  Shoo, this is too much he starts working, gets his own place in Cbd, starts his own business, gets a lovely clean loft with the view of the sea and he drives a scooter to work, Sizwe is now free and living his ‘real life’ Until he meets high school friends, varsity friend and goes home on Sundays to live out his ‘other real life’. Things are now hectic.

Saturday afternoon’s Sizwe grooms himself and this is the time where he meditates and takes care of his skin because every Saturday evening he cleans up and dances like a maniac at one of the most expensive gay clubs in town.

Our dear friend balances township tsotsi with mama’s boy, Central town living, being the strict C.E.O of his own Advertising agency, the Zen hippy who meditates and the crazy gay boy who drips sweat on the dance floors of Camps Bay Cape Town. He is not schizophrenic. He is living the life of some South Africans who can afford to or choose to be what they want whether someone is watching or not. Today you are Jane, tomorrow you are Tarzan, the day before that you were Jabu Pule, now J Hlongwana, Puff Daddy to P Diddy, you are Madibuseng and you can live in Gugulethu, work in Rondebosch, have lunch in Town, party in Camps Bay, be the Tsotsi in the boardroom and still be yourself.

This is the future of South Africa, undefined, unboxed, androgynous, uncultured, not restricted and non racial because at which ever angle you’re facing someone’s always watching. . .

Photographer: George Mahashe    Writer: Qhama Dayile