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Ambassadors Programme

Explorer

Ilvy Njiokiktjien

Nov11

One Carefree Night

By Ilvy Njiokiktjien, Wednesday November 11, 2015
Children play in the streets of Manenberg, a neighbourhood of Cape Town, South Africa. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X with an EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens; the exposure was 1/6400sec at f/2.8, ISO 100.

Children play in the streets of Manenberg, a neighbourhood of Cape Town, South Africa. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X with an EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens; the exposure was 1/6400sec at f/2.8, ISO 100. © Ilvy Njiokiktjien

Together with multimedia journalist Elles van Gelder, I have been working in the notorious Manenberg gang area in Cape Town, South Africa, for the past few years. We first visited this area when we heard that schools are regularly forced to close down because it is too dangerous for students to walk to their classrooms.

It takes only the slightest argument about who’s allowed to sell drugs where – or about a girl – before bullets start tearing through the streets. Even during the day. Even when children are playing outside.

Most people in Manenberg never finish high school because they get pregnant, start using drugs or become involved in some form of crime. The few youngsters who do finish want to get out of the neighbourhood. But first they have one thing on their mind: senior prom. Families of teenagers save up for an entire year to be able to rent a fancy car and buy appropriate attire for prom or ‘the matric dance.’ Once the graduates are suited up they can enjoy a Cinderella moment; their eyes shine bright with the hope of escape.

The contrast of a fairy tale night with the students’ bleak every day reality is what grips us to tell this story. This is a personal project which we have been working on as freelancers. We chose to invest our own time and budget because we know that by not connecting with media from the outset we can discover this story at our own pace. This is also the way Elles and I worked when we shot our multimedia project Afrikaner Blood, about a camp in South Africa where young teens are brainwashed by an extreme-right organisation, for which we won first prize in the World Press Photo Multimedia Contest. We shared and published the story only after the whole project was finished.

We like the freedom of embarking on a project without anybody knowing about it. Now we need help to edit our raw material: lots of stills I shot (on an EOS-1D X) and videos Elles made (on an EOS 5D Mark III). This is why we have launched a crowdfunding campaign. We want to create another multimedia piece and an online platform with an interactive long read. To support the project, you can buy limited edition prints of the teenagers in their ballgowns, become a producer and more. Every contribution helps us spread the story of this forgotten community.

One Carefree Night: www.froginatent.com

Lolla exits the house to go the prom. The people in the neighbourhood come to see her and wish her a good time. Most people in Manenberg never finish high school because they end up in crime, start using drugs or get pregnant while they are still at school. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X with an EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens; the exposure was 1/160sec at f/4, ISO 400.

Lolla exits the house to go the prom. The people in the neighbourhood come to see her and wish her a good time. Most people in Manenberg never finish high school because they end up in crime, start using drugs or get pregnant while they are still at school. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X with an EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens; the exposure was 1/160sec at f/4, ISO 400. © Ilvy Njiokiktjien

Charelle Pedro (19) in her prom dress, which was made by her aunt. ‘Sometimes it was difficult to focus on school work because they were shooting in the area. I am so proud I made it to my final year and that I could go to the dance.’ Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X with an EF50mm f/1.2 USM lens; the exposure was 1/250sec at f/11, ISO 100.

Charelle Pedro (19) in her prom dress, which was made by her aunt. ‘Sometimes it was difficult to focus on school work because they were shooting in the area. I am so proud I made it to my final year and that I could go to the dance.’ Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X with an EF50mm f/1.2 USM lens; the exposure was 1/250sec at f/11, ISO 100. © Ilvy Njiokiktjien

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