Last Saturday we visited Langa Township. Our tour guide, Siviwe, grew up in the township and showed us around. After high school, Siviwe went to college in Spain and then came back and started a nonprofit organization called Happy Feet, which promotes education and a healthy lifestyle through dancing and provides a safe after-school environment for kids in Langa. One of the highlights of the trip was when the kids performed a dance for us at the end of our tour.
Langa was the first township created in South Africa in response to an influx of Black workers into Cape Town during Apartheid. What made Langa so interesting was the fact that it contained a lower, middle, and upper class section. It was common for wealthier individuals to move back to the township after becoming professionals because their sense of community was still based in the township. We asked if crime was a problem because of the close proximity of the upper and lower class areas (literally, if you turned a corner the homes would change from shacks to one-story ramblers), and Siviwe told us that it wasn’t because the community policed its own citizens. Each person played a role in protecting the community and discouraging crime.
Our new project for this week was working at an orphanage. Five of us worked on painting the walls of a newly built room and the other five worked on building a market stand for Mama Lumka (the founder of the orphanage).
Mariah and I were part of the room painting group. We started off by going through all the children’s books available to us and picking animals to draw. After a few heated discussions we decided on a whale, penguin, octopus, seahorse, and squid.
Although enjoyable, it was a long process. It took us about 3.5 days to complete. I was assigned “turpentine duty,” which I thought would be a simple task. However, the paint had dried overnight and was a nightmare to turpentine. The turpentine work also had to be extremely intricate as the whole point was to only erase the paint, which was on the exterior of the animal outline.
As expected, we were faced with challenges during this task. One of them was to mix and get the exact colors we wanted since we only had blue, red, yellow, black and white. We had to mix these colors to get pink, sky blue, mustard, etc. This task was especially tricky because each color had to be in perfect proportions for us to get the desired color. A little extra black took a whole of white to counteract. Although we did end up with slightly more paint than we needed, the colors turned out absolutely the way we wanted.
Working as a team really got us through the challenges. Compartmentalizing tasks and only getting involved in others’ work when asked was key. We respected each others’ space and didn’t impose our opinions or ideas on others. Seeing the room completely painted on Friday was a wonderful feeling. We can’t wait to see the kids faces when they see this room. Hopefully they will enjoy it as much as we enjoyed painting it for them!