Durban: Umthombo Surfing Children Construct a Poem

In Durban, the street children who live without family employ extraordinary skills to deal with extraordinary situations on a daily  moment by moment basis. They consistently navigate crisis walking the thin line on the Long Road to who knows where.

How not to get beaten? How to find food when there is none?  How to communicate your needs to strangers?  How to negotiate with those you can’t trust?    All these skills are developed and fine tuned through an unforgiving  process of trial and terror without the reference point of family.  And so here I am with these great surfer street children to teach them to write a  simple poem.

Nothing is simple, least of all them. Least of all me.  I make a contract with myself to seek open eye contact.  As they sit around the  table in the recreation room one sleeps soundly with his head on the wooden top –  dead to the world. It could, I was told, be  withdrawal symptoms. There was  beauty in his sleeping and in his being there, his dark skin, his closed eyes.

“Tell me about the language of surfing” I said to the group “cause I don’t know anything…”.  and as they saw the first line unfold onto the flip chart they caught my drift and a wave of children became themselves,  throwing out rhymes and constructing lines like children splashing water. The poem was written in a workshop lasting approximately ninety minutes. The afternoon was spent painting with  Emma Wee of CAST   who  inspired by my poems as landmarks project –  transferred their  lines  onto the walls  in a beautiful beautiful way.  To read the poem click here. This is good solid and tanbgible development work all done in one day by CAST and Umthombo.

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