Skate in the Cape – Are skate parks the answer…or just a trick?

The Opening of the Gardens Skate Park

The Opening of the Gardens Skate Park

With the opening of a new skate park in Gardens, Cape Town, and the rise in skate competitions, what lies ahead for this increasingly diverse sport?



Judas Priest’s lyrics, “Breaking the law, breaking the law!” bursts out of the speakers, entertaining the packed venue known as The Pit.

The Pit, a skating bar in Cape Town’s city “bowl”, is hosting the Vans invitational skateboarding competition on a cloudy Saturday evening. Skaters speed from one end of the fluorescent lit bowl to the other, performing grinds and wall rides on each end.

A competitor attempts to impress the judges.

A competitor attempts to impress the judges.

The association attached to skaters is normally that of reckless trouble-makers and vandals but watching the skaters and crowd, I don’t see the connection.

There are no fights breaking out; even when a board accidentally goes flying into someones face or a beer is spilled onto a spectator’s camera. There are no vandals destroying pot plants or mail boxes. If anything, there is a general camaraderie and respect between everyone present.

The Pit Party. Invitational skate competition poster.

The Pit Party. Invitational skate competition poster.


Earlier today, an award winning skate park, known as the Gardens Skate Park opened in Cape Town. Hundreds of skaters were testing the new rails and boxes at the opening.

Quinton Robertson, one of the skaters taking part in the competition at The Pit, spoke about what he thought a skate park brings to the community.

“Kids will have a facility where they can hang out after school and when they are finished their homework. It doesn’t matter if they are bored, they can just watch and this helps to keep them off the streets.”
A skater hitting a ramp

A skater attempting an aerial trick at the Gardens skate park

The skate park hosted hundreds of young kids, some as young as 8, and people from all backgrounds.

Marco Morgan, a founding member of the National Skate Collective, an organisation hoping to advance the culture of skateboarding in Cape Town, believes however that this diversity has not always been present in the sport.

“Skateboarding has always had stigma of rebellion or dare-devils attached to it, and for that reason it has been attractive to some and less attractive to others.
“In South Africa, these stigmas ran a bit deeper and skateboarding was seen to be exclusively “white” with the type of slang, fashion and music associated.
“…looking at the skateboarding community today, these walls of exclusion have been broken down, and the South African skateboarding community shows diversity in its sport and culture.”
Mill park skatepark opening day. Skaters of all ages came from around Cape Town to the opening in Gardens.

Gardens Skate Park opening day. Skaters of all ages came from around Cape Town to the opening in Gardens.

There has also been an increase in gender diversity. The Pit’s competition includes a female, Melissa Williams.

Williams is the only female competing against 35 male competitors.

“Gender has always been an issue in skateboarding, as it has always been seen as a masculine activity; however with the increase of females participating in the sport, we are seeing a much more diverse community, illustrating a real sense of accessibility,” says Morgan.
“At a competition level, we have seen organisation such as SAGRA [South African Gravity Racing Association] and KDC [Kimberely Diamond Cup] cater to the demand for female competitors.”

Unfortunately Williams couldn’t comment on gender in skating as she had to be taken to hospital after severely breaking her finger in one of the heats of the competition.

Injuries are synonymous with skating. 

A search for  “skateboarding fails” in YouTube, offers days of footage that will make your eyes water and steer most people away from the sport.

Injuries are commpn place in the skate world. Image at

So I asked Leigh Soulink, a young man with dreadlocks and a massive red rose tattoo covering his neck,  what he thought drew people to skating, even with such high risk of injuries.

“It makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something and you’re doing it solely because you want to have fun.
“I just like hanging out with my friends and being happy for the guy when they land a trick. That’s what skating is all about, just having a good time with friends.”

Sheldon Klopper, a spectator and skater himself says,

“It starts off with the people. They are very accommodating and it doesn’t matter if you’re starting out [with skating] or been doing it for 20 years.
“Skateboarding takes away that team sport vibe of being shut out if you’re not good enough.”

Skateboard with The Pit

It seems this accepting environment is one that sets skating apart from most other sports.

Today’s park opening and the regular competitions are a sign of the sport’s increasing popularity. More importantly, skating has an opportunity now by using the parks to shrug off the stigma associated with skaters.

By setting up the Gardens Skate Park , skating is granted more awareness and with this, acceptance.

Although a positive step forward, Morgan believes that throwing more skate parks at the issue of bad reputation, is not always a good thing.

“Skate parks are often the easy answer to dealing with the spatial antagonism between skaters and other users of public space.
“Although skate parks are awesome spaces for skaters to connect and congregate, it is seen as a way for authorities to control skaters spatial mobility and fence an activity, which most likely will result in facility-based mentality that supports the sport without supporting skateboarders’ needs.
“Most times we are not consulted about skate facilities and in these cases; these spaces do not fit our real needs.”

Morgan and the National Skate Collective are attempting to introduce a by-law that will allow skateboarders to skate on the roads legally.

“We have set up a task team with the City of Cape Town, to work together on developing future skate parks/skate facilities and integrating skateboarding into the urban fabric of the city,” states Morgan.

There have also been talks about a new skate park being constructed in Woodstock using these task team approaches.

The winner of the competition celebrating with a friend

The winner of the competition, Joubert van Staaden (left), celebrating his prize of R7000

This accepting community of skateboarders seems to be making progress in communities around the world. In South Africa, the diversity is striking and promises positive change.

But will this diversification and exposure lead to more facilities and support for the sport? Or will it serve to isolate the skateboarder even more by confining them and “fencing the activity” to spaces catered for them.

A greater question is raised: Will skating only be practiced in cordoned off, ‘legal’ areas in the future or will it be accepted for its freedom of expression and allowed to be practiced wherever the skater chooses?

As for now, the growth of this niche sport is on the up and skaters around Cape Town all seem to be winning.


For the love of the name

Bhrihat Mridanga Das, a 26-year-old man, used to be called ‘Rory Strydom’. Growing up in a stringent Afrikaans Christian family, he is now a practicing Hare Krishna monk and temple commander. Anthony Molyneaux met with Bhrihat at his Ashram in Cape Town.

The Vermicelli crackles in the shallow oiled pot while milk boils and bubbles in the larger pot beside it. A weathered Hare Krishna cookbook lies open on the cold steel counter.

Brihat adjusts his thick lensed spectacles as he stirs the thin pasta into the spitting oil. He is preparing Kheer, a vermicelli pudding, for the mantra meditation being held at the Ashram later in the evening.

“There’s a term we use, Swadharma, which basically means ‘own duty’. This duty is your calling, you could say. You need to do what you’re good at and what you enjoy; otherwise you create too much strain on yourself. Finding your swadharma is essential for a happy life.” states Brihat.

When asked what his ‘swadharma’ is, he smiles while looking down at the sizzling pot.

“I like cooking. It’s a good meditation, but really, I’m a jack of all trades. I’ve never been number one at anything but I’m good at most things.

“I like doing outreach programs, socializing, and networking. I guess I enjoy anything humanitarian. I want to help people when they are unhappy and I believe that’s the most important principle of spiritual life: to develop compassion.”

Brihat’s duties as temple commander are maintaining the vegetarian cooking standards, training the new devotees in Krishna consciousness, leading meditations and instilling the principles of ‘spiritual communism’ in the ashram.

“Communism means that everything belongs to the government but we believe everything belongs to Krishna. Everything is utilized for him and he provides everything we need. So when we are serving each other, we are serving Krishna.”

Brihat is sporting pink croc footwear, the traditional orange robe and a tired brown sweater. His head is closely shaved except for the strand of long hair sprouting from his crown, bundled together in a messy pony tail. His appearance hardly goes unnoticed in the small farming communities where he grew up.

“In the Afrikaner community there’s always this weird vibe toward us [Hare Krishnas]. Afrikaans people tend to be polite, unless they are intoxicated. But you can still feel them thinking, ‘What the hell is going on here?’”

Before taking on Krishna Consciousness, when Brihat was still known as Rory, he spent most of his time in clubs and trance venues. He was studying a B.Sc in Biochemistry at Stellenbosch University, which took him five years to complete.

“My first year of university didn’t count, as I never attended class. I was working at Tollies Nightclub as a barman and I was making a lot of money. When I was working there it was quite a zef place, it’s not like it is now.”

“Before I began with the Hare Krishnas in 2010, I was also practicing shamanism. Intuitively I know how to heal with my hands as I had already learnt this in my previous life,” states Brihat.

“I used to guide people through chambers of their own mind to help heal them. But after I joined the Hare Krishnas, I started to become more focused on my studies and left that trance phase behind.”

Upon completing his degree in 2012 he moved to the Ashram in Cape Town, where he is now cooking this sweet dish.

“I was always attracted to a very simple lifestyle. In movies and games, I liked the monk and the sorcerer, the guy with the magic. So I had a natural attraction to this life and when I found out it was possible to live like this, it was my calling.”

Sandra Troskie, a previous lecturer of world religions at Stellenbosch University, believes Krishna consciousness and Christianity have many similarities that perhaps make the transition easier.

“Hare Krishna is a paradigm that is comfortable for some Afrikaans youth. They all think it’s strange but it’s not really. It’s exotic without being too different,” states Troskie.

“Hare Krishna is not very far off from Christianity. Krishnas also have three gods: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. This is more or less the trinity of Christian beliefs and it’s easier to extrapolate for them. Even Jesus and Krishna share many similarities.”

Troskie proposes that the recent surge to Krishna consciousness and other eastern religions, may extend deeper into the Afrikaner youth upbringing.

“One of the greatest identity shocks to the Afrikaans people arrived with the ending of Apartheid and the letting go of concepts they were taught by the church.

“The Truth and Reconciliation Council brought all this to light and there was an enormous outflow [of people] from the reformed churches,” states Troskie.

“The youth felt especially betrayed and didn’t trust the reformed church anymore. The Hare Krishna devotees are a small part of this exodus.”


Old vs. New

Brihat’s parents remain committed to the reformed church but what do these older generations think of new age religions?

Kavi Karnapura Dasi, who was previously known as Jacobus Breda du Toit, is now a senior monk in the Stellenbosch ashram. He found Krishna consciousness on the streets of London but grew up in a small Afrikaans farming community called Vereeniging,

“My parents are members of the Reformed church and the first time I told them I was a practicing Krishna monk, they weren’t very optimistic,” says a laughing Kavi. “But I think in time they saw it was nothing malicious. It took four years for them to come around though.”

Brihat didn’t have it much easier.

“My mom is a fundamental Christian. She is a pious lady and helps others but she is very set in her ways. In her heart she feels if you’re not with Jesus, then you’re going to hell,” states Brihat.  

“From her perspective, it’s quite hectic to see her son going to hell so I can understand that.”

“When I graduated in 2012, I told them I was moving to Cape Town to live in an Ashram and become a Hare Krishna Monk. My mom just got up and left. She didn’t say a word.

“Up until a few months ago, she never said a thing about it. She denied it for years,” states Brihat.

Brihat now has a working relationship with his mother. She is still apprehensive of the new age religions.

“My mom has opened up more, but she is more critical of my beliefs now. She questions my actions and reasoning all the time which I don’t mind because it keeps me on my toes.

“I think she sees that I’m happy with this path. I am becoming who I believe I am meant to be.”

The thick milky pudding is poured into a wooden bowl and left to cool. Brihat rings a tiny bell repeatedly and gives thanks to Krishna for the sweets he has just made.

An incense stick burns away in the corner of the kitchen and chanting voices drift through the warm air. Brihat grabs his guitar and glides up the stairs to the temple to begin the weekly mantra meditation.

Mantra what?

By Anthony Molyneaux

Giriraja Swami, an initiating guru within the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, suggests that everyone should try mantra meditation. Swami states that a few sessions of the mantra, “accrues to ones spiritual credit and it will gradually increase in value. Any way one chants, one will derive immense benefit and pleasure from the mantra”.

After watching this short video of Swami, I decided to take on his suggestion and made my way to a local mantra meditation group on my university campus in Stellenbosch.

I arrive to a group of 20 or so cross-legged students on a warm Monday afternoon. All those assembled are in their twenties, sitting in a crude half circle around an old portable organ called a harmonium. I join the folk by taking my shoes off and sit down on the stretched out mat, trying hard to adopt the cross-legged pose that has always created major discomfort.

The mantras take place outside among the bustling students of the University, some kicking back between classes, others on their way to the busy cafeteria.

Birds are chirping their melodic song overhead as the lead, playing the haunting harmonium, begins the mantra. Around his neck is a necklace made up of small wooden beads. They are known as Tulasi japa chanting beads, and they symbolize his surrender to Krishna. It is believed the beads also protect the wearer from bad dreams and bodily harm.

His voice is serene and harmonious as he recites the mantra,

“Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare 
  Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

As the ‘congregation’ begins to recite the verse, a man sitting directly in front of me with long blonde curly hair, resembling Shaggy from Scooby Doo, begins singing the response much louder and obtrusive than the other twenty people present. His tone is way off and it’s quite distracting, not dissimilar to my dad’s rendition of church hymns during mass.

Later on, after the mantra is over, I over-hear the shaggy haired man say that he is in the process of ‘making music’ and is preparing for an upcoming show. A tinge of sympathy came over me for those who would attend that spectacle.

I try to collect my thoughts and come back to the mantra. By this stage, the mantra has gained some momentum. The lead brings in a hip hop element – A request by the lead of ‘ladies only’ followed by ‘gentlemen, your turn’. My younger days of Christian rap groups, ‘Yo Majesty’ and ‘DC talk’ spring to mind and this reminder makes me feel like I was attending a really strange ‘Holy Hip Hop’ concert.

I retrace my steps again and hone in on the mantra melody. I close my eyes, zoning my thoughts on the repeated words and away from my trailing thoughts of migratory patterns of birds and who really killed Biggie Smalls.

The beat of the Mridanga drum focuses me and after 10 minutes of becoming absorbed in this steadily building pace of the mantra, I start to tap my feet unconsciously with the intricate drum beat. I start to sway my body and the mantra becomes easy to sing, more natural with every repetition.

The music and mantra takes over and I feel at ease, relaxed and still, my trailing thoughts seemingly out of reach. I tap into this calm – a feeling similar to the relief you get when you’ve returned home after a long day at work or school. When you can finally lie down on your bed, not think about a thing and you can absorb the quiet in the afternoon light.

My legs go numb from the awkward crossed position.. I am forced back to reality and I adjust my seating. Suddenly I remember that I am outdoors and among people during this meditation. I peek out into the world again.

Gawking students pass by, some don’t seem to notice, other’s point and frown, few stare and  laugh. The Mridanga drum plays an addictive beat and the small hand held snare rings a pleasurable tone. My eyes shut again and I drift back into the meditation.

 The final recital slows the mantra down to the beginning speed and we all chant in unison, symbolizing the end of the meditation. Slowly eyes open and almost everyone has a smile on their face, including myself.

Swami may have been right. It is captivating.

According to,

‘The Hare Krishna mantra is a chant meant for enhancing consciousness to the greatest possible degree. Chanting the Hare Krishna mantra can give peace, happiness, God realization, freedom from repeated birth and death, and total self-fulfillment.’

The Hare Krishna mantra is a repetition of three names of the Supreme Being – “Hare”, “Krishna” and “Rama”. The International Society for Krishna Consciousness’s website has uploaded mantra meditation videos from London, New York, Ireland and many other cities around the world. Large groups of people from all walks of life dance and chant in the streets to this mantra.

I too enjoyed the session but I wonder if I would be able to dance in the streets and jump around in a kind of peaceful, religious mosh pit.

Much like some of the passers-by of the meditation group, crude looks follow the people dancing and chanting in the streets. ‘Crazy’ and ‘cult’ have been used to describe Hare Krishna’s practices.

But is it really crazy? Our current society of non-stop information, multitasking and deadlines seems to separate us from what meditations like the mantra teaches.

After soaking in a short time of the day where I force myself to break away from concerns and worries, I start to understand the gains of meditation. I can maybe even rationalize that our society might be the crazy one after all and not all dancing, twirling, singing people in the streets.

Upon investigating how this religion came about, I found that Krishna consciousness had only been introduced to the western world less than 60 years ago.

Srila Prabhupada, a spiritual teacher, arrived in New York in 1965 and began to spread Krishna consciousness to the American youth. In 1970, only one recruit signed up to Hare Krishna internationally. By 1980, close to 600 were signing up every year, according to E. Burke Rochford’s book, “Hare Krishna in America”. The growth slowed in the 80’s and 90’s but has seen tremendous growth recently with ashrams, a spiritual monastery, and temples being set up all over the world.

After my experience of the mantra, I decided that I would attend Buddha’s birthday celebration on the evening of the full moon.

I’m not sure if I will be dancing in the streets rejoicing with all the Hare Krishna’s just yet but the mantra meditation holds some quality that I want to acknowledged and adhere to. If anything, it has taught me not to care about what others think of you and has made me realize that I don’t have the worst singing voice out there. Hare Krishna.

Party sets up shop outside voting polls

The voting stations within Cape Town city yesterday were accompanied by ANC stalls and tables where young members were dancing, singing and handing out stickers and T-shirts with Jacob Zuma’s face on them.

Other party’s stalls were nowhere to be seen. The ANC members at the stalls were asked what they thought of the ANC’s chances in the Western Cape, one member said, “I can’t think that we [the ANC] won’t win the province, I have to believe that we will win and we will encourage others to vote for them.”

Political parties are allowed to set up stalls in the vicinity of voting stations and interact with voters but “should not impede the access of voters to the voting station. Voters should not be forced to report to those tents,” said electoral commission chairwoman, Pansy Tlakula on Monday.

“If a voter is asked to come to a political party tent and if the voter doesn’t want to do that, the voter must be left in peace,” said Tlakula according to Drum magazine.

Gift Makela, a resident car guard in the Cape Town region believes he will vote for a different party this year regardless of what others say at the stalls outside the voting polls. “It doesn’t matter what others say to me, I don’t understand how they can respect one scandalous person at the top of their party.”

On Tuesday, the day before the elections, the ANC members were parading outside the ANC offices in Stellenbosch, in preparation for their stall setups in the different areas. “Amandla! Awethu!” was being shouted from the dancing procession of 30 or so ANC members.

Faith Nkosana, one of the ward campaigners for the ANC believes setting up stalls like the ones outside Cape Town’s voting stations “shows support and encouragement for their supporters.”

Nkosana is in charge of the Lanquedoc ward, a settlement in the Cape Winelands district. Nkosana believes the elections could swing 50-50 for the DA and the ANC but thinks, “The coloured people feel very neglected by the ANC.”

Danika Koegelenberg, a hurrying passer-by of the ANC parade, is a student at Stellenbosch University. Koegelenberg is voting in Malmesbury and is hoping for a DA victory in the Western Cape.

“These stalls outside stations won’t change my mind. I feel the DA is doing well in the Western Cape and people will continue to vote for them.”

IEC members in the Cape Town city region kept a close watch on the proceedings. Police officers were in full view at the voting polls to prevent any infractions on Tlakula’s rules and to maintain order.

Homeless and ‘voteless’

Eight thousand out of the estimated 60 000 Delhi homeless, received their election identity cards on the 10th of April, 2014. For the first time in India’s history, the homeless can vote. Eight hundred and fourteen million people are eligible to vote, making it the world’s largest election to date, according to the BBC.

The election identity cards can open a bank account, allow free train services and cooking gas connections. Do the homeless in South Africa have the same benefits? Will the South African homeless vote in the upcoming elections on the 7th of May, 2014? Anthony Molyneaux heads out to the streets of Cape Town to figure out how the homeless feel about voting 20 years after democracy.

“The homeless are very eager to go and vote because they feel it is their democratic right. Particularly our black and coloured residents, they feel a little more encouraged to vote as it’s a practice they weren’t allowed before,” states Jerry Louw, manager at The Haven Night Shelter in Greenpoint in Cape Town.

The Haven’s vision, “No one should have to live on our streets,” lines their business card and Jerry has been involved in homeless shelters since 2003. “You do pick up that some people feel they aren’t accounted for and some feel, look what’s the point, I’m homeless, what’s the point of voting? But it’s misguided and we try and help them with information.”

Man in Cape Town city, sleeping alongside a busy street.

Man in Cape Town city, sleeping alongside a busy street.

The large cool cemented floors lead the way through the shelter. AB, a 30-something-year-old man with dark circles around his eyes and a slow drawl guides me through the bare halls of the residence where 100 otherwise-homeless people sleep. A large open plan eating area leads to the outdoor courtyard where a dozen of the residents are scattered in various reclined positions, one of the residents shifts his mangled mattress out of the sun.

AB is the field worker for Haven Night Shelter. His job is to hit the streets, locate homeless people and inform them about the options the city makes available to them.

The Haven has rehabilitative programmes in place to assist the residents. They’re assisted in gaining their Identity Documents [ID] in order to vote, a prerequisite to take part in the upcoming elections. They are also helped by social workers like Lucia Peterson in overcoming their troubles which include domestic violence and drug abuse.

“Yes, of course I’m voting,” Denise Nel, a 40-something-year-old lady, still in her narrow bed, states happily. She has been working in an initiative setup by Patricia de Lille for homeless people. “We’re being paid to clean the streets at night and I’ve been staying here [the Haven] for 6 months but I feel great because I’ve got a job. A lot of people here at Haven will go vote and I’m grateful for the government and the shelter for getting me a job and helping me.”

Haven gains its funding from the city of Cape Town and the National Lottery. Donations by large shopping chains allows the residents to eat fresh produce from nearby grocery stores. This is appreciated by most residents I speak with at the shelter and is one of the common reasons that lead to the general enthusiasm for voting.

But what about those even less fortunate? Those on the streets that cannot get a bed in a shelter as there are no vacancies (these shelters have a slow turnover and can only accommodate 95 people per night), no money (a bed costs R10 a night) or no assistance? Are they also excited about voting?

Man on train. Sleeping in a safe place when you are homeless is hard to find.

Man on train. Sleeping in a safe place when you are homeless is hard to find.

The 5 cent meal service offered in Cape Town’s city bowl is visited by predominantly homeless people; the people who don’t have the benefits of the shelters. The grassy patch opposite the brick-faced building is spotted with countless groups of ragged looking individuals waiting for their lunch.

Alwyn Pieterson, clad in a reflector vest and tattered brown jeans sits in the shade of a grocery store sign waiting for his first, and probably last, meal of the day. “A guy was stabbed here last year while in line. He tried to push in and was stabbed to death. But don’t worry you can still go, there’s a security guard here now,” he states with a mischievous grin.

“I’m not voting because I don’t have an ID.” Upon asking why he doesn’t try to get one he sneers, “I lost it when I first came to Cape Town. Now it costs me R270 to get my ID, I don’t have money for that.” Checking on the Department of Home Affairs website, a re-issuing of an ID actually costs R140 ($14) but this is still a lot of money for a man literally on the street.

A group of three sitting on the sun-laden grass embankment are not voting either. “We don’t have ID’s and don’t have money to get one.” When questioned what they think about the elections, the young lady named Lesley, lying against her boyfriend’s chest, barks “They’re corrupt. They promise things and don’t deliver. They’re racist and don’t care about us.” The group all nods in agreement.

A hard looking man with jail tattoos along his right arm sits in the shade of a small palm tree. His eyes stare toward the distant mountain. He too is not voting as he has no ID and has no motivation to get one.

Except for a few vague comments of racism and corruption, there seems to be a general knowledge of the importance of their vote. It seems the problem for the homeless, in terms of voting, isn’t apathy or indifference as much it is a lack of money and/or services. The homeless outside of the shelters require IDs, IDs require money and they have neither.

The issue is not so much in whether the South African homeless vote or not, it’s whether they have the facilities and funds to vote. For a lucky few in shelters like the Haven, assistance with funding for IDs and eliminating technicalities motivates the homeless to vote.

The majority on the street however, have no assistance. They can survive by the generosity of 5c meals yet when R140 is needed to attain an ID, this proves to be too much. Why would they save the R10 they’ve scrounged for the whole day to pay for an ID? The thought of voting gets lost in their survival from day to day.

Homeless man busking in tunnel. On average buskers make R5-R10 ($1) a day. Re-issuing of an ID costs R140 ($14) in South Africa

Homeless man busking in tunnel. On average buskers make R5-R10 ($1) a day. Re-issuing of an ID costs R140 ($14) in South Africa

Many homeless living on the streets will miss out on the opportunity to lay down their mark but not due to their perception of being let down by government. It is because they don’t have the resources to get what they need to vote. A larger social issue is raised. The shelters are progressing and rehabilitating the homeless but do we have enough shelters for our ever growing homeless, ‘voteless’ people?

India has introduced the free of charge election identity document for their less fortunate. Perhaps this idea, implemented in South Africa in election years, might assist in the voting of the large number of homeless people who go otherwise unnoticed and unaccounted for.

Short films and skate parks

Marcel Swanepoel at the Gardens skate park, Cape Town, The park is set to open in July 2014.

From the studio to the streets, from architecture to film, Marcel Swanepoel thrives on not producing ‘average work’. Anthony Molyneaux discovers what his ever changing existence is like and what he thinks our ‘everything-all-the-time’ generation is searching for.

The unfinished skate park lies quietly under the yellow light of Cape Town’s lampposts. Marcel examines the rubble and construction of the steps, half pipes and rail placements. “Our company, Epitome, wants to produce a video for this park and display it on the back wall on the day this skate park opens. We love skating, film and Cape Town and want to be a part of this venture. We just can’t get through the hierarchy at the moment.”

Marcel is working on a host of his own short films. Some animated, others shot in real time. One of the films called “Through the Fire” depicts a monster like creature, down and out lying on a couch, dismayed by the life of routine and its orthodox environment. The monster is contrasted in the short film by Lilly, a young child who instead enjoys the life of routine. Lilly is depicted as a happy-go-lucky being, thriving on the routine of life that the unhappy monster can’t stand.

“I have a phobia of normality, I was brought up in routine, society placed me in routine throughout my younger years and I needed to break free from this,” he states while stroking his week old beard.

Sparkling neon lit slot machines with names such as ‘Kitty Glitter’, ‘Russian Treasure’ and ‘Indian Dreaming’ illuminate an otherwise bland, square room at the back of a quaint pizzeria. The type of place one would expect the mob to meet. Framed photos of drunken customers sporting vuvuzelas and soccer scarves line the wooden walls.

Marcel Swanepoel, a 28-year-old man, now sits across from me with a woolen beanie concealing his short disheveled hair. He drags hard on his cigarette, creating an orange furnace at the end of his fingertips.

The tiny silver ball attached below his left lower lip jumps up and down his beard laden face as he details his enjoyment of the otherwise empty room.

“A room can create comfort, calm or distress without you even knowing it.” He casually sips on his golden beer in between the drags of his hot cigarette and his explanation.

“Architecture is a wonderful concept; it’s a way to manipulate your environment. That’s why I went into it but I realized that I wanted more creativity than architecture could offer.”

Film is where Marcel finds his freedom, his passion to share his ideas and concepts with the world.

“In film I can manipulate space and environment infinitely with no rules or overseeing authority.”

Another cigarette is lit, his eye movements rove the ceiling in an attempt to formulate his words and concepts. “Little pieces of myself get into them [short films]. People wear masks for different occasions and I thrive on this fakeness. I call myself ‘the fake Marcel’ as I too adopt these facades.”

“Every person I meet can offer something. Getting to know people is my number one thing in this world. I love trying to break through these facades to get through to the real person.”

Marcel has studied many things in his 28 years. He started with Math. The idea of creating new theorems enticed him into the field of mathematics. After a year in this field, he changed to Engineering as this was less confining than math and he yearned to create something physical. After two years in Engineering, the creativity he desired was not satisfied. Architecture was next. The concept of developing and designing enticed him and he continued to gain his master’s degree in this field. However, this too provided too many obstacles to his creative nature.

Marcel now works for a ‘small time production company’ called Epitome with his step brother, Renico van Wyk. Film now caters to his creative streak while he lectures part time at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) in Architecture.

“I believe I have a lot of valuable thoughts and ideas that could influence society”

The problem comes about as society is the very factor that’s preventing him from producing his ‘masterworks’.

Marcel refers to our society as an “everything-all-the-time generation.” Marcel believes that our current society has learned to adapt to everything coming at us at once due to the ease of information that the internet has brought us. Skimming the surface like a skipping stone, only taking in the bare minimal to serve our ever active fingertips and thought.

He chose a short film medium as he himself deals with this dilemma.

“I make these films for myself, not to serve any other purpose. Yet I want people to feel something when they watch it.

“I believe creativity is problem solving, or how creatively you can solve the problem.” He slides two empty beer glasses together and poses the question of how to merge the two glasses to become one. As he is explaining this, small droplets of perspiration formulate on his nose. “Many would come up with the most practical solution and go with that one but there are so many more ways to address the problem.

“You could break the two into shards of glass and because they are the same glass, they could be regarded as one. You could fill each with liquid and place them on top of each other to merge them into one glass.” After a shrugging of shoulders and more nose perspiration explaining multiple options to this dilemma, he states, “I could go on forever.”

Another one of Marcel’s film concepts is of greed. Marcel depicts greed as ‘Doctor Terrible, a well-to-do physician ambling from house to house. After knocking on people’s doors, he asks, “Anymoney home?”

Society is under scrutiny throughout Marcel’s life yet an overwhelming truth comes to realization. “Society creates the framework to work within.” Without it, too much freedom is given and essentially, the artist is left to their own divergent and detrimental devices. For Marcel, his work is aimed at the public, in order to influence the public. Therefore without the public, there is a missing link.

Upon asking what he hopes his movies will achieve he states, “I want people to be affected by them, to get emotional, to maybe even cry and to realize something within themselves they have been denying.”

Renico van Wyk, Marcel’s half-brother, a talented videographer, speaks of Marcel as having “a lot of good energy mixed with almost too much confidence. Creatively, he is always bringing the crazy ideas [sic].

He is really scared of losing originality.”

Marcel explains his idea of passion with a flurry of hand movements. “I believe I have many passions but finding one real passion to stick to is difficult.” He instead distills his passions across the board and infuses the different mediums with his infinite energy. Through short film Marcel finds his contribution to society through extension of his creative spirit.