On the first day as we were reviewing the photos shot yesterday I noticed that in nearly every frame of young people in the community that they were making signs with their hands, often different signs. When I asked the class about this on the first day I just got some pretty vague answers, they did not seem to want to elaborate
Yesterday as we were reviewing photos, there was this frame of these rather cute looking very young kids making the hand gestures
When I asked this time the class became quite animated and told us that it was very sad that these children were making the sign associated with one of the 'numbers' gangs and told us a little at least about them at least
They told us how in their township with a simply massive unemployment rate of +/- 70 or 80 percent (there is no hard and fast data, simply the vast majority has no jobs) bored teenagers and young adults turn to crime as one said if you make it to 20 without going to jail it is a miracle
And when they are in prison they simply have to join a 'numbers' gang for their own protection or face violence or rape.
And of course the numbers 'gangs' thrive on the outside too, with many young children looking up to them as being the powerbase within the townships, which is why they make the signs of the gangs
When we started to expand the conversation some of the students spoke of how they have turned their backs on the gangs and are seeking a different path. At a conservative estimate I think about 40 percent of the class have been in a numbers gangs. And that is just the students who spoke of their previous membership.
We asked how dangerous it was at night one said 'it is a 1000 times more dangerous at night but it is always dangerous, more dangerous than you realise'
I recounted to the class of how Katherine Holley and I started to feel uneasy, in potential danger, a kind of fear that you cannot quite put your finger on, and how we turned back to the community centre.(On reflection two white people walking alone in the townships dripping in thousands of dollars of DSLRs is not very wise.)
One of the class said yes 'you got that feeling, but 15,000 people in this township get that feeling EVERY day'
Is it any wonder that the 'numbers' gangs thrive