Manenberg’s youth have turned drab walls in their gang-plagued neighbourhood into murals of hope and peace.
A community worker Yumna Alexander came up with the idea.
She gathered some children, got them some paint and brushes and, before she knew, it walls at Erica Court, Flora Court, and Fransisca Court were being painted with hand prints and simple but poignant messages, often in the form of a single word: “hope“, ”respect“, ”love“, ”faith“, ”peace“, ”joy“.
The words on the walls, Ms Alexander says, carry a lot of meaning as they represent the very things that are so often lacking in the children’s lives.
“I always thought that that wall would be a nice spot to do something positive. I was stalling a bit because of finances so I reached out to our ward councillor and I used that money to buy paint and dye and the children were so excited. Boys aged 5 to 16 got involved and they really got to express themselves through art work. There were no parameters; they were allowed to draw what they feel.“
Nearly every child wanted to paint a heart or the word “love”.
“What’s amazing is that they’ve acknowledged the social ills in their community. They painted ‘say not to drugs’ and ’stop the abuse’, ’God is good’,” so they know what is going on.
“All they want is to be acknowledged and made feel special because in most of their homes their feelings mean nothing. No one will scribble on the wall now because this is their handiwork, and they are so proud of it. Some days they put their hands back on the hand print and show their friends that this is their hand.
“My main aim is to show people that we can make good work of our community, that we don’t need to rely on others to uplift our community. You never know when the right person will one day need to see those messages of hope. Driving past and walking past the murals now is so refreshing. It’s no longer just a brown wall, it looks more lively and positive.“
Shakeel Alexander, 18, says taking part in the project made him feel like he was doing something good for his community.
“We really enjoyed painting the wall. People write ugly stuff on the walls, but we’ve written these messages so people can see it’s a better place around here.“