During this year’s Comrades Marathon uprun, I thought it would be a good idea and a change from snapping wildlife, to snap a sports event. So, I set off a few kilometres from my house, to “an ideal spot” (refreshment station) for good shots on Josiah Gumede Rd (Old Main Road).
And the bus (large group of runners) came and went. At this time, I felt it was a good way to start a Sunday…but no worthwhile shots really. A bit hungry, I decided to take my equipment to my car across the street.
Then, as I started to pack the equipment, I heard a bit of commotion about 100m away. I closed the door and locked the car to go and investigate. All I saw was a glimpse of a guy on crutches and about three people around him cheering. I dashed back to the car to get the camera and the right lens. By the time I got the camera, this guy was 20m away from where I had parked.
He was taking big strides for someone on crutches. He stopped at the refreshment station. He took a blister water pack, bit it, splashed it over his right palm. He did the same for his left palm. Took a sip of Coca-Cola from the table. Knocked it back in one gulp. He gave me one dead stare. Glanced at my camera…and he went on his way. No greeting, or handshakes, or howzit, or well done. NOTHING!
As he strode away with his back turned towards me, I walked to the middle of the road, went down on one knee, aimed, and fired two shots. As I put the camera down, just watching him opening up the distance between us, I glanced as his bib and read that his name is Siphesihle (A Good Gift/Treasure).
I got up, walked to the car and drove home.
It made me think deeply about what it truly means to be a South AfriCAN. Yes, the rainbow bit is nice, and a good way to describe the country. But damnit, we are more than that. Man, we are tough!
Only later in the evening, when I wanted to see what the shots looked like, I was met with this shot that you see here. Reliving the earlier encounter, I felt tears in my eyes.
It made me think deeply about what it truly means to be a South AfriCAN. Yes, the rainbow bit is nice, and a good way to describe the country. But damnit, we are more than that. Man, we are tough! Imagine how lonely he must be every race. Yet he dares to challenge the Ultimate Human Race…with one leg and two crutches. I don’t know about you, but in my book those three things are the epitome of South AfriCAN steel!
For me, it is heroes like Siphesihle, who have so much less biomechanically, but still inspire, without saying a single word. I cannot begin to thank him for what he did to me as a South AfriCAN and as a photographer. No matter how little I may think I have, I can still do a hang of a lot more.
Thank you for the stare that awoke my soul. Your silence was so loud, and will remain so, as long as this image exists.
I want to print this image on a stretched canvas A1 or A0 size and present it to him as a gift. I tracked down his running club south of Durban. Why? Because of his inspiration, I entered the very same image in a photography competition a few weeks ago. It won top prize, a state-of-the-art camera…not the old, tired one I used to take his photo. By winning that prize, I’m now emotionally contracted to him and South Africa to continue and master my craft.
Thank you, Siphesihle. Thank you for the stare that awoke my soul. Your silence was so loud, and will remain so, as long as this image exists. Your superhero antics are a marvel.
Final Editing for #ImStaying
I’m a lover of words, of mentoring, networking, and helping my fellow man to ‘learn to fish’. Driven by a hunger to never stop learning, I have a passion for adventure and travel, sundowners and laughter with good friends. At the end of the day what brings great delight to my life are my young adult sons.
Quote: “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” Nelson Mandela