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Recap

South Africa

September 17, 2017

In 2014, I was in invited to Johannesburg, South Africa, as part of being an ambassador in Norway for the Nelson Mandela Library Project. I traveled from Norway with fellow ambassadors, Josef Yohannes (comic book creator) and Line Verndal (Actress). The Nelson Mandela Project is a charity that gives jobs to locals in Johannesburg by making bangles that are sold, and where the profit goes to building school supplies for kids in South Africa.

On our first day we drove to Soweto which Nelson Mandelas hometown on the outskirts of Johannesburg.

We visited museums and got a tour of Mandelas old house, which is now also a museum.

While standing right outside the house, I got eye contact with a guy outside the fence, who was trying to show me some tricks with his red hat. I was intrigued, and asked if i could go outside and say hi to him, When I did, his 3 friends came out of nowhere and did a little show right in front of me. I was completely amazed by their creative skills and great talent. I had never seen anything like it. They are The Skeleton Movers. I wanted to talk to them and hopefully learn some of their tricks. But since we had to leave, we agreed to come back in a few days to meet up. I wanted to film and showcase their talent to others, to hopefully give them more attention and recognition. They were truly unique and original.

 

This is the one-take video we filmed when coming back to Soweto a few days later.

On one of the other days we visited a childrens school outside Johannesburg, that was receiving school supplies from The Library Project. While driving their we were informed that around 25% of the kids at the school were orphans, and that there were not social workers or foster homes to put the kids in. So these kids were living by themselves in informal settlements, where one grandmother would look after 3 or 4 households. When we arrived the school I saw a bunch of kids standing in line waiting for their food. Some of the youngest looked only 3-4 years old.One thing that had a big impact on me, was the fact that most of these kids who lived in torn down tin houses as far as 30 minutes away, walked to school everyday just to get the food there were standing in line for. The food was some white/greyish porridge. After the kids sang some songs for us, and the principal had told us about the kids conditions, we got to talk, play and hangout with the kids. For some reason, they understood I danced, so the kids hyped up the best dancer in the school to stand up and battle me. His name was Njabole and he was 12 years old. I was amazed by how good he was, and especially for someone who probably haven't seen a lot of dancing in his life. Something clicked and I found a great chemistry with him. One thing is seeing pictures and videos of people who live in struggle and poverty, but being there, interacting with them and looking into their eyes is a whole other thing. I was deeply touched by this visit, and seeing these kids gave me so much. I hope that i could give them a fraction of the inspiration they left me with. I hope to come back to some of these schools one day, and really spend time with these kids to hopefully spark something in them that they can use to help themselves.

Talking to Njabole :)

On one of the last days, we had the honour of meeting and sitting down with Ms. Winnie Mandela. When we met, she gave me the biggest and seemed to recognise me from meeting when I was little. We sat with her for over 2 hours and the family house , where she told us about her  life-story. It was inspiring to hear her speak about her struggles and tribulations. A courages and intelligent woman, with the warmest hugs. Much respect!

On our day-off, we went to Johannesburg city to see my friend Mona Berntsen, who was in town for a music video shoots.

Shoutout to the coolest guide ever, Mr. Kenny.

Traveling down there, I was not aware of what I was going to see and experience. It ended up being a life changing experience that I grew a lot from.

I am grateful for the opportunity and truly hope to go back soon.

-
Omer Bhatti
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