The State of Our Nation

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© Photos by Armand Hough


Day 1

Schools in the Western Cape opened their doors again to over 109 000 learners in Grade 1. I went to see how parents cut the umbilical cord from their little ones as they formally start their training to become the future leaders of South Africa and quite possibly, the world.

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This is Chulumanco Gawulekhaya from Nolathando School for the deaf in Khayelitsha. The unique colour of her eyes is a result of her hearing disability and does not affect her eyesight. Her eyes are more light sensitive than normal but she can see perfectly.

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Lilitha Linganiso from Nolathando School for the deaf in Khayelitsha spells her name to the teacher.

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Mbali Gaqazele and Zlmonde Stulweni getting breakfast at Surrey Primary in Manenberg.

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Zahrah Barodien is clinging to her mother at Surrey Primary in Manenberg.

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The grade 1 girls of Highlands Primary School in Mitchells Plain line up to be separated into specific classes.

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Best friends Zoe Welgemoed and Qaiyarah Melrose from Highlands Primary in Mitchells Plain knows each other from Grade R (pre-school education) already.

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Lian Loubser from Highlands Primary in Mitchells Plain gives in to his anxiety when he realised that he was the only child whose name was not on the class register list. This was due to a minor administration error that was corrected immediately, but for a child’s first day of school and as I can recall from my own childhood, this can seem detrimental at the time. If only they knew what lies ahead…


© Photos: Armand Hough

Die Kaapse Klopse

The Kaapse Klopse is a minstrel festival that takes place annually in the beginning of January in Cape Town. It is also referred to as Tweede Nuwe jaar (Second New Year), by local Capetonians. As many as 13000 minstrels took to the streets this year garbed in bright colours, either carrying colourful umbrellas or playing an array of musical instruments.

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Participants are typically from Afrikaans-speaking working class Cape coloured families who have preserved the custom since the mid-19th century.

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People consider the festival a right of renewal that has been shaped by the Cape’s history. The events that are associated with Klopse in the festive season include competitions for the Christmas Choirs, Cape Malay Choirs and Cape minstrel choirs.

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Although it was called the Coon Carnival by the Klopse themselves, local authorities have renamed the festival the Cape Town Minstrel Carnival as foreign tourists find the term “coon” derogatory. Appart from the controversy, The Kaapes Klopse remains one on Cape Town’s proudest and definitely most colourful traditions.

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© Photos: Armand Hough

The Southern Wanderer

_IAM4218 Nature photography was the reason I picked up a camera in the first place. I can recall asking my parents for a subscription of National Geographic at an age when my friends wanted toy cars and G.I. Joe action figures. I guess I realised that the people creating these photographs had to physically go to these amazing places. They would have to interact with the people, hear the sounds and breathe the air. I wanted to bear witness to the world and share my stories. Okavango Delta Southern Wanderer_IAM3104 Roaring African Adventures_171 The opportunity to combine my photographic passions presented itself when a Swedish friend of mine, Gabriella, decided to visit Cape Town and wanted to go on an African adventure. This was my chance to experience my long awaited nature photography desires. _IAM1632 Roaring African Adventures_153 I called up a friend Conrad who I knew did his own overland tours through Africa. His company, Roaring African Adventures and his reputation as an expert in the area preceded him. He quickly customised a two week round trip through four countries including wildlife excursions in several national parks, adrenalin pumping adventurous activities, a traditional canoe safari in the Okavango Delta, and getting face to face with Africa’s wildest inhabitants. He called it “The Southern Wanderer”. Francistown Southern Wanderer_IAM4034Roaring African Adventures_166 The commute from Cape Town to Livingstone was a gruelling fifty two hour bus ride with a quick stopover in Windhoek where we had just enough time to find a dirty chicken shop and buy some last min snacks for the second leg of the drive. In Livingstone we would pick up the overland vehicle. Kavango River Southern Wanderer_IAM3802 Roaring African Adventures_169 On our arrival to Livingstone, it was a race to the Zambezi Waterfront’s swimming pool where we lounged with Mosi Lagers in hand and nurtured our aching muscles from the long bus drive up. Five Australian travellers and a New Zealander joined us and the next morning our journey officially started with a visit to the Zimbabwean side of the Victoria Falls. Roaring African Adventures_159 Zim Hwange Southern Wanderer_IAM2230 We spent the next few days making our way through Zimbabwe, spotting more elephants than local people and we were treated to seeing two lionesses taking down a warthog in the Hwange National park. I was told that we were quite lucky to see this. Roaring African Adventures_170Roaring African Adventures_177 After crossing the border into Botswana we went for the surreal experience of driving through the endless horizons of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, a few more nature reserves and some of the most beautiful game lodges I have ever seen in my life. Roaring African Adventures_161 Kavango River Southern Wanderer_IAM3642 We arrived in Maun after a short drive where we climbed into a couple a Mokoro traditional dugout canoes for a three day trip into the Okavango Delta sharing the aquatic highways with hippo’s, crocodiles and elephants. The wildlife inspecting around out tents was ridiculous and when we spotted fresh lion tracks on one of our walking safaris, it made the situation we put ourselves in so much more real. Roaring African Adventures_059 Roaring African Adventures_087 We crossed the border into Namibia’s Caprivi Strip where we spent an evening sleeping amongst hippos and crocs at the Ngepi Camp. The resort is situated on the banks the Kavango River and is famous for their extravagant tree houses. Roaring African Adventures_156 Roaring African Adventures_008 Back onto the road we headed towards Kasane next to the Chobe River that seperater Namibia and Botswana. There we went on a guided boating safari and camped on the rivers shores. Kavango River Southern Wanderer_IAM3674 Roaring African Adventures_164 Our journey drew to an end as we headed back to The Zambian border but on our return to Livingstone we had a few days to relax and confront the rapids of the mighty Zambezi River on a white water rafting excursion. Livingstone is a town where you can try your hand at many fear inducing activities that the resorts had to offer from walking with lions, elephant safaris and helicopter rides over Vic Falls. Roaring African Adventures_146 Zim Hwange Southern Wanderer_IAM2521 The trip was life changing to say the least and served both as a holiday and a photographic adventure. The food was exquisite, the company was delightful, views mesmerising and the photos, well, I guess they came out all right. Roaring African Adventures_048 RAA CT_NWS_E1_221214_p01

© Photos: Armand Hough

Beyond Bars

It lies at the foot of Muizenberg Mountain, tucked away between the Steenberg wine fields and the mystical Tokai forest. Notorious for its “Numbers Gangs” and as unforgiving as the Cape of Storms once were. Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison.


I had a rear opportunity to photograph some of its inmates at a HIV awareness program held in the prison’s recreational centre. Normally it is strictly forbidden to show the faces of its convicted residents but seeing as I was invited for the occasion, permission was granted.

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Some of South Africa’s most dangerous criminals are held in Pollsmoor Prison. The prison has a staff of 1278 and the capacity to accommodate 4336 offenders, but the current inmate population is over 7000. This figure fluctuates daily.


On my visit to the facility, there was a calm mood among the inmates. Even though there was a strong presents of prison guards, the prisoners spoke openly about their past lives and present treatment.

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The gang related tattoos was visible on most of the inmate’s necks, arms and faces.


Gangsterism is a potent feature of Pollsmoor Prison life, and gangs are segregated into three separate sections on a single floor. The “Numbers Gangs” consists of the 28’s, 27’s and 26’s and dates back to the 1890’s.


Nelson Mandela was the most famous inmate of the prison. He describes Pollsmoor Prison as the truth of Oscar Wilde’s haunting line about the tent of blue that prisoners call the sky. Mandela first spent 18 years on Robben Island, before being transferred to Pollsmoor prison in 1982.


Inmates spend nearly all day in their overcrowded cells, and spend only one hour a day having outdoor exercise in enclosed courtyards. Little exercise occurs during this hour, since gang leaders utilise this time to communicate with prisoners in other cells, exchange drugs and mete out punishment to those in other cells. Any inmate who dares to exercise is called to attention before the gang leaders and may face punishment.

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On this specific occasion, inmates were rewarded for their good behavior during the HIV awareness project with a braai (barbecue) and a stage performance that focuses on life after prison. After spending some time talking to the prisoners, it dawned on me that sadly most of the prisoners that I have met are convicted of such harrowing crimes, that they will never see freedom again.

© Photos: Armand Hough


Assault on the Media

On Thursday the 21st of August myself and journalist Xolani Koyana were doing a few assignments between Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain on the Cape Flats. We decided to go and look if the recent evicted residents close to Town 3 in Khayelitsha where rebuilding their houses and if possible, to get some pictures. As we drove up Mew Way to Baden Powell Drive we unknowingly drove into the wrong end of a stand-off between police and the evicted protesters. When we saw that the road was blocked with telephone poles and realised that the situation was not safe, about 40 protesters were running towards us with weapons and stones. By the time I managed to turn the car around we were already surrounded and Xolani were explaining to the crowd in Xhosa that we are from the newspapers. Despite our efforts and one brave individual amongst the crowd that tried to calm the situation, all the windows started to shatter and we felt the full force of the protest before driving away. This was an unprovoked attack in a situation that we face on a weekly basis and never have I personally experienced such hostility in Khayelitsha before. I urge other members of the media and the general public to be vigilant when passing through these areas and to report protests actions on social media and the authorities. Thank you to my colleagues at the Cape Times and the management of The Independent Newspapers for their quick reaction and support yesterday. Unfortunately I did not have time to take any other photos as events unfolded but I’m glad that nothing more serious happened to us.

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Meeting Willy Mason

About ten years ago I was living and working in London as a van driver. It was a time in my life rich with nomadic friends and soulful music. During this period I grew fond of instrumental music as most of our social gatherings involved live music.

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At one such get-together, I noticed a song that played softly in the ambient background on the VH1 music channel. The track was called “Oxygen” for a young American Artist named Willy Mason. As quick as that I was hooked and began to follow his career.

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For the past two nights, the singer-songwriter from New York, serenaded music lovers at a secret soirée in Cape Town.

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The location? A living room in Oranjezicht.

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Renowned for selling out stadiums and performing in front of thousands of fans, the 29-year-old decided to take on a more intimate setting when he performed in front of only 60 people at a house concert in Oranjezicht.

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“The audience really had time to bond with him more than if they were among a crowd of thousands of people,” Gerhard Maree, event organiser said yesterday. House concerts, not a new concept, have only just started to take off in South Africa, Maree said.

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Maree and his team run City Soirée, a platform which facilitates artists and fans to organise and host events.

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“It’s a lot like a house party – you can’t compare it to a large scale concert at all. The time one has with the artist is very exclusive. Sipping your glass of wine or juice, one gets to internalise every second,” Maree said.

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Mason and US rock band Rival Sons performed for the first time in South Africa, at the OppiKoppi music festival earlier this month.

© Photos by Armand Hough