In-depth day 18: Final day in Yeoville – take two

SAY CHEESE: A giggle and a laugh as Phillip tells a joke during our picture perfect moment. Photo: Ingrid Woolf

SAY CHEESE: A giggle and a laugh as Phillip tells a joke during our picture perfect moment. Photo: Ingrid Woolf

Well the day has come.

All “good” things must come to an end?

Our time was very limited because the KMM social worker had prior commitments and needed to get ready for Shabbat – the Big Shabbat that happens once a year.

Despite the time constraints she was amazing – willing to do having twice or three times over if need be.

I met with my three interviewees: Pessi, Pauline and Phillip who happily received me again.

I must say Phillip is the sweetest man – he is such a character and has the best sense of humour! I think I’m ready to adopt him as my grandfather! ūüėČ

It was a bit stressful… and nerve wracking trying to make sure the camera was positioned correctly and trying to check that all my was¬†in focus… I may have gotten flustered and even went blank a couple of times during the interviews but I managed to get through it.

It was special to spend time with my interviewees again and lovely to hear more about their lives. I love taking a peek into their fascinating life stories. They have so much to give and so much to tell…

Well after a super busy morning, everything worked out and guess what?

It was all in focus – Hooray!

As I sign off from my last in-depth blog there are a few people I would like to thank: Firstly, to Leon, Ingrid and Glenda who made the fiming possible – thank you for the patience, kindness and love shown throughout!

FAREWELL: A quick pic with the lovely Pessi before we head off. A memory that will be forever cherished. Photo: Ingrid Woolf

FAREWELL: A quick pic with the lovely Pessi before we headed on our way. A memory that will be forever cherished. Photo: Ingrid Woolf

To my wonderful interviewees Pessi, Phillip and Pauline – you are so special and touched me in ways I cannot begin to express

To the wonderful Nigerian Jewish community in Yeoville – thank for being so welcoming and open and for teaching me what it really means to have faith – especially Rabbi Obiekwe and Charity.

To Nechama B, for being an amazing mentor. Thank you for all the guidance, encouragement and help all the way through!

To Michael T – thanks for supplying the sound kit! Without your help I would have had ZERO sound and only half a project.

To you, all my wonderful readers. Thank you for joining me on this journey . Thank you for reading and sharing in this exhausting and most of all brilliant experience!

And last but not least to the Man Upstairs – Hashem. Thank You for helping me to get everything together and for the strength to get through it all!

With love,

Ilanit

 

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In-depth day 17: Happy helpers and bloody footprints

TAKE FIVE: Another taxi selfie as we headed back to Wits before a Highveld thunderstorm hit. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

TAKE FIVE: Another taxi selfie as we headed back to Wits before a Highveld thunderstorm hit. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

Today was spent with part of my group Rofhi, Bongi and Kudzai. I wasn’t 100% prepared for a trip to Yeoville leaving my takkies at home and my hat in the car.

As we scoured Yeoville for someone buying dreadlocks and having them twirled in for Rofhi’s video. As our day went on our hopes began to dwindle until we saw two ladies on Raleigh Street having their dreadlocks put in. One had just started and the other was going to start – Miss Shirley who¬†was in the process of bartering for some new dreads.

We stopped them both and their hairdressers and luckily they were happy to be filmed. We filmed Miss Shirley continuing to barter for her dreads and the decision on what she wanted. We then filmed the start of the process and interviewed both her and the hairdresser.

The other lady made us laugh, “why do you leave these projects for the last minute?” She said half joking/half chastising us. After explaining how we’d been here for three weeks she finally said we could film the process.

Bongi went to help Kudzai with her stuff at the police station while I assisted Rofhi with sound and an “outsiders perspective” with filmin the hairdressers and their dreadlock patrons. We met a mom and her two small kids – a boy and girl who were fascinated with the cameras and how they worked. We showed them pictures and let them look and listen to the pictures and sound. It was super cute.

BLOODY SHOE: My flip-flop just after stepping into a "puddle" of blood in Yeoville - Yuck! Photo: Ilanit Chernick

BLOODY SHOE: My flip-flop just after stepping into a “puddle” of blood in Yeoville – Yuck! Photo: Ilanit Chernick

As we went to meet the other girls, I wasn’t watching my step and somehow managed to walk through a “puddle” of blood… yes blood. Once we got to the police station I had a mild freak out when I saw it all over my flip-flop and some on my foot. I got disinfectant and went into the bathroom of the police station – doing everything in my power not to touch it with my bare hands.

Talk about disgusting…

Once cleaned and after a short food break, Rofhi and I went to interview a lovely Rastafarian about what he thinks about the commercialisation of dreadlocks – a strong spiritual sign of the Rastafarian culture. I met his little son and had a lot of fun running around with him in the garden. We kept making funny faces and playing games with my “Highveld Lions” cap in-between doing the sound of course.

After a lovely chat where he also explained to me the connections between Jews and Rastafarian’s we headed back to Raleigh Street to film¬†the progress and conclusion of the hairdressers and their patrons.

Our Rastafarian friend escorted us back there with his son as he didn’t feel it was “safe” to be walking around two girls alone.

We took our final shots and as the storm clouds began to gather, we realised it was time to head back or face a rain shower – all our equipment in hand. We ran to catch a taxi (my fifth one!) and made it back just before the storm hit.

Lots of walking, lots of little adventures and quite a few laughs later and an awesome partner in crime like Rofhi… all I can say is:

I’m exhausted!

Good night ūüôā

Day 16: There and back again

Despite my disheartening day yesterday, today was a little more on the up side.

I went back to Yeoville with Luke, his group and Kudzai to get a few more shots of my Nigerian Jews.

Our first stop was at the hill so that Luke could get some cutaways and B-role for his video.

COLOURFUL PRAYER: A group of Christian worshipers praying on the hill top in Yeoville. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

COLOURFUL PRAYER: A group of Christian worshipers praying on the hill top in Yeoville. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

 

Afterwards we headed off to my Nigerian Rabbi. He and his community never fail to inspire me.

While the girls waited in the car, Luke and I headed in to see the Rabbi and take some pictures. One of the congregants told us that “Rabbi is eating lunch and we don’t disturb him during lunch.”

We waited for him in the Synagogue as one of the congregants came in and did the daily afternoon prayer. I watched him take his shoes off, get on his knees and say a number of different verses. It was beautiful.

The Rabbi came in and greeted us with a warm “Shalom Aleichem!” (Meaning Welcome, peace be upon you.)

I explained what I needed and off we went to do my photo shoot. We started chatting afterwards and he asked me if I’d like to chat with his majesty, Igwe Royal Highness)¬†Eze Eri, the leader and Chief Rabbi/Spiritual Leader of the Igbo Jews. He is the direct descendant of Gad, son of the patriarch Jacob.

“Now?” I said.

“Yes I will call him now. He would love to speak to you! I will phone him in Nigeria now!”

I was mildly shocked and in awe that this was about to take place. The thought of speaking to someone who knows he is directly related to a biblical figure was overwhelming.

Shalom Aleichem Igwe Eze Eri, Ze Rabbi Natan m’Drom Afrika,” said Rabbi Obiekwe. Natan is Rabbi Sylvester’s¬†Hebrew name. (The above translates as “Peace be upon you your highness Eze Eri, this is Rabbi Natan from South Africa” – in Hebrew I might add) They proceeded to speak in Igbo (a Nigerian language spoken in Southern and Eastern Nigeria) and Rabbi Sylvester handed me the phone.

We spoke for about 10 minutes about my project and I told him how wonderful his community is in South Africa and I hope to come visit the community in Nigeria. He told me about a few holidays and celebrations the Igbo Jews would be having in Nigeria soon and explained his lineage and role as leader.

IT'S ART: As we left Yeoville I came across this amazing piece of graffiti on a wall. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

IT’S ART: As we left Yeoville I came across this amazing piece of graffiti on a wall. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

He gave me an incredible blessing at the end of the conversation which included “doing well with my project”, “being successful with everything”, that I should “flourish as a Jewess and follow the ways of G-d [Hashem]” and that I should “have a long, happy and peaceful life.”

I handed the phone back to Rabbi Obiekwe¬†and Rabbi Obiekwe¬†said that Igwe Eri and his community would be happy to sponsor a trip for me, a friend and Rabbi Obiekwe to meet and see the Jewish community of Nigeria. I should just “let him know if I want to come”.

It sounds like a pretty awesome plan!

We thanked the Rabbi, said our goodbyes and headed back to the car – I must admit, I was in a bit of a daze.

We then helped Roxi, Thabi and Palesa film at their barbers on Rocky and headed back to the car. On the way, I once again got hit on by another old “Sugar Daddy”. His comment was something I’m not going to share on this forum…

COOLING DOWN: A chilled end to busy but fun day. Photo: Wits Student

COOLING DOWN: A chilled end to busy but fun day. Photo: Wits Student

We got back to Wits, Luke and I giggling and having fun the entire trip back and the two of us wanted ice-cream.

So we went on an “adventure” to the Matrix to find some good old-fashioned ice-cream. Yum!

The perfect ending to a productive (and albeit amazing) day!

In-depth day 15: A snag in the road

HANDS UP: Today this is how I felt after hearing about the need to redo last weeks video footage. Photo: Iakov Kalinin, Huffington Post

DOWN UNDER: Today this is how I felt after hearing about the need to redo last weeks video footage. Photo: Iakov Kalinin, Huffington Post

I feel like I’m flapping, trying to keep my head above water… trying not to sink like a stone to the bottom of an unforeseeable ocean floor.

In other words my filming and editing process has hit a “minor” bump.

Zaheer, our video mentor took a look at the footage I acquired last week and unfortunately he needs me to redo some of the shots… well most of them actually. He was happy with my plan, my ideas and even my B-role filming – just not so happy with my interviewee footage. Some was a little unfocused, others not aligned properly but as he said, “This is how you learn to make things better – you’ve done well so far but lets take it that extra step.”

So I’m re-filming some of the car scenes and two of the interviews this Friday with the social worker from Kosher Mobile Meals. I was a little disheartened but I know it’ll make me a better journalist and a more professional one in the end.

“Nothing ever goes according to plan, you’re always going to hit a snag somewhere, but you just have to work through it and you will!” – Zaheer.

He¬†showed me exactly where I went wrong and taught me how to correct my mistakes and make “Take Two” shine. I just hope it will…

There’s a part of me that feels disappointed and a little broken inside because I thought I gave it my all… But¬†as William Hickson once said:”If at first you don’t succeed try try again!” And that I shall do even if I feel like I’m flailing…

On the plus side, TJ, our photography mentor was happy with the photos I’ve taken of the Nigerian Jewish community. I just need to get those “establishing” shots of the Rabbi and the outside of the Synagogue which is what I’ll be doing tomorrow with my partner in “crime” Luke Matthews.

Well here’s to a better day tomorrow and a more productive one.

Take two: Lights, camera… action!

In-depth day 14: Edit it

I came into university early this morning to get copy all my content from filming onto the computers. A back up as it were and easy access for my editing.

It took almost 2 hours to get everything on and as I waited I started looking through, picking and editing my stills from my time at the Nigerian Synagogue. I realised I needed to get an “establishing shot” of the outside of the Synagogue and the Rabbi and some congregants walking into the premises. Also realised a picture of the Rabbi standing outside or in the entrance would be a good idea to shoot too. So I need to plan when I’m going to get that done – tomorrow or Tuesday should work well.

Finally, the footage had all copied and I decided to get going with some editing so I would have something to show the video mentor, Zaheer in the morning. I spent most of the day finding a bit of music, editing and cutting video footage and syncing the sound. I managed to get 2 minutes and 26 seconds “slapped” together and felt satisfied with what I’d produced.

Yet as the end of my day approached the nerves started kicking in that both the photo and video mentors were going to be unhappy with my work and I might have to redo everything.

My anxiety towards Yeoville has settled but I still don’t enjoy spending my time there – despite the amazing journey and people I have met. That is what makes it bearable: the people, the old Jews who have been living there for over 60 years and the new Jews – my Nigerian brothers and sisters who have been living there for just a couple of years.

In-depth day 13: Old times

OLD TIMES: Photos depicting a sneak peek into the vast Jewish history of Yeoville. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

OLD TIMES: Photos depicting a sneak peek into the vast Jewish history of Yeoville. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

With the last set of Jewish holidays around the corner, I decided to stay a little closer to home.

I finally got an appointment atthe Jewish archives and headed over there to take some pictures and cutaways of old Yeoville newspaper cuttings and photos to add into my video.

I love looking at historical items, photos and the like. It fascinates me. Looking at the roots and discovering unknown facts about a once prominently Jewish area like Yeoville gets my adrenaline pumping.

I walked into a large room filled with tons of shelves and boxes upon boxes of photos, memoirs, newspaper cuttings, old books, records and information about places.

I discovered photos dating all the way back to the 1930s – the Synagogue (which today is a Congolese church) and a kindergarten class at the Jewish school in the area.

ARCHIVE SELFIE: There are another 6 or 7 sets of shelves in the room. This is just a taste of what it looks like. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

ARCHIVE SELFIE: There are another 6 or 7 sets of shelves in the room. This is just a taste of what it looks like. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

I even found a picture of an old cousin of the family’s who I didn’t even know lived in Yeoville during her life.

It took some time to make a collage and search through the information I was given and I was helped by a lovely lady who runs the place and keeps everything so ordered.

After taking my time to order the pictures, take some videos and stills, I packed up all the archive materials supplied and handed it back in. I headed out and made my way to Wits to do a few odds and ens.

I’ve started doing the first steps of actually putting something rough together for my video which is quite exciting. It’s going to be a long process but hopefully it will go well.

With that, I’m outta here!

Chag Sameach to all my Jewish readers! ūüėČ

 

In-depth day 12: films and stills – “D-Day”

I’ve been trying to process today. I am struggling¬†to express in words what I’ve seen… what I’ve experienced.

This was kindness beyond measure. Something that touched a chord within me – deep within me.

Today… today is the reason why I chose to do¬†journalism.

Today was filming day. It was all planned and ready. Of we went to Yeoville at 7.30am to meet and deliver home-cooked food parcels to members of the Jewish community still living in the area. The aim of the Jewish organisation is to bring home-cooked meals to the Jewish elderly who are unable to cook for themselves.

So today this was our mission: Delivering to the Jewish recipients around Yeoville!

There are about 18 in the area that the organisation knows of.

I had the honour of interviewing three beautiful people during the trip while also chatting with the social worker, Ingrid, who helps to run the organisation. Phil, Pessi and Pauline shared their life stories Рthe happy and the sad, the triumphs and the many difficulties Рand also explained to me why they still lived in Yeoville.

As we left each home – a hug and a kiss on the cheek was shared and a promise of my return to have tea and spend more time with them in a more “social capacity” (in the words of Pessi). I was blown away¬†at¬†the warmth shown and that¬†these people were so willing to give me an opportunity to take a peak into their lives and share in their stories.

I’m a little sad that I didn’t take any photos with each interviewee but I guess the best memories are those you truly feel rather than capture.

Part of the delivery root was to the heart of Hillbrow – a place where not many venture but we did and it was special meeting the people who still do their best to make the best of their lives despite the challenges of living in such a place.

And yet, they are happy there. Their lives are there and as many said, their neighbours (all colours and religions) are always so helpful.

One of my favourite experiences from today was seeing how one of the recipients gives a small donation each time the organisation delivers food as her way of saying thank you despite being elderly and living in difficult circumstances.

There is so much to share and so much to think about. To be honest no blog or words can describe the feelings experienced after such an emotional day.

Today was food for thought and once I’ve gathered my thoughts together properly I will tell you more.

Until tomorrow’s adventure: Good night everybody! ūüôā

 

In-depth day 11: Why I hate lifts…

I’ve never had a phobia of lifts but I’ve always had a mild phobia of being stuck in a lift.

STUCK: A lift selfie  while biding my time in an immobile lift in Yeoville. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

NOT HAPPY: A lift selfie while biding my time in a stuck lift in Yeoville. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

I was always the¬†lucky one in the journalism class – I had never had the “pleasure” of being¬†stuck in the notorious Wits Art Museum lifts like a number of my colleagues have. However, today my¬†luck changed.

After visiting a family friend who’s moved out of Yeoville but still works there, I climbed into the solid but dodgy lift to leave the building. She works on the 4th floor of¬†a building a few roads away from¬†Rocky street (don’t ask me to name it).

The lift gave a shudder and low and behold I was stuck between a rock and hard place Рin-between the second and third floor, the doors half open. It was just me inside the lift which made me panic slightly. With shaky and sweaty hands, I pressed the alarm button which gave off a very meek sound and the intercom buzzed:

“Hello!” Came a heavily accented voice, “Are you stuck?”

“Yes!” I answered, “The lift just stopped.”

“What your foot is stopped?”

“No! The lift is stuck!”

“We send someone now to fix it. No panic. It happens a lot.”

Well nobody came and after 20 minutes no one had come and I realised the doors were slightly open and I could see the third floor and reach it. I decided I was going to do a “James Bond” and try climb out. I jumped up and gripped the edge of the third floor. After 10 minutes of huffing, puffing, a chorus of “bad idea, bad idea” and making funny noises I managed to climb up – all red in the face. As I began to stand up I noticed three workmen standing there, giggling at my “James Bond” attempt – not my finest hour!

PEACE OUT: Taking in the fresh air after being stuck in a stuffy lift for nearly 15 minutes. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

PEACE OUT: Taking in the fresh air after being stuck in a stuffy lift for nearly 15 minutes. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

What did I do to waist the time until my final escape attempt? Sat on the floor of course and in true journalism looked at the photos I’d taken and went over my plan for “D-Day” (which is happening tomorrow).

After a chorus of, “are you okay?” from the workmen, I headed outside to do a couple of last minute errands¬†in Yeoville (like some photos, say hi to Rabbi Obiekwe and the like) and also managed to organised a trip to the Jewish archives¬†on Wednesday morning to photograph some of the old photos of Yeoville in its hey-day.

As I headed back to the car, I looked up and saw the sun shinning through the trees. I took a minute to be thankful and to have a breather. I realised having a breather alone in Yeoville is not the cleverest thing to do so I climbed back into the car and headed back to Wits.

Lesson of the day: It’s always better to take the stairs.

 

 

In-depth day 10: cameras and conversations

As we build up to filming day (this coming Tuesday!), I have been working hard on perfecting my storyboard which I hope I will be able to stick to loosely at least.

I spent my day driving around Yeoville with my sister who kindly took time out of her Sunday to help me practice my filming. I practiced my camera angling and tried to focus on the shots that could be used on “D-Day”. My main obstacles are keeping the camera still as we drive and using the light to aid me and lighten the driver not darken her.

After a few practice runs and a bit of frustration from my side I finally managed to get the angling and lighting right! There can be miracles… let’s just pray I can get it right first try on Tuesday!

Once that was done, we headed home and once again got confirmation from the Social Worker at Kosher Mobile Meals that everything was set and ready¬†for Tuesday. I must say I’m quite excited to take¬†part of such a brilliant initiative.

After that I called Rabbi Obiekwe to ask him a few questions that I needed clarification on for my written piece. We had a great chat and it ended off with him giving me a blessing for the rest of the Jewish holiday Sukkot which we are currently celebrating.

The rest of the afternoon was spent correcting my “apostrophe abuse”, adding information and taking out the “yucky phrasing” in my written piece. With that Draft number three is finished.

I also called the Jewish archives to organise an appointment to take photos¬†of the old photographs depicting Yeoville in its Jewish hey-days which I will be incorporating into “D-Days” video. Tomorrow afternoon or Wednesday morning are the dates I have asked for. Hopefully my request will be granted!

Well that’s a wrap… until tomorrow’s adventure, I’m outta here!

Arriva Dirche!

 

In-depth day 9: Difference

HOLINESS: Rabbi Obiekwe does a reading from a Jewish scripture and shows how they've traced their lineage through this biblical passage. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

HOLINESS: Rabbi Obiekwe does a reading from a Jewish scripture and shows how they’ve traced their lineage through this biblical passage. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

After yesterday’s hectic but incredible day, today was a little calmer.

I met briefly with the Igbo Jews to chat to a few of them about what it means to be Jewish.

The Rabbi of the congregation together with a few of the members spoke to me about their struggle to be recognised as Jews and how people judge their authenticity on their skin colour.

“When I tell people I am Jewish, they don’t always believe me. They say, ‘but your skin colour, you are black,¬†how can you be Jewish?’ Not all Jewish people are from Europe. There are Jews all over the world with different coloured skin.” Said a member of the congregation.

I was shocked to find that people can be so ignorant and close minded. “But what about the Ethiopian Jews, it’s never been refuted that they’re Jewish and they’re black.”

Rabbi Obiekwe agreed with me and explained how human features change according to the place where people live and the climate.

“The skin, the colour and the features all change with every generation that is born.”

All the Igbos I spoke with expressed their pride to be Jewish and told me how blessed they feel to be a part of the Jewish nation.

I watched a few rituals (some which I couldn’t take photos of because of the level of holiness the¬†actions entrail) but I did get some pictures of two rituals that are done before entering the Synagogue area as a means of purification. It was beautiful to witness.

After my trip to the Igbos, I headed back to Wits and spent some time working on my video script and shots.One thing I’ve learned is video journalism is that things never goes according to plan.

But might as well have something solid that I can stick to roughly. It always helps!

Well time to sign-off for the next few days. The Jewish holiday of Sukkot is starting shortly. (It’s my favourite time of the year!)

I’ll be back on Sunday! Until then… Ciao!