Although I was lucky enough to turn my passion into my job, I feel like I’ve always had a strained relationship with my career. Like trying to separate two sides of the same coin, in fashion cleaving design from commercial doesn’t come easy. And then, after a while of racking my brain over coin-tossing, I came across AWAKE. A few calls, emails and a few weeks’ notice later I was on a plane heading towards the opposite side of the world.
The first thing you notice about Jo’burg – especially after five years in London’s ever-present cloud cluster clogging the sky – is the slivers of sun seeping past buildings. But there’s nothing like thunderstorms down here. On the first chance we had, we played Toto’s ‘Africa’ and watched the rain clouds clashing alongside lightning streaks. And the thunder; It’s hard to describe the rumbling as it rattles the sky, how that tremor percolates through walls, all the way deep down into your bones, a sound that gives you goosebumps – you could almost believe the earth is about to crumble beneath your feet.
Once the excitement of the first few days dwindled, in came a new stream of things to do: between scripts, shoots and trying to set our projects straight, the AWAKE office has been buzzing. One of the shoots took me to an interview In Kliptown, a suburb in Soweto, where we interviewed Thulani Madondo for one of our SDG videos.
“African problems need African solutions”, he said, a grave glimmer in his eye as he launched into what the Kliptown Youth Programme has to offer to the community. I’ve heard that quote before, but never coming from such a personal place. That it got me thinking, and then some. I thought back to a shoot in Alex a few weeks before. To the rest of that day in Soweto, to recording footage of a mine dump and noticing how thick and congested the air was, to the acrid smell of sulphur sifting through the air – and the headache I took got from it. And I think it was at that moment when I truly began understanding what consciousness and awareness mean.
At the end of the day, the three of us that went to the Soweto shoot got to go home, shower and kick back, but the people on Kliptown stay there, that’s their everyday. I don’t mean to imply that it’s not a good one, as a matter of fact, few times have I seen such a deep-seated sense of community.
I’ve grown up mostly in Spain, but the small part I’ve kept from Brazil is still there, no matter where I go or what I do, that’s staying with me forever. During the years there’s been a lot of travelling and moving around, and yet, I don’t think I’ve ever come across anything as polarising as these eight weeks. For one, Jo’burg is close to impossible to describe. The short drive between Sandton and Alex alone, where you go from behemoth buildings rising above carefully cropped flowerbeds to tortuous dirt paths and streets cramped with freshly picked fruit stands next to a shoe repair makeshift shop. Maybe its the contrast that this has brought to my attention, or all the things that I’ve taken for granted, perhaps it’s standing there knowing that there’s so much still to do and quietly assimilating that no one can do it alone. And keeping that inkling stock-still, not repressing it nor loosing it, just keeping it in a stable vacuum, has possibly been one of the toughest challenges I’ve had in a long time.
If that tidbit is lost, there goes the drive that might inspire something great – maybe only in my eyes, maybe it’ll go on to inspire someone else, who knows. By awareness that’s what I understand; standing still in a single frame of your life having exactly no clue as to what the hell to do next, but knowing beyond the shadow of a doubt that there is a chance, that no situation is entirely hopeless. And the first step is not mapping out a path, but just putting one foot in front of the other.