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Kasi kleva and the township twinkletoes

Johnny Masilela

My stereotypical mind suggested that, like many of the physically challenged, the little man must be a recluse with low self-esteem. How wrong I was.

Pretoria’s erstwhile man about town, Bra Goldfinger, and modern-day kleva Tebza have much in common.

Tebza continues to be a popular dancer at jazz collectors’ sessions in townships and villages outside the North West town of Brits. Jazz sessions are where the streetwise showcase designer clothing, from time to time sipping the most expensive whisky.

My uncle Goldfinger is in retirement in Mabopane outside Pretoria, his dazzling nimble-toed dance routines a distant memory.

When I first met Tebza, my stereotypical mind suggested that, like many of the physically challenged, the little man must be a recluse with low self-esteem. How wrong I was.

Tebza is actually a jazz dancer of note, and a portrait artist. He has sold, among other artworks, a painting of Nelson Mandela. Those who know him say he is also an actor featured in amateur DVDs.

The stereotype in me was recently once again exposed when I tried to help Tebza (real name: Tebogo) into the rather high seat of my car. The midget artist shoved me off and leapt on to the seat without my help!

He was taking me to his RDP home in the Brits township of Letlhabile, to show me some of his artworks.

The one that drew my attention was a self-portrait, which is more of a caricature of the little man who obviously likes poking fun at himself.

Tebza shares the humble RDP house with his elder sister, who is also a midget. He tells me his sister survives on a social grant, but stares at me with angry eyes when I ask whether he also registered for a social grant.

“Ek is nie ‘n moegoe nie [I’m no fool],” he retorts.

He then tells me how he makes money by painting murals at local schools and entertains guests at jazz sessions with his dance routines.

During years gone by, Bra Goldfinger used to dazzle fellow jazz lovers at get-togethers held in halls across the townships of Pretoria.

Bra Goldfinger is also an artist in his own right. I remember how my uncle used to spice his tsotsitaal with lines borrowed from jazz albums and the movies.

Beautiful women were called “Cleopatra, girl of my dreams”, and his favourite whisky was renamed 100 Mapapiro!

(Bra Goldfinger is the younger brother to arguably the most popular shebeen owner in Pretoria, Bra Musa, to whom I recently offered a bottle of whisky when he turned 80.)

Tebza and Bra Goldfinger are unlikely ever to meet, for Bra Goldfinger is confined to a wheelchair, a Zion Christian Church lapel badge on his breast.

The Moria-based church discourages the consumption of beverages such as whisky.

Johnny Masilela is a veteran South African journalist

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