Click. Click. Click. She smiles at me but doesn't see me and still clicks her camera

"How do you come into someone’s place and not respect it?" (Paul Botes, M&G)

"How do you come into someone’s place and not respect it?" (Paul Botes, M&G)

A young woman walks towards the entrance of my stall – she is probably about 25 years old. I am seeing her through the space between the door and the frame.

She has one of those fancy cameras hanging around her neck. She keeps looking around. She is enamoured by everything that is around her. Click. Click. Click.

I don’t think she’s ever been to a place like this. She is looking at the drawing on my wall outside. I can guess which one has her attention, it is probably the one of the woman in full imvubulo (traditional wear). Click. Click. Click.

The Ndebele statuettes on the stand opposite my wall are drawing her closer into my stall. She enters and walks straight to them; her eyes are fixated on the colours.

She moves closer. She stretches her hand to one of the dolls, reaching to feel the texture of the cloth. Just before she puts her hand on it I say, “Sawubona, can I help you?”

She smiles at me but her smile makes me small, it degrades me. She smiles at me like I am stupid. She thinks she is being polite but I know exactly what that smile means. She says she likes the things in my shop. They are “intriguing”. I say nothing. Click. Click. Click.

She didn’t ask for my permission to photograph my possessions, in my place of business. Click. Click. Click.

Basishutha sengathi siyizimfene ezihlalele bona (They take pictures of us like baboons on display for them).

I tell her to leave my stall before I whip her with my sjambok. How do you come into someone’s place and not respect it? How do you just take pictures? She does not see me, many like her never do. They don’t even buy any- thing, they just want to shoot. Click. Click. Click.

Usiko lwethu lolu, izinkolelo zethu (This is our culture, our beliefs. Who we are). I am tired. – Mam’Zodwa, a stallholder at Kwa Mai Mai Market in Johannesburg,   as told to Pontsho Pilane

 
Pontsho Pilane

Pontsho Pilane

Pontsho Pilane is a health journalist at the Mail & Guardian. She debuted as a journalist at The Daily Vox, where she wrote primarily about gender, race and how they intersect. She was previously a general news reporter at the M&G. Pilane holds two degrees in media studies from Wits University. Read more from Pontsho Pilane

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