Slice of Life: The man in silver

There’s an audience, captivated and curious. Delighted youngsters in school uniforms look on: one man in shimmering silver, his gaze hidden behind shades, has brought a street corner in Johannesburg to a standstill.

Each city corner is his stage. At times he’s a statue, utterly still, as people move past him. When he moves, he startles them, bringing a moment of levity to a mundane workday.

Despite the attention his bright costume and bold poses draw, they’re not really a reflection of his personality.

“I’m a quiet guy which is why I enjoy this so much. I don’t have to talk, I just listen,” says Jasto Mfisa, using his stage name.

His real name is Justice Mngomezulu (26), and he calls Orange Farm township home. His parents split when he was six months old. For 13 years he lived with his father in KwaZulu-Natal. His mother, a domestic worker, visited once a year.

At 13, tired of not really knowing his mother, he went in search of her. Using the Christmas money she’d given him to buy shoes, he hopped on taxis until he arrived at his mother’s family home in Mpumalanga. That was where she found him – and brought him to Orange Farm.

“I didn’t really know my mother when I was young, until I was able to speak, and walk and see what (having) a mother means,” he says.

His father is now reluctant to provide financial support, and he’s too proud to ask. But his performances are not about the money. It’s a way to fulfill his dream of acting.

His favourite stage is near the bridge at the Bree Street taxi rank, near the statue of a mother with a baby tied to her back.

“I get a feeling from what I do. It makes me happy, and I can show everyone my ideas,” he says.

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Raeesa Pather
Raeesa Pather
Ra’eesa Pather is a Cape Town-based general news and features journalist.

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