Slice of Life: ​Jenny comes to Jo’burg to forge a new life as an artist

Siphelele ‘Irey Lady’ Mkhize. (Madelene Cronjé)

Siphelele ‘Irey Lady’ Mkhize. (Madelene Cronjé)

I stood there, in my small apartment, hungry and alone. I stared at my phone as I contemplated calling my mother. I wanted to call her because it’s really tough here [in Johannesburg] but I remembered why I left home to begin with. Empageni is home – that is where my family is but I did not belong there. Before anything else I am a street artist. My art belongs in the streets and it is created for the streets.

I looked at my phone again. I stared at my contact list and searched for uMa’s number. Calling her is not really an option because I have gone against everything that she wanted me to be. She wanted me to be a mechanical engineer, but I chose art. I know my life would have been easier if I pursued a career like that – I wouldn’t be struggling to make it.

Empangeni was suffocating me and everywhere I went people would stare at me. I love my family and all the people I left behind at home but I love my art even more. I don’t have to tuck away parts of me to be accepted. Here, in Jo’burg, there are many people like me. They dress like me, they love the music I like and they don’t think I am strange. Nobody questions why I have a mohawk or all these piercings. Nobody turns twice to look at me.

  I love Jo’burg but it is hard here. I kept staring at my phone. I could not press that call button, so I put it down on the table. I didn’t call my mother. I must survive on my own. Being hungry is part of the hustle. – Siphelele ‘Irey Lady’ Mkhize, 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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