This shy young girl of eleven or twelve was already practicing her dance alone when I was invited into the gloomy, bare building where every late afternoon excited youngsters of all ages arrived to practice their traditional dance routines. She seemed lost in the moment and seemed to be dancing for her life.  She was a scrap of a thing with the physical signs of a poor diet and not a regular attender at school. In Soweto, if you don’t have a school uniform, you don’t go to school. But she danced with such energy and enjoyment – breath-taking. The bars at the doors and windows were like a cage and she, like a delicate bird, reached for the light.

I never forgot this nameless girl. On visiting Kliptown again, more than two years later, I met a group of girls working in the SKY yard with a dance teacher from a Johannesburg theatre. I had used the image of the girl on one of my business cards and on enquiring if they knew the girl there was a chorus of ‘It’s Nokuthula!’ They called to a girl watching the dance teacher’s every move.



Thanks to the work of Soweto Kliptown Youth, Nokuthula was starting to flourish; attending school – and, at the time of taking, was still dancing. But life is fragile in Kliptown…