Giving back to Kliptown, Soweto

This weekend I accompanied the Help Portrait photographers from the Kliptown trip a couple of months ago to give back the portraits that they had taken that day.  When we arrived I was sad to notice that many of the children from the shoot were not there – they were still away in their homelands for the Christmas holiday.  It was such a shame as I really enjoyed spending the day with these children last time and wanted to play again!  The kids that were there were this time still loved to play, loved to cuddle and LOVED to have their picture taken.  Cries of “shoot me, shoot me” ring out the whole time that you are there (don’t ever misinterpret the meaning of this phrase.  You could end up in prison).  It is quite difficult to leave as they don’t stop shouting it and you really want to take their picture.  Even though they will never see that picture, which is really kind of sad

I loved this little guy. He offered to share his sweets with me. I think it was just coloured sugar. He enjoyed it immensely

Karen had printed out the portraits, and we lay them out on trestle tables for everyone to see and pick their own photo.  It was heart warming to see a childs face when they recognised themself in their photo and how chuffed they were with it, but it was equally heartbreaking that there were a large number of them that just dont recognise a photo of themselves as they don’t have access to a mirror often enough to know what they look like


The portrait receiving was over fairly quickly, with lots of kids collecting for their friends that were away.  They were proudly walking around with their stack of photos, and you could tell they were looking forward to giving their friend their own picture.  There were so many smiles it was unbelievable!

We were given a short tour of the township and we learnt a hell of a lot about living conditions, daily life and how they cope there.  It is a humbling experience to see the conditions that people live in compared to us.  These guys have no running water, no electricity and share 150 toilets between 44,000 people, yet they always have smiles for us.  I have felt rather miserable lately, but trips like this put things in perspective

The kids were as loving as ever, and you are mobbed by cuddles and smiles when you are there.  Those cuddles are medicine for my soul.  I’m telling you – if you are ever feeling down then you should get yourself to Kliptown for those cuddles.  They are amazing

Someone asked me what difference the Help Portrait initiative makes.  Here is what Karen has to say about it:

“It’s easy to meet people in a place like Kliptown and feel that we should be giving food and clothes.  People would think – “Why would a photograph matter?” But if you interacted with these folks every day, you would know that the best thing one can offer to them is not food.  It’s respect, honour and hope.  It’s recognising that they are special.  It’s giving an identity to every individual.  It’s giving them a picture to remind them of the person they really are and what they are truly worth. For many of these folks, the shot we give them in the Help Portrait movement may be the only shot they will ever have of themselves in their lifetime.”


I’m definitely going to shoot for Help Portrait this year.  I didn’t have the confidence last year, but I have gained more experience behind the lens so I have no excuse now.  The only thing is, if I am shooting portraits how am I going to play with the kids?!  It’s my number 1 favourite thing to do in Jozi.  Who want’s to take my place playing around instead?!



6 thoughts on “Giving back to Kliptown, Soweto

  1. Love all of your pics and glad you are going to help shoot for Help Portrait this year 🙂

    I’ll gladly take your place playing with the kids!


  2. A lovely piece on a moving event Martina – you’re fully immersed in township-joy now!

    Welcome to Help-Portrait 😉

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