Ottery life captured in coffee table book

ROSHAN ABRAHAMS

If only the pavements could speak, then people would know what really is going on in Ottery.

This sentiment of Christo Williams, 28, community youth leader of Africa Jam, was penned in one of two separate books of quotes and photographs which are in the proof-reading process.

Life captured through the barrel of my lens, is a coffee table book, with photographs which tell stories about life in Ottery.

A daily devotional read has inspirational quotes and topics about his life growing up in Ottery.

The manuscripts were compiled over 18 months, said Mr Williams, and he would like to promote his work in the months leading up to the launch through pop up exhibitions of his photographs or roadshows where he is also planning to give motivational talks, in and around Cape Town.

He said he wants to share insight and guidance with the “distraught” community.

“In doing so I will create a database to find out how many people are interested in reading my story, then I would have that amount of copies printed,” said Mr Williams.

He grew up in the Ottery “marble flats”, where gang wars can erupt at any time of the day or night, and said there are other communities who can relate to his life.

“Communities from Manenberg, Hanover Park and Lavender Hill who are going through a similar crises such as the gang was will relate my story. I want to share my experiences with them,” said Mr Williams.

He worked on his compilation of thoughts, ideas and lessons learnt through his teen and adolescent years in Ottery.

It covers themes such as “If pavements could speak”; “Life through the barrel of my lens”; “Where you are now is just one chapter not your full story, don’t give up”; and “Exhale those fumes of unworthiness”.

He said these topics and quotes came as an inspiration in nights and days where “we feared for our lives and survived many heart-wrenching moments in Ottery.”

Many times the family were forced to find shelter and to stay away from windows as stray bullets would ricochet into their flat during fights between rival gangs in Ottery.

“It was in a corner on the floor where, I basically wrote the daily devotional. It was the only place away from windows where I could sit and write even when shootings broke out,” he said.

When he was in Grade 8, at Lotus High School, a tragic “shift” came in his life.

“My mother was shot.”

The school is in close proximity to the Ottery flats. “We heard gun- shots. Twenty minutes later a boy came to school to tell us that my mother had been shot. I was devastated.”

He was filled with anger and fear. “My mother was shot in the arm, and the bullet pierced through her arm and landed in her back.”

Since then I knew I wanted to help the community. My parents played an instrumental role rearing us through difficult challenges,” said Mr Williams. Fortunately, his mother survived the shooting.

He said one of the excerpts he wrote is dedicated to women. “I wrote it in Afrikaans. It’s about the strength of a woman, a mother who raises her children. It is awareness of what a woman is about.

“We are five children, four boys and one girl. My mother’s door was always open to many friends and neighbours. She would allow anyone who needed a roof over their head, to sleep over.”

His mission to lead the youth continued. “A great guy, Morné Davids, from Ottery, invited me to join a youth club which took us to youth camps.”

Mr Williams said he has always been interested in people. “I was always drawn to people and the dynamics of how people think. I live by a famous quote, ‘If you say you can and if you say you can’t, both are correct’, because the brain does not know the difference.”

He believes poverty and unemployment are in “the mindsets of people”.

“You can live in Ottery, but that doesn’t mean you have to conform to what’s popular in Ottery. You don’t have to do things just to fit in.”

After matric he made a choice to study Human Resources (HR) at Cape Peninsula University and Technology. However, two years later he was faced with another challenge.

“My mother got ill with a tumour on the brain and my dad was retrenched.

His mother survived the removal of the brain tumour despite concerns by doctors. “She’s a fighter and lives a full life today,” he said.

However, he said he had to step in to assist his family in making ends meet. “I had to help look after the family. I started writing Curriculum Vitaes (CVs) for people. While typing CVs, I spotted the need in the community.”

Through a bursary Mr Williams was able to study a course in youth development at the Cape Bible Training Centre.

“I got my diploma and the tools to organise workshops and programmes to empower youth.”

His job took him to Minnesota in America where he spent 21 days visiting schools and universities doing motivational talks; sharing his story about living in South-Africa and exhibiting his photographs.

“The most memorable moment I’ve experienced through my journey was to be able to walk in a park after 9pm.”

He said he saw people jogging and enjoyed it because “in Ottery we can never go to a park at night.”

Mr Williams said he wrote about topics such as, “If pavements could speak”, they would talk about the “future leaders who are walking on these pavements in Ottery”.

He said he has done research on the history of Ottery and the greater Cape Flats area. He also touched on issues in Ottery such as teenage pregnancies and drug addiction.

Mr Williams said communities can invite him to speak about his experiences and he will set up an exhibition of his photographs and the story they tell.

He is also appealing to people, businesses or organisations who are able to assist in the printing and distribution process of his books, to help.

Contact Mr Williams on Whats App 078 829 5069 or 073 788 3833 or email christowilliamz@gmail.com