Murals 16 in Potchefstroom, South Africa

If you visited Potchefstroom, you might think that it was too small to have street children.  Unfortunately, you'd be wrong.  However, the good side of the story was that Potch was small enough that people knew all of the street kids and there were resources available for them.

One of those resources was the Thakaneng Project.  It was a hard name for me to pronounce (or remember), and I did misspell it while sketching the mural, but I loved what it meant.  Thakaneng translated as "A place that is mine".  That was a perfect name for a center that cared for children who needed just such a place!

I drew the sketch in the main room while several of the boys from Thakaneng looked on.  They couldn't believe what happened on the paper right before their eyes.  At least, that's what I was told when their whisperings were translated.  I knew for certain that they didn't expect what would happen on the walls of their center in just two days.

It wasn't all paint and murals though.  I played pool with a couple of the boys from Thakaneng.  Well, that was putting it nicely.  They massacred me all over the table.  One of the boys had the decency to "accidentally" knock in about half of my balls.  The other boy had the decency to smile a lot as he killed me.  Win or lose, it was a lot of fun.

The World Cup was in full swing as I painted in Potchefstroom.  And, all true supporters of Bafana Bafana (the South African team) knew how to do the Diski dance.  It was dance with soccer moves that needed to be performed whenever the team scored.  (Unfortunately, they didn't have the opportunity to dance often enough.)  Anyway, I threw away all pride and asked the boys at the center to teach me a few steps.  I might as well have asked them to teach me Chinese.

The first move had something to do with putting your right leg out and shaking it all about.  But, it was nothing close to the hokey pokey which I mastered in elementary school.  Their legs just flowed.  There was no flow in my leg!  Next, one boy decided to show me another move.  He squatted down on his legs but didn't quite sit on his heels.  Then, he started moving his hips.  I'd never seen hips move like that before in my life!  I might have thrown away my pride, but I wasn't about to try that.

No videos were made of their dance moves, but that would have been wonderful.  And, although photos were taken of my dancing, nobody is ever going to see them.  Thrown away pride can only be thrown so far, after all.  Even though this white man can't dance, I think I made a positive impression.

Actually, I knew the boys appreciated the mural.  Just before I was ready to sign the completed project, painting came to a stop.  The young man who spoke the most English had something to say for everyone in the group.  They wanted to officially thank me for coming to their shelter and painting with them.  Then, one by one, each boy shook my hand.  It was so moving.  These boys had nothing and were thoughtful enough to thank me.  I was used to working with children who had everything and rarely ever thought to make that gesture.  Their act of kindness certainly was the highlight of my day.