Luke Koeries had a great legacy to live up to. His father was a policeman and
community leader in the crime-ridden area of Ocean View in the Cape Flats. Growing
up, the young boy couldn’t wait to follow in his father’s footsteps. But when his dad
passed on, nine-year-old Koeries was plunged into an emotional whirlwind. Instead of
succumbing to despair, he realised he could celebrate his father’s life. “I told myself I
need to stand up and make a positive difference,” Koeries says.
At the age of 17, while still in high school, he launched Kids Are Kids. With the NPO,
Koeries creates a safe environment for children in his hometown. Here, the fear of gang
violence keeps them indoors. Koeries disrupts this atmosphere by arranging outdoor
games, community events, and food drives. His projects are a light in the world these
kids are exposed to – and they’re encouraged by the teen’s energy. “It’s important they
have role models they can look up to,” Koeries says. More than a leader, Koeries is the
big brother who shows them a different way of life. “You can see a change in the kids,”
he says. “They just want to be involved.”
With his dad’s example before him, Koeries is motivated to continue making a
difference. “I want to inspire others the way my father inspired me,” he says. Today, the
19-year-old is renowned in the community for his initiative. By spurring on the dreams
of others, he’s realised his own. “Becoming a good role model to those who don’t have
one changed my life,” Koeries says. He’s proof that being a pillar of positivity can uplift
Khris Njokwana whips and flips the soccer ball with the ease of a hacky sack. Fusing
lightning dexterity with intense agility, he sends the ball flying in the air before catching
it on his shoulder. Njokwana is a freestyle footballer – a profession that has taken
blood, sweat and tears. But hours of practice and copious bruises and cuts have led the
way to perfection. Today, Njokwana’s sleights of hand and foot are landing him in the
Njokwana is no newbie to soccer, having played since the age of six. Yet he frequently
got in trouble with coaches for his preference for tricks. “Truthfully, I never thought I
was good enough to be a pro footballer,” Njokwana says. But freestyling, which uses the
whole body to accomplish stunts, allowed him independence and self-expression.
Njokwana began performing at taxi ranks, earning money and harnessing his talent.
When esteemed player and coach Professor Ngubane came to Langa, Njokwana was
inspired to pursue a career in football. “I thought, if he can do it maybe I can do it,” he
says. Seeking the artistic side of soccer, Njokwana established himself as a competitor
on the freestyle circuit.
In 2018, Njokwana broke the Guinness World Record for controlling a soccer ball
dropped from the highest altitude. He successfully caught a ball released from a height
of 37.4 metres and kept it above the ground for five moves. From busking in Langa to
becoming a record-breaking freestyler, Njokwana shows that it’s not about winning
against others, but pursuing your own measure of success. “The only person I am in
competition with is myself,” Njokwana says. Why stick to the limits when you can
change the game?
A massive transformation is taking place in Chante Herries’ salon – and not just for
those getting their hair done. Some of the stylists who work here have a background of
drug addiction, and the impact it’s had on their lives has been quietly devastating.
“What these women have gone through has taken away so much of their self-esteem,
their confidence, their self-love,” Herries says. But in between the roar of the blow dryer,
the chatter and laughs, change is in motion.
At Heavenly Hair Studio in Parkwood, Herries offers apprenticeships to women who’ve
been in rehab. The matter is close to her heart – both her parents and siblings suffered
from drug use. It strengthened Herries’ empathy for the women’s experiences, and
motivated her desire to do something about it. “I felt I had to help them,” she says. “We
needed to make a difference in our community and set an example.” By training these
women in hairdressing and beauty therapy, Herries empowers them and provides
valuable life skills.
The salon has become a safe space for women to break the cycle of drugs. “Since the
start of this programme, the change I have seen has been phenomenal,” Herries says.
The stylists have remained sober, regained their confidence, and developed a sense of
purpose. As a transgender woman, Herries knows that believing in yourself can be the
first step towards a happier life. “Being judged for who I am has made me the strong
female that I am today,” she says. Herries shows up at her hair salon determined to cut
out the scourge of drugs and brush away their damaging effects. She’s creating the kind
of beauty that goes beyond looks.
Music was the first sign of Faith Mamba’s bright future. She didn’t know much about
melodies – except that they provided her with the warmth she yearned for. After
Mamba’s mother passed on, her grandmother was diagnosed with cancer. Foreseeing
the impending outcome, the matriarch placed the young girl in an orphanage. When her
grandmother died, Mamba was left to face life on her own. “It felt like my whole world
had gone quiet,” she says. Social workers and caregivers reached out by offering Mamba
a host of recreational activities. In sonorous sounds, she discovered profound comfort.
It was while attending a student concert at the Durban Music School that Mamba
noticed the saxophone. Her newfound interest drove her to enrol at the institution.
There, the shiny gold instrument fast became her favourite and enabled Mamba to
channel her emotions. “I wasn’t able to express what I was feeling all the time,” she says.
“Music really helped process everything.” During her adolescent years, she focused her
energy on rehearsing elegant compositions.
Mamba’s dedication has turned her life into a symphony. Today, the university student
has reached Grade 6 in Classical Music and remains loyal to the family that supported
her. “Everyone eventually finds somewhere they belong,” she says. “For me, it was the
Durban Music School.” Using her saxophone, Mamba is creating her own repository of
resilience against adversity. As long as she has an instrument in hand, she’s home.