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Friendzone: Melanie Kweyama



It must have been a Friday night when my sister and aunt came back to my house with this chirpy little girl called Melanie in tow.

This was a few months after "democracy” in South Africa and I had never met my aunt’s daughter before because she was in boarding school.

But on that night, while we chatted for the first time in my parent’s house, a friendship was struck.
Melanie and I became friends and what we did not realise in the early 90s was that our bond would last most of the friendships we would acquire along the way.

We kept in touch. Lost contact. But we bonded heavily when we both lived about five minutes from each other in that famed Pretoria ‘neighbourhood’ called Sunnyside.

So while most people only arrived in this part of town during their first jobs or varsity, we were there while in still in high school and really just up to no good.

I will spare you the details of our escapades but they were both good and bad and our friendship made our parents really nervous although they knew that we were good for each other.
Like a kind of “yin and yang”.


So we literally grew up together, became really close friends and still are and it didn't matter that we were related because my cousins are my besties.

We always joke that we became friends because we had no choice but the truth is we did have a choice and we chose each other.

What I love about Melanie is that she can fit into whatever situation we find ourselves in. Whether we are chatting in Portuguese to our Angolan friends in Sunnyside, or chilling at family gathering in dusty Hammanskraal or sipping drinks at the fancy 15 on Orange hotel in Cape Town – Melanie is still herself and not going out of her way to stick out or trying to hard to fit in.

So you will either love, hate her or she will eventually grow on you (or not) but that is who she is and she doesn’t apologise for it, people just have to deal and they did.


I have learnt so much from her. She is actually the more streetwise one, while I possess wisdom that normally involves making shit up on the spot that only sound wise because we are too drunk to care.

And like sisters, we get on each others nerves but somehow can’t stay mad at each other for long.

In our adulthood we recreated our own "more mature" Sunnyside in Cape Town along with Mampala and had some of the best time of our lives till both of them ditched me to go back home to get married and find better work. Sigh. But I eventually followed them home in 2014 and we were reunited and all was well with the world again.



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First published on RiseArt.com


Neo Maditla is Editor in Chief of Design Indaba online, South Africa's leading design and creativity platform. DesignIndaba.com features some of the best talent on the African continent and from around the globe. Not only is Neo passionate about African art, but she's also a seasoned writer with experience in print, TV and online. We just had to have her on the Rise Art Prize panel for Africa and the Middle East.

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Cape Town's Iziko South African National Gallery.
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