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Friendzone: Carol Mocumenyane

Picture a scene - your first week at varsity. So although you are scared as shit of finally making it to "big school" it turns out that varsity is still a bit like high school. Not sure what I had expected, this was 2006 by the way, but I remember being disappointed by the drab gray buildings, the food and the general atmosphere. It didn't feel like "varsity" - the one in the movies - of cool kids, crazy lecturers, parties and hot people. I remember thinking that I was just gonna go to my classes, then home, without trying to make friends with any of the other students, because, I thought, I had enough friends as it is, why add more from this boring bunch?

Little did I know that this would be where I picked up my friends for life. Amid all that grayness, and protests that seemed to happen every week and bad wine (Hi Tassenberg), a clique started to form, a clique of people who thought they were too good for journalism school in Soshanguve's TUT campus. We had other places we would rather have been studying, but life does its own thing while you're making plans. So that is how Carol, Thato, Gopolang, Tshepo, Msholozi and I became friends. 

We were misfits, so we bonded immediately over what misfits do - bunking class to paint graffiti at the stadium; being too vocal during class discussions that everyone was left wondering why we didn't bunk, we passed all our classes with top grades and of course, put all our money together to see how many sphatlhos, wine and beers we could manage.

If all of us were a bit detached from the group, Carol was our leader in this respect. She just had no business being in Soshanguve and she made sure everyone knew it. That's why I like her. That's why we all gravitated towards this tall chick from Ga-rankuwa, she had balls, a big voice and wasn't afraid to use them. You just always knew where you stood with her, there was no 'being nice for the sake of being liked' - she was always herself and you could either take it or leave it. 

She was always down for whatever and had a never say die attitude. "A ke fele moya, ntwana" she would say to me when I called to complain about one or other issue. Even when she was going through shit in her relationships or at home, she always remained positive. And since the plan was not to stay in Soshanguve for long, she eventually left us to go to Boston College. But we kept in touch. 

She became like a sister to me, to an extent that she would go visit my family in Mabopane during the time that I lived in Cape Town. Recently, when she was pregnant, she and my older sister were the best of friends giving each other advice about foot rubs and back rubs and whatever else pregnant women need to do to keep from losing their minds during those nine months of pregnancy.

These pictures were taken last year sometime, when we went out for lunch in Brooklyn, in Pretoria. She was seven months pregnant at the time, with the tiniest baby bump I had ever seen. I couldn't believe that she was going to be a mom, the baby is here now and I still can't believe that she is someone's mother. Mostly because she has always been the most independent of all of us. So I always imagined that she would be the last in our group to have a baby. But it seems that honour has been left up to me. By the looks of things, it's not gonna happen soon though.

It's always really hard to keep in touch with old friends once one leaves town. Our priorities change. The things we like change. The kind of men we're into changes. And ultimately, you find yourself keeping in touch with your friends through Facebook not because you still like them but because at least there are a few people who are there just to "like" your photographs.

Luckily, i don't have this problem with any of my old friends. Be it the ones I am still in contact with from high school days, varsity or during my time in Cape Town. The ones that are still around are still the type of people I would drop everything for, the type that I miss and even though I am bad at calling, smsing or keeping in touch, hopefully they know that I care deeply and I am here. Especially Carol, she is my rock.


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First published on

Neo Maditla is Editor in Chief of Design Indaba online, South Africa's leading design and creativity platform. 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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I love the Iziko South African National Gallery in Cape Town. It has a massive collection and I always go there, alone or with friends, and I just spend hours on end looking through the work. It's located in massive public park where one can go for a picnic, visit the restaurant or even take a stroll down Government Avenue so see the monument commissioned by Design Indaba in honour of Archbishop Tutu called Arch for Arch.
Cape Town's Iziko South African National Gallery.
2. What’s your favourite …