O'Sullivan Road

07.20.11 Ishmael Sondag: Skarreling

with 3 comments

In the Afrikaans language the word skarreling customarily means to scurry or scamper.  Relatively recently, particularly in Cape Town, this verb has come to connote the rummaging activities of men and women who are without shelter and those who rely on other people’s material waste to survive.  According to Fiona C. Ross, author of “Raw Life, New Hope: Decency, Housing and Everyday Life in a Post-Apartheid Community,” skarreling suggests, “a frantic search for life’s basic necessities, the use of many tactics, a sense of haste and trickery.  It involves living by one’s wits” (2010: 108).  For Ishmael and his crew skarreling means waking up before 6am, walking away from the Promenade into the hilly residential streets of Cape Town and searching through the rubbish for items to sell, wear, consume, smoke or use for added comfort.  Skarreling, I learned, involves strategy.  A route must be chosen that ensures you are the first to arrive at the dust bins because hours before sunrise on a cold winter morning in Cape Town the streets are alive with men and women who skarrel in order to make it through the day ahead.


Written by Sarah Stacke

July 20, 2011 at 8:40 am

3 Responses

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  1. That is a great post! When you mentioned you skarreling with Ishmael, I had no idea.


    July 20, 2011 at 7:35 pm

  2. Thanks, Bryan. Skarreling with Ishmael provided an incredible glimpse into what living on the streets entails.

    Sarah Stacke

    July 21, 2011 at 3:07 am

  3. Sarah, The explanation you give of skarreling is very interesting and provides excellent background for your photos. The light and shadows you capture are incredible. Love, Mom

    Mary Stacke

    July 27, 2011 at 12:32 am

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