In the Cape Town CBD, chattering pedestrians and whirring traffic are the chorus of inner city life. But on the odd visit to the city centre, you may hear the sound of farm animals creeping through the vines of the concrete jungle – except the sounds aren’t coming from animals, they’re coming from a man.
William Jafta is a 28-year-old street performer with a knack for imitating farm animals. He grew up on a farm in Paarl, 65km outside Cape Town, where he listened to livestock everyday, until he began to mimic them, eventually turning his talent into a career.
“At this moment, this is the only income that I have, but my priority is to help more of the street kids to see where to go if they don’t have something to do,” he says.
Jafta comes from a poverty-stricken community, where he often sees street children wandering around aimlessly. He says many of them have turn to a life of drugs, alcoholism and crime, letting their lives fall apart. With his shows, he aims to inspire these children to see that no matter how odd or small their talent may be, it can be used to build a future.
“Most of the young kids, they have very brilliant talents that they don’t grow out and live out,” Jafta says. “They use drugs and alcohol, so actually that is the reason why I do this – so that they can see what else you can do with yourself.”
Every day, Jafta travels two to three hours by train from Paarl station to Cape Town. His performances last four hours and when he returns home he spends his time practising more sounds to mimic. So far, the street performer can perfectly echo up to 13 animals and it’s been more than enough to get people interested.
Restaurants in Green Market Square have invited him to perform for their customers. Once his show is complete, the restaurants encourage him to approach diners with his collection box, which on a good day, can land him up to R2,000. So far, Jafta has become a familiar face in Green Market Square, Long Street, and on the internet, where videos of him are gaining popularity.
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“It makes me more confident and it makes me (feel) that I must expose more every day, so that other young people can see and also expose themselves and their talent, “ he says.
The street children with whom he works know that their mentor is making a living from an unexpected career. When Jafta returns to Paarl from a day at work, he uses a portion of his money on food for his household, and the rest is used to buy food for the street kids.
When the kids need help with their homework, Jafta sets time aside to sit with them. A devout Christian, he believes that going to church every Sunday isn’t enough, but taking the initiative to help his community goes a long way.
“I can’t do it for myself, because when I do it for myself, how can God give me more and more every day? It doesn’t matter that I’m going to church, but I go and do the stuff that God wants me to do,” Jafta says.
Although Jafta’s first priority is the children he works with, he wants to see his talent grow so that one day he might take his performance to the bright lights of theatre.
“My dream is to stand in a big audience on stage and go further and further with my talent,” Jafta says.