image and text by
Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin
Annalesi Bhe has just won a case in South Africa’s Constitutional Court, the highest court in the country, though she’s only nine years old. Annalesi’s mother Nonkululeko fought the case on behalf of her children.
I lived here for 12 years with Vuyo, my man and Annalesi’s father. Vuyo got sick and asked me if we should put the house on sale after his death so we could get his body back home to the Ciskei. I said yes because I thought we could use that money to bury him. Vuyo went home to the Ciskei to die. He did this to help us- he wanted us to keep the house. But his father said they had the right to get the house because Vuyo and me we were never married. The only reason we never married is that in my culture a man must lobola (pay dowry) for a woman. He couldn’t afford to marry me. I went to the legal centre and they told me it was worth fighting for. At the magistrates court, they called me a whore and said that I didn’t deserve the house. But I refused to accept this. We went to the higher courts who told us that the house belongs to my children. They changed the whole law to allow me to keep it. Now I want to make this into a real house, not a shack. A three-bedroom house, with a dining-room and a kitchen. Vuyo would be happy if he saw us here together, he’d be happy that we got to keep the house.