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What working in Braamfontein taught me about being comfortable in my own skin

by: Courtney Rehman - 5 December 2016

IMG_9493By the end of my first week, all the rules about what is acceptable at work had been broken. I’d already seen a guy at a coffee shop with purple hair, my male colleague was rocking high heels better than most women I know and another girl at the office had her arm covered up in tattoos. Something about the way they carried themselves made me want to know what it’s like to be that comfortable in your own skin.

Purple hair and tattoos don’t make you unemployable

Coming from Wentworth in Durban, I always thought the rules were simple: Go to school, get your journalism degree and a job magically appears. I was brought up in a Catholic family where everything was about morals, values and doing the right thing. We were told that having sex before marriage was a sin.

 My mother always shouted at me whenever I got a new tattoo (I have five by the way) and would say, ‘No more tattoos, you need to get a job and no company will employ you.’ I never listened, and now I have a reason for not listening because Braam has proven her wrong. Every single day someone with a good job is breaking these rules and I’ve found that it’s not about what you look like but more about the skills you have.

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 Everyone is a hustler whether employed or not

People have steady jobs but they always seem to be doing something on the side.  A guy could own a coffee shop, but he’s a fashion designer on the side, or a girl could be a retail cashier, but she’s doing photography part-time. Young people here are such hustlers. It’s inspiring working in a place where young people are not just waiting for something to happen but they’re actively doing stuff.

I’m now more comfortable in my body and my identity as a coloured person

Although I had my doubts about moving to Joburg, let alone working in a place considered to be full of “hipsters”, I like it here. I love that young people own this place, from how they carry themselves to what they wear. I’m so used to living in a place where we all do the same things and dress alike; and veering too far from that is not encouraged.

No one cares about my appearance in Braamfontein. I love the fact that even if I wear flip flops to work, no one would care. It’s all about who I am and what makes me comfortable. Being here has definitely made me more comfortable in my own skin and especially in taking pride of my identity as a young coloured person. Now I can go back to Durban without caring about what people think because Braam has given me that upper hand.

Photography by Sithembiso Xaba

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