How does one do justice to a scene so rich in narrative that it floods the heart and the mind with wonder, compassion, admiration, sadness, delight, irony? Each member of this splendid troupe can be the subject of a page or more.
They are clearly a gang, led by the marvellous apparition second from the left in his long(est)-handled vehicle, today swanking defiantly in fancy jacket and long trousers, marvellously rounded off with sandals fashioned from old car tyres.
His underlings are comfortably junior, but no less eloquent – from the dejected underdog on the left with his shy eyes and evocatively torn red pants, to the uncertain but broad-smiling little guy with up-turned right toes to the immediate right of the leader, steering wheel gripped with both hands, ready for immediate take-off, to the trouble maker in red next to him, today sans vehicle, but with with a stone in one hand and a machete in the other, to the slightly apologetic little chap on the far right, uncertain of how exactly to present his creation so it will get noticed. Yes, and what might the stories be behind the sagging T-shirts – Puma, Puma, and Portugal – and the flamboyant sports jacket, or the oversized Crocs on the feet of the two on the right?
The three vehicles in which the troupe is travelling today are little wonders of bush ingenuity. Made from wild calabash, with axels of slender hardwood running through holes made in the steering handles (note, not merely tied to them by bark strips). And if you look carefully you will see that the axels run on reed bushes inserted tight into the calabashes. The chap on the right even has an aerial for his car radio – stereo, no doubt.
Theirs is a world of rich imagination, endless amusement with their simple things, mostly self-created; maybe some chores, if their wild roaming brings them within shouting distance of a parent.
But even in their poignant child-aspirations it is evident that the tentacles of “civilisation” is reaching into the tenderest areas.