South Africa's Pop Up Gangster Museum founded by YCI Fellow
Wandisile Nqeketho is attending the 2016 Young Cultural Innovators Forum
The first thing you notice about the 18 Gangster Museum founder, Wandisile Nqeketho is his larger-than-life character. The Khayelitsha-based entrepreneur has a disarming wit about him, routinely interjecting parts of his speech with a joke, anecdotes about the ways of the world and a trademark “it’s too easy” quip when responding to a compliment about his achievements. But underneath his comedic exterior lies a man who’s well aware of the workings of the world and it’s violence – and he’s made it his life’s mission to do something about it.
“I can’t live in a society that is governed by fear,” says the 26 year old. “Khayelitsha [where he lives] has a huge gang problem and gangsterism’s become normalized. I don’t think curbing gangsterism should just be left to the police. I wanted to do something about it myself.” His Cape Town-based social enterprise does exactly that, by collaborating with gangsters and ex-offenders to educate people about the dangers of gangsterism.
Nqeketho’s 18 Gangster Museum is a museum dedicated to showing the material consequences of gangsterism. The museum is hosted inside a shipping container and is a replica of a prison cell and the idea is that ex-offenders go ‘back to prison’ while those visiting the prison are immersed into its realities. The ex-offenders also give first hand accounts about the hazards of gangsterism and prison life from inside the prison cell museum.
“The response was amazing,” he recalls. “There was an ex-offender who shared his story at the museum. He’d been in prison for four years for armed robbery, car theft and attempted murder. And he’s only 26, mind you. But he’s turning his life around. He’s in varsity right now and even though his is a cautionary tale, there’s a bit of hope at the end of it. He managed to turn his life around.”
To live in a township in any part of Cape Town – or any part of South Africa for that matter – is, to quote American author Ta Nehisi Coates, “be naked to the guns, violence and trauma”. Nqeketho believes in writing a new narrative, not just for Khayelitsha, but for every township dotted across South Africa.
“I want to live in a gang-free society,” he says, before pausing, almost as if to keep his loftiness in check. “I just can’t live in a society where gangsterism or crime are presented as a way of to the kids growing up in townships. If anything, the recent response to the exhibition has shown me just how much work still needs to be done. The museum is still in its infancy but it would be great to have it up and running outside of Cape Town.”
Wandisile did attend the 2016 Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators. His attendance was generously supported by Red Bull Amaphiko. The original of the article can be found here: https://amaphiko.redbull.com/en/magazine/south-africa-s-pop-up-gangster-museum