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Lesego is his name
7 May 2018

Lesego is his name

Lesego is his name

Little Tabo started walking, and he is growing up so fast. I have been away the last 4 Months. Zanele, my wife, is looking after the…

Lesego is his name

Little Tabo started walking, and he is growing up so fast. I have been away the last 4 Months. Zanele, my wife, is looking after the smallholding, no running water and electricity it’s no easy task. Thank god she’s a strong woman, and with the help of my mom, she’s taking care of things back home.

(AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

We’re behind on rent, and I had to do a lot of overtime this week. I’m tired, and I’m back on shift soon. It’s hard, but I’m one of the lucky ones. I have a job and a room here in the hostel. Joseph, who’s also from my village, is renting a one-room shack down the road.

They have forgotten about us. It was from these very hostels that we changed a country. We defeated the apartheid government. Freedom.

And now. We replaced one ‘Baas’ [Slang for Boss] with another one. The rich mine bosses. We never see them. They don’t care. They try and confuse us with their tricks. We have to fight all the time.

My name is Lesego Kotane; I’m a South African mine worker, a human being. This is my worldview, my reality.

The story of Lesego, and many like this where woven together to form the narrative of a specific digital project in my past. The positive response to the story touched me when I recalled it recently.

It was in that reaction that the digital blinders fell from my eyes reconnecting me with my humanity. I recall the silly tagline used for the project, “My name is Lesego, not employee #AB164890.” How dehumanising is it, to be denied your name? The gift unasked for but received a long time ago, which carries so much weight. Lesego. Andrzej. Jonathan. Aga. Roman. Marta. Werner. Thomas. Rachel.

To be stripped of your name. A weapon, pushed to it’s most dehumanising extreme as a numbered tattoo on a forearm. Today, a remnant of the industrial age, favouring dispensable anonymous cogs that keeps corporate production lines running.

The rebirth. Starting with a foolish misspelt scribble on a Starbuck’s coffee-cup, a birthday card, a book signed by a friend. A simple act that restores ‘me’. Powerful tokens. Opening the floodgates of what makes ‘me’ unique, my experiences, history, achievements, emotions and stories.

To be recognised. Recognition, beyond hot air passing over disingenuous vocal cords. True acknowledgement that we exist.

One of my worst personality traits is that I forget names. It is a source of deep embarrassment, because how much could I value this person’s humanity if I can’t even remember her name?

A noble challenge. What will you do to restore someone else’s name today?

Sketchnotes related to this topic: Customers have names too. It’s time we started really using them.