I invited blog followers to be a part of this post by using it apologise to someone who isn’t speaking to them or someone they can’t get a hold of. A few people shared their stories privately with me. Most of the stories were about lovers who had broken each other’s hearts. My apology is different. I have other people I wish to apologise to but for now, I would like to apologise to someone who I saw once and probably will never see again. I guess a part of me is secretly hoping that one of the visitors to my blog knows this man and will pass my sincere apology on to him. It’s crazy but hey, stranger things have happened.

Last year I went to the Zoo Lake Jazz Festival to hook up with old friends and enjoy live music. At some point I went for a walk around the lake with a friend. We came across a guitarist who sat with an enamel cup for collecting donations. My friend asked me to take a photo of him as he leaned over to throw a coin in the musician’s cup. I did. I have felt guilty ever since. I asked myself: “If I was at my lowest point and I was a beggar, would I appreciate someone taking a photo of me as a feel-good for themselves?” My answer is ‘NO’.

The guitarist sat a little further up this wall. – image – Ntokozo Sindane

The guitarist sat a little further up this wall. – image – Ntokozo Sindane

“Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.” – Oprah Winfrey said this better than I ever can.

I do not know that musician’s journey. I do not know what struggles brought him and his guitar to the Zoo Lake. What I do know is that this was not the musician’s proudest moment. He was old and had gray hair. I know he had not planned to spend his old age in city parks playing for passersby, hoping they have spare change for him.

The second I took that photo, I felt disrespectful and insensitive but I said nothing. I was an accessory to helping my friend build an exaggerated sense of importance by making a donation to the man. This photo would be shown to his other friends who would tell him how generous he is for helping the poor while all the time being oblivious to the fact that this photo totally disregards and degrades the musician in it. I was disappointed with myself.

For the past six months, I have been playing another meeting with the guitarist over and over in my head. I imagine apologising to him and it goes like this: “Last year at the Zoo Lake I took a photo of you while you played your guitar and someone else threw a coin in your cup. I did not ask for your permission to take that photo but more than anything, I should not have even considered taking a photo that objectifies your situation and makes you the tool that is used to fuel my friend’s desire to be seen as a “kind and generous person”. I apologise for disrespecting you and I would really appreciate your forgiveness.”

I hope that when I meet this musician again, he will be on a big stage and not sitting alone in a park with his guitar and an enamel cup.