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  • Writer's pictureGillian O'Donoghue

Casting your vote in-between takes on the Rare Blood set

Updated: Jan 16, 2023

This is a little piece written by Peter May, who formed the Irish part of the film crew on the set of Rare Blood.

The sun was setting. I was nursing a coffee in front of the struggling fire that was the only thing between me and the evening chill that was descending rapidly on the world around us all. "Hey Peter, can you drive Victoria to Mpophomeni? Guess you've noticed there's big elections on - she would like to vote." 'Oh shoot! there goes my hour in front of the fire!' I thought. 'And did he say 'to vote''?? Yes, that was what he said. And I thought, 'Who the hell wants to vote anyway? All that's doing is encouraging incompetent ego-maniacs and giving them jobs where they get paid for work they don't do, and lets them get first shot in every crooked deal that's available!' "OK," I replied. "When?" "Whenever you're finished your coffee!" came the reply. Well, thank God for small mercies... I at least get to finish my coffee. And hey, driving here, there, and everywhere, at every hour of the day and night, was just one of the many differing tasks that might be presented to me... at any time of the day or night... and that after all, was part of the fun... the very reason I was here in the first place! 'But 'to vote'?' Hey, just a hint of a sense of the ridiculous remained! And so I finished my coffee. Then, going into the next room, I found the as-always dignified figure of Victoria waiting patiently for me to appear. "So Victoria, you want to go and vote in the elections?" I said, doing my best to repress any hint of my own private cynicism about matters political. After all, I was a guest among the people here, and they had always been most accepting of me. "Yes, I would like to vote... I believe it is important..." she replied with a smile. "Right! You'll have to guide me to wherever it is. You know how to get to the polling station?" And so we set off into the darkness for the long drive to Mpophomeni, on roads that in places, made me think of some of the dirt-tracks in the latest Mad Max movie. As we drove, my thoughts drifted between my own private feelings about anything to do with politics, and my hopefully ill-informed, 'what-was-on-the-news' foreigner's images of South African townships... especially at night... especially when there might be an excuse for well, 'exuberant behaviour'... like when there are elections. I turned my thoughts from my own musings, to how things might be for Victoria. After all, I felt it was time to listen and learn a little more, and engage in self-indulgent ruminations another time. And so I asked Victoria about what it might mean for her to vote in an election. And she shared with me how such things might be for her as a black woman living in a township in South Africa, a country that for many years had been run by a regime that not only made it rather clear that her people were second-class citizens, or perhaps, not even citizens at all. I had been to Mpophomeni a few times before, but always during daylight hours, and not when there had been mention of any 'special events'. And hey, contrary to the popular media images of townships, and the image presented to me by the notably widespread presence of razor-wire fences, I had neither sensed, let alone seen, anything other than apparently pleasant people peacefully going about their business. Why, even when I stopped at the local petrol station for some fuel - and ice-cream, the cashier in her protective cage gave me a broad smile, as did the security-man who checked my receipt as I left, a security-man who wore a flack-jacket and stood with his arms folded over an assault rifle slung across his chest. But now it was both night-time, and with political events in full swing, my thoughts drifted back to matters closer to what may appear in the news... machete gangs... lynchings... rioting. General murder and mayhem. And for myself, quick get-aways! Certainly, as we arrived at the polling station, signs of celebration were quite apparent... bright lights, people dancing and waving political placards. But no signs of disorder, no groups of machete-wielding thugs, no riot police, no shooting... not even a whiff of tear-gas! Once again, apparently pleasant people going about their business, admittedly with a certain party atmosphere. I parked the jeep and waited while Victoria went into the polling centre. I mulled over the conversations and thoughts of the previous hour. I revisited my thoughts about politics, the mugs that are politicians and the mugs that vote for them. My experience? Yes. And did I still look at things that way? Well, in my own world, yes. But for Victoria and others in her world, her world was well, not my world. For her and others in her world, a humbling perception dawned upon me. For her and others in her world, I was beginning to appreciate that the very opportunity to do something like cast a vote was, as Victoria had said to me before we set out for Mpophomeni, truly important. At the end of the day, the politicians for whom she could vote may, or may not turn out to be well, 'questionable characters'... that was yet to be seen. But the ability to cast a vote at all was surely something to be cherished, if only as a part of the on-going 'coming-of-age' and personal growth for people like her, people who had lived through a world where as I had mused before, were considered to be second-class citizens, or perhaps, not even citizens at all. For people like Victoria, the ability to cast a vote was surely 'a giant leap', a necessary and natural part in the process of rising above the dark shadows of their past.

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