Fighting to survive in an urban snake-pit

Warren Masemola and Sihle Xaba in Akin Omotoso's 'Vaya.' Photo: Akin Omotoso

A hungry little girl, a tired young woman with sleep in her eyes and two young men – one with dreams of riches and the other tasked with ancestral duty – arrive on the same train in the City of Gold.

They have never met, save for the quick glances between two of them at the very moment the young woman steals a vetkoek for the girl in her care. After they step off the train and into the streets of the saturated city, their paths will briefly cross again when a jarring calamity strikes.

Director Akin Omotoso unspools this story in the South African film Vaya that, as the opening night film for the 24th New York African Film Festival, leads this year’s charge of African stories on foreign soil. The Nigerian-born Omotoso’s film interweaves the stories of three different characters that travel from small rural towns to Johannesburg, the city that he has called his home for over two decades.

Vaya’s strength lies in the its gritty authenticity – the film, which took eight years to bring to the screen, is based on the lives of four men, David Majoka, Anthony Mafela, Madoda Ntuli and Tshabalira Lebakeng.

They penned their stories as part of the Homeless Writers Project and the weekly writing workshops they attended for nearly a decade. Reflecting these four men’s real-life experiences of traumatic betrayal by their families and a fight for survival in an urban snake-pit, the characters each face challenges that chew away at their moral fibre and veracity.

Omotoso has recently been signed by the talent agency APA.

Read the full story on Channel24.