“The sea is my farm”: Roy’s story by Doung Jahangeer

Photography by Doung Jahangeer (2019)

In September 2019 my family and I went on holiday with some friends to a small costal town called Umzumbe approximately 100 kilometres south of Durban.  When we arrived  we all clambered down the dune path to get our feet into the cool sand.  There the sea was calm and the sun was gentle.  In the distance I noticed two fishers fishing on the rocks.  Since I have often been curious about subsistence fishers and was feeling bold under the expansive blue sky I decided to go talk to them. “Did you catch anything” I asked. “It’s not biting yet” replied one of the fisherman.  This is when I met Roy Nhlumayo.  A man of the sea with a rugged face beaten by years of being in the sun and the wind, Roy was nevertheless in his element .  “ The sea is my farm” he affirmed.  I thought this poetic comment was interesting and it encouraged me to go back to meet up with him the following day. This time I had brought my camera and when he saw it he promptly asked me to take a picture of him fishing .  In that moment he seemed proud and happy.  He eventually became more open to me and admitted that he is poor and that he harvests the sea as a source of food for personal consumption. He also occasionally sells the fish and generate only sufficient returns in order to bring the basic needs of food security at home.  He is a survivor and I got the feeling that he is always looking for an opportunity.  Roy is not a full time fisher. He fishes between jobs that he finds in the nearby town Margate. He complained that he has to do that to make ends meet because ‘there is less and less fish in the sea. The big boats are taking all our fish’ he exclaimed.  Another reason why he looks for other jobs to supplement his fishing is because, as a fisher, he feels completely neglected by the government which permits fisherman to harvest limited amount which is not adequate for personal consumption and makes it illegal to sell any of their catch.  He felt this neglect is not fair and he hope that one day fishers will be justly taken into consideration when fisheries policies are put in place.

Roy lives in Fairview, a village near Umzumbe which is in close proximity to his ‘farm’. He kindly invited me to visit and photograph his home and to meet his wife and child.  After a photographic session we sat in his humble two room house and shared a drink. Until recently I have remained in contact with him. 

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