Brian Matola

Brian Matola

LIFE IS A PLAYGROUND … PLAY RESPONSIBLE

Moving from a small village to a big city, and resisting the enchantment of the new “city” is hard. Brian shares his story of how he moved to Cape Town when he was 10, lived without his parents for two years and against all odds successfully resisted peer-pressure.

Brian Matola, 26, was born in the Eastern Cape in a village close to Umthata. ‘I grew up with both of my parents and my eldest brother, he is one year older than me. My mom was a stay at home mom and my father was self-employed in the construction business.’

‘My parents had strong moral standards, rooted in their strict up-bringing and their strong faith. So, they were strict with us. We used to have rules for everything. We were forced to always be in doors, never allowed to play outside the house and always ran back from school to assist in the household chores among other things.’

‘As a child I couldn’t understand why we were treated so different from the other kids. Our peers used to play soccer in the field behind our house and I remember how my brother and I used to peep through the gate for hours to watch them play.’

‘My peers used to tease us and call us “sissys”. On a few occasions we jumped the gate to go and play but each time we were caught and given a hiding.’

‘My brother and I, used to have long talks about how we felt unloved and misunderstood. My mom was cold with us and never really showed a lot of affection, kisses and hugs were not a norm in our house. This lead us to believe that we might have been adopted and we kept dreaming about who our biological parents might be. Unfortunately, we were unable to ask any clarity question, we were brought up believing that children never ask questions to elders.’

Brian’s family was known as the ‘whites’ among the community, ‘we were seen as different. My father used to travel for work, so he would bring things home from the city that no one had in the village. Besides possessing strange material things, my family way of being was also unusual. We had a schedule at home where the house chores were fairly divided among the four of us. Because we were not allowed to go out, my parents felt forced to play games with us. On some occasions neighbors could see the four of us playing soccer in the yard. We also used to have meetings around the money my father earned. Every time my dad came home the four of us would sit around the table and we would agree in which way the money would be spent.’

When Brian was ten years old, his mother went to Cape Town to visit a friend. ‘When my mom came back she was exited about the Cape. She sat everyone around the table and explained that Cape Town had better schools and overall better life opportunities. We should move. She explained that my brother and myself would be sent first and my parents would follow.’

‘We were so excited; we couldn’t stop thinking “freedom at last”.’ For the following two years, both children moved to Cape Town to stay with an old lady. ‘Everything was so different, we moved to Khayelitsha and the house was so small that we could only play on the street. I joined an English school in Delft, I hardly knew any word in English. And for the first time in my life, I had white peers in my classroom, whom I later realized that they were not white but what was known as “colour”. I also found one of my passions at school, a teacher invited me to join the drama group. For the first time in my life I was part of a group, enjoying thoroughly what I was doing.’

‘It took me at least six months to adapt and even though we had freedom, I missed what I had back home. I was quite young, but every time strangers complemented me for my behaviour, and told me that it seemed I had had a better upbringing than my peers, it was clear for me that my parents had done a good job.’

My brother and myself started drifting apart. He got more and more fascinated about the city lifestyle and misbehaved. Myself on the other hand, I was scared to disappoint my parents or to seem ungrateful towards the old lady that so kindly hosted us, so I kept behaving at my best.’

‘After two years when my parents came back, it was hard to adapt. We had grown up and we had developed an opinion about what was right or wrong. Arguments kept emerging among family members and we were never as close as we once were when we were in the Eastern Cape.’

‘However, the rules were back. In high school I continued to excel academically and in my drama group. When my mom discovered that I was involved in drama, she forced me to stop drama classes at school. I felt distress, I loved what I was doing and I couldn’t understand what was the problem.’

‘For the first time in my life, I decided to go against her will. I did some research and I applied to Baxter drama course. I went to the auditions and I was selected. For the next four years, I secretly attended classes three times a week. I told my mom that after school I wanted to study in the library before coming home, because she was supportive of academics she agreed. Every time my guardians needed to sign a form I would sign on their behalf. I made sure that my school marks were excellent so that there was no reason for her to suspect anything. It required a lot of self-discipline but it was something I was pleased to do.’

‘The extra commitment towards my passion, combined with my strong moral values kept me immune to peer-pressure through high school. It did not make any difference if my peers were starting to experiment with substances or with relationships. Both were matters that I did not have time for.’

‘My family had ingrained in me that “Love is not something you play with” and I knew that if I started a relationship I would need to have a noble intension about the girl. I felt I was too young to think about marriage.’

‘Since then, I have had two serious relationships. In both of them, we used the relationship time to get to know each other in a respectful manner. I have a deep belief in treating others as I wish to be treated and for that reason I have decided to wait until the day I get married. I am a 26 years old virgin and happy about it.’

After school, Brian decided to work with youth. ‘My experience with drama, being a peer-educator and speaking in church, guided me to want to be a motivational speaker. I want to be able to inspire youth to live a values based life. There is nothing I regret in life because I have always based my choices on my values. Even when things went wrong I still had peace of mind because I was certain about why I had made that choice.’

Brian ended the interview by saying, ‘I believe life is great and the world is a playground, it will be a shame if you don’t enjoy it responsibly, and make the best out of it.’

Brian is a Salesian Life Choices Leaders' Quest Coach and former Peer-Educator