Train Surfing Documentary

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Train surfing, or staff riding, is a sport popular with many youth in South Africa. In this documentary short film, Marco Casino explores the topic and the culture behind it through action footage and interviews with a mother and her staff-riding son, Thabisang and Chabedi Thulo, and a Sibusiso Linda, another rider. The video shows the divide between the Chabedi’s mix of pride and existentialism and Thasang’s fear about the injuries and deaths caused by staff riding. Though both of them know firsthand that many have lost their limbs or lives to the sport, they react to the violence of it in different ways. The son considers it part of the challenge, while the mother and nurse worries the younger generation will kill itself. The controversial sport, Casino explains in the accompanying text, is especially common in Katlehong, a township still largely segregated and disenfranchised despite the abolition of apartheid. This information, alongside the staff rider’s meditation on why he risks his life, suggests that staff riding is one way of channeling the struggles that the community faces through art. At the same time that the film makes room for philosophizing about staff riding as a way for youth to express their anger, it bares the body of Sibusiso Linda, a rider now living with amputations. Whether or not one believes staff riding is a legitimate form of expression, it is written on the body that the dance is always perilous.



Holly is a poet from Kentucky. She grew up first in a Sears house, then on a farm. She studied English and Gender Studies at Mount Holyoke College and moved to Manhattan for love. As an occasional jewelry-maker and museum patron, Holly favors wearable and functional design but is eager to see work that challenges her aesthetics. Read more and connect by visiting her blog, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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