April 6, 2014

Marco Casino

Staff Riding - the deadly art of train surfing in South Africa

There are not many places in the world where you could get away with something like this, but South Africa seems to be one of them. And for too many, the risk is far greater than prison time. They call it ‘staff riding’, a scarily common sport for dare-devil thrill-seekers which involves jumping aboard moving trains and surfing on the carriage roofs, dodging 3,000 volt electric cables. Some say it’s a means of finding release or even a way to express themselves.

Italian photographer and film maker Marco Casino went to Katlehong, one of the largest townships in South Africa to document this subculture and witness the deadly pastime that has become part of the everyday commute…

“The almost total majority of surfers are kids under 25. Amputations and death are really common. The Prasa Metrorail, the SA train company, is one of the foundations of their society. This connection between train and citizens remained very strong over time. The spectacular and risky act of train surfing becomes the framework to tell the Katlehong’s young people social fabric.”

“This place has been the epicenter of the anti-apartheid’s guerrillas, and on the eve of the twentieth anniversary of the facts that we all know, the situation of segregation has remained more or less unchanged in daily life. In a context where violence, rampant poverty, abuse of alchool/drugs and infant birth/AIDS are the masters, the train surfing is configured as the search for a social redemption that will never come for the characters of this story. Staff Riding is part of a long-term project about the township lifestyle 20 years later the struggle against apartheid.”

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    By Marco Casino