The Cape Flats near Cape Town in South Africa are renowned for their large-scale violence. It is very difficult for young people to escape the violence, drugs and criminality.

The inhabitants once lived in the centre of Cape Town, but the apartheid regime forced them to the barren plains at the Cape Town coast. One of the worst neighbourhoods is Manenberg. At one point the schools were closed down because it had become too dangerous to go to school.

Only a small part of the youngsters manages to graduate and faces a better future. That is celebrated with a graduation prom. And because it is not at all self-evident for someone to graduate, families go through great lengths to make the prom an unforgettable experience. Princess dresses, luxury cars... it's a sharp contrast with the rough world they live in. This one night allows them to, however briefly, escape reality.

The story is part of a larger project about young people in South Africa by Elles van Gelder and Ilvy Njiokiktjien. In 2014, the so-called 'born free generation', South Africans born after the apartheid, will be voting for the first time. This generation has been able to grow up without discrimination because of the colour of their skin. Both journalists look at young South Africa through the eyes of that generation. What has changed? Do black teenagers really have better chances than their parents?

Team members

Elles van Gelder

Elles van Gelder (35) has been living and working in South-Africa as a journalist and filmmaker for six years. In Belgium she works for Flemish public broadcaster VRT and newspaper De Standaard and in the Netherlands for NOS, NRC Handelsblad en VPRO...

Ilvy Njiokiktjien

Ilvy Njiokiktjien (29) is a Dutch news and documentary photographer. Her work appeared in NRC Handelsblad, Der Spiegel and The New York Times, among others, and received several awards...

A working grant of €15,000 allocated on 29/04/2013.


  • dS Weekblad (18 January 2014)
  • NRC Handelsblad (18 January 2014)

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