Photo by Charlie Shoemaker

In the shadow of Table Mountain

Factreton is a small suburb in the Cape Flats, an infertile area of land just outside of Cape Town. It’s a community battling to cope with some of the highest homicide rates in the country, widespread drug addiction, gang problems, poor education and high unemployment.

It is an area that has been plagued by a complex web of issues rooted in segregationist Apartheid-era laws. Only a 20-minute drive from Cape Town’s city center, Factreton is worlds apart from the wealthy suburbs at the foot of the world famous Table Mountain.

This series looks at a community battling to cope with some of the highest homicide rates in the country, widespread drug addiction, gang problems, poor education and high unemployment.

  • Photo by Charlie Shoemaker

    Cape Town, South Africa – April 13, 2013: Boys prepare a BBQ for a birthday party at the house next to the Nicolas family. Factreton is a small suburb in the Cape Flats, an infertile area of land outside of Cape Town. This region has been plagued by a complex web of issues rooted in segregationist Apartheid-era laws.

  • Photo by Charlie Shoemaker

    Cape Town, South Africa – April 18, 2013: A group of teenagers belonging to the gang the Oka Boys smoke hookah pipes in "The Valley", a small shack behind one of their grandparents homes. The boys say that they feel safe in there as opposed to outside on the streets where different gangs move freely. In the past year, two members of the Oka Boys have been killed and another was shot in the back on an attempt on his life.

  • Photo by Charlie Shoemaker

    Cape Town, South Africa - May 25, 2013: Members of the Oka Boys and Garo Boys visit Mansoer Odendaal's grave site in Observatory for his 18th birthday. Mansoer was killed on a bus by members of the VL Gang when they ambushed him and two other friends sitting in the back. Ryan Nicolas’s (red jacket), who was Mansoer’s closest friend goring up, was sitting next to him on the bus and was also stabbed but survived the attack with minor wounds. Two months later, Ryan was shot in the back on his block by members of the VL Gang but survived the attempt on his life.

  • Photo by Charlie Shoemaker

    Cape Town, South Africa – August 9, 2013: Ryan Nicolas and members of the Oka Boys celebrate the end of Eid by making a rare trip to the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town city to smoke their hooka pipes.

  • Photo by Charlie Shoemaker

    Cape Town, South Africa – September 22, 2013: The mother of Shamiel (centre), cries as she says goodbye to her son's body for the last time as it leaves their Factreton home. Shamiel , 17 and a member of the Oka Boys, was shot in the head by members of the VL Gang outside of a shop one block from his home. Ryan, Mansoer and Shamiel grew up together as close friends and Ryan is the only one still alive with two attempts on his life already by the same gang that killed his two closest friends.

  • Photo by Charlie Shoemaker

    Cape Town, South Africa - May 2, 2013:The funeral service for Desmond Abrahams, 48, who lived with his brother Ronald and had no connections to local gangs. Desmond and two others were shot in the head at point blank by members of the 28's Prions gang just after midnight on the 20th of April. Two of the men died and the third is in a coma.

  • Photo by Charlie Shoemaker

    Cape Town, South Africa – July 16, 2013: One of Timmy Nicolas’s daughters jokes with a car driven by his son-in-law in the street outside of the home. Scenes like this were uncommon for the majority of the year but, for a few weeks in July, there was a truce between gangs in the area, allowing people to walk freely at night. Shortly after this image, the peace was broken.

Charlie Shoemaker

Charlie Shoemaker is an American documentary photographer currently based in Cape Town, South Africa. Prior to his time in South Africa, Charlie spent over a year living in Uganda covering East Africa. He is this year’s winner of the Magenta Foundation’s Bright Spark Award for his series In The Shadow of Table Mountain (2014), which captures images of life in Factreton, a small suburb in the Cape Flats, an infertile area of land just outside of Cape Town.

Shoemaker’s work has been published in The New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, the Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, The Guardian, Aperture and many other publications. In 2014, he was named one of Magnum Photo’s 30 Under 30. Most recently, his work Rights of Passage was on view at the Venice Agendas Festival in Venice, Italy (May 2015).

charlieshoemaker.com