Award of Excellence
Antoine de Ras
"The Sniffer Boys"
The Sniffer Boys: main story caption followed by photo caption
Young eyes that mirror hard streets. Drugs and brotherhoods that make it bearable. Fast cars that drop coins of mercy. A world where children are adults, pavements are mattresses and glue is a dangerous escape from poverty.
This is the story of a group of feral kids who prowl the streets of Johannesburg, South Africa. Beneath the colourful veil that has fallen over the country with the upcoming of the 2010 Fifa World Cup, lies the reality of hundreds of thousands of homeless people, a large number of whom are children.
This may be the year of the big dream, but these children remain lost in a haze of sniffing glue and begging on the streets - a combination that often ends in violence or death.
Sniffing glue is a worldwide problem and is on the rise in South Africa as no laws exist to forbid shops from selling glue to youngsters. Poured into a small container, and inhaled into the lungs, the glue causes a powerful - if short lived - high that acts like an anaesthetic against a hopeless environment.
The glue alters the mind and sometimes causes a child to lose consciousness as the body's functions slow down. The short term reward is the ability to shut the door on reality. The long terms dangers that lurk behind every hit include heart failure; suffocation; brain, liver and central nervous system damage; hearing loss; spasms; and psychological break-downs.
Research has shown that glue sniffing is one of the most complicated addictions to destroy and is found primarily in poverty-stricken children and mostly in boys.
One of the homeless sniffer boys 'Seun' who battles with a glue addiction breathes out a plume of cigarette smoke while sitting next to a fire for warmth under a clump of trees he calls home, he lives together with a band of eight other boys on a busy street corner in Fietas which lies on the outskirts of Johannesburg Central Business district.