Mixed bag chit chat about passion and pain

Pechakucha city organiser Grant Greef.

Cathy Specific joined nine other speakers who stood up in front of hundreds of people to speak about their interests and what inspires them at the most recent PechaKucha, held at the Zip Zap dome on the Foreshore last week.

PechaKucha, which is Japanese for chit chat, is a gathering where people from all walks of life get together to share their ideas, works, thoughts and experiences.

The format of PechaKucha involves 20 images, each displayed for 20 seconds, resulting in short, visually driven presentations.

The first PechaKucha took place in Tokyo in 2003 after the format was devised by Klein Dytham Architecture. The original event was created for young designers to meet, network, and show their work in public, however PechaKucha has turned into an event for just about everyone, with events now happening in hundreds of cities around the world.

The event which took place last week was Cape Town’s 54th PechaKucha.

The speakers chatted about topics such as speech, creativity, and their work.

Cathy Specific, Brendon van Rhyn’s alter ego, is a drag star and the resident performer at Gate69 in Bree Street.

Cathy said she grew up a victim of bullying because she was “different”.

“They gave me every other name besides the one my parents gave me.”

She said it took her 32 years to embrace being different.

“I’m now living my best life. I realised that I am only good at one thing and that is being myself.”

She said people will not make you feel different if you don’t let them.

“The sky is not the limit. Imagine going through life not being who you want to be. It’s not only a right, but an obligation to be yourself and dare to be different.”

Another speaker was Crystal Birch, a milliner who started her own hat factory on the outskirts of the city centre in Gardens. Dressed in a bold bottle green hat, she spoke about hats as her art, and the importance of collaboration. She said she became a milliner when she and a few friends went to a party and bought lampshades and wore it like hats.

“I decided then I want to be a milliner — and now I own one of two hat-making businesses in the country — in the heart of the city bowl.”

She said collaboration for artists is important as it brings out things in your work that you wouldn’t think of or don’t know about.

Jed Kegan, a 13-year-old boy from Sea Point, received a standing ovation after he shared his story.

Jed was 10 years old when he was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) by a paediatric specialist.

The CRPS disease is brought upon by a previous injury or sickness. It causes extreme pain which results from a series of incorrect nerve signals sent from the affected joint to the brain.

“I was traumatised, thinking no one could help me. I took 32 tablets a day, which made me anxious.”

He said he then went to Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, where he and his family learnt that the hospital was one of few that could help him.

Jed became the 10th child in Africa to be treated for the rare CRPS disease.

During their time at the Red Cross, Jed and his mother were introduced to a number of families who had suffered a similar ordeal and were inspired to have a positive impact on those affected by this condition.

He said they were invited weekly to speak to the children at Red Cross and encourage them to have a positive mindset.

With the help of his family, they started an NPO called Jedi Tedi, where they make unique Tedis and sell them to raise funds for the Red Cross, or hand out to children at the hospital.

“This Madiba month, you don’t have to go far to find a cause that speaks to you, because this is a cause that matters.”

Five PechaKucha events are held in Cape Town a year and are run by a group of volunteers. The next event will be held on Tuesday September 3 at a location still to be confirmed.

For more information on the event, to apply to speak or to join the team, visit www.pechakucha.co.za