A Simple Phone call
Matjames was 18 years old and didn’t feel ready to become a father. “I was utterly terrified. It threw my world upside down,” he says. “I didn’t have the faculties to deal with it in any sense. I was too young, too naïve and I didn’t know what to do.” Selanie gave birth to a little girl called Tyler. After she was born, Matjames met Selanie at the entrance to the Glen Helen Nature Preserve, and he cuddled the baby for the first time. “I held Tyler in my arms for about 30 seconds I’d say, and that was it. “I didn’t understand that it was my child on an emotional level. I knew biologically I was involved and I was just like, ‘Oh my God this is just really heavy. I don’t know how to react to this, I don’t know what to do.'” Matjames says it started a lifetime of running away – from everything. “It’s classic fight or flight. Having zero self-esteem at the time, I chose to run and continued to do so.”
By the age of 30, Matjames was struggling. “There was a lot of loss of life, everything was completely broken. The stores weren’t open, the groceries weren’t open, the crime was insane. There’s so many people just losing their houses and possessions, it was nothing more than just utter desperation on everybody’s part.” Matjames’s apartment was waterlogged and he lost most of his belongings, including almost all of his artwork. “My capacity for self-preservation was slipping and slipping and slipping and I had nowhere to really turn,” he says, “until the phone call which not only saved my life, but it changed my life.” Tyler, who was then 16, was cleaning her bedroom when her mum came in and handed her a piece of paper. On one side was a PO Box number, and the other a mobile phone number. Her mum told her this was how she could contact her biological father. She says she hadn’t even made a conscious decision to call, she was simply acting spontaneously. Matjames feared it would be more bad news about one of his friends – and then he heard Tyler’s voice. For Matjames, the call was life-transforming. Had she adhered to “societal standards” and judged him negatively it would have achieved nothing, she says. Instead she has gained a new family, a new source of inspiration, and is “living a great life”.