WARREN BAYNES

Unorthodox chronicles the  lives of offender-boxers at Drakenstein Correctional Facility.


Drakenstein Amateur Boxing  Club coaches offenders and prepares them to participate in local amateur boxing  competitions. It might seem counter-intuitive to teach violent men how to  fight, but the merits of this mentorship program is not to be disregarded. Members  conform to principles of respect, discipline and hard work; any illicit behaviour  carries a suspension from the club. Participation in reformative programs, like  the boxing club, is considered during parole reviews.

The fact is boxing isn’t a  reasonable career option in South Africa and there are few support programs for offenders  granted parole. In some sense, correctional services offer  routine and opportunity. Once granted parole, a newly established positive  self-identity, hard work ethic and positive leadership give way to the grim  reality of Cape Town’s poorest communities. 


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In Unorthodox -Warren’s first project - he explored the notion of self-identity. Over the course of three years he followed offender-boxers inside Drakenstein Correctional Facility. He learnt that gangs occupy a void in impoverished neighborhoods, providing economy and safety in numbers. Young initiates become ‘ndotas’ (men):displaying tough male values meant avoiding infantilisation. Brutal rituals had other functions in prison: it created a world of men and woman and allowed homophobic acts to be rationalized. Boxing had been transformative for few, shifting men’s’ moral code. Warren continues his work with ex-offenders.

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