By KEREN BANZA
From the busy streets of Pretoria to the rich architecture of Makhanda, Karisna Bissett’s childhood spans different provinces, cities and towns, always on the move.
Bissett was born in Pretoria, in a hospital long since forgotten. By age three, they had discovered an allergy to a ginger-white cat and moved to Amanzimtoti’s sandy beaches in KwaZulu-Natal. They got joy from playing various sports, including netball, tennis and swimming. Their father would catch fish for dinner until he took his last breath in front of confused seven-year-old eyes.
A devastated family torn apart, Bissett was left with a family friend to finish Grade 1. Their mom and two little sisters drifted elsewhere. At eight, they were reunited in Benoni, Johannesburg. A quick stop at the pharmacy to get their ears pierced, then off to Mountain View, Pretoria, to stay with grandparents before the year ended.
Two more summers passed before Bissett returned to Benoni, only to break their arm. A year later, they set off to the place of the rising sun. In Rietkuil, Mpumalanga, the days were filled with golden-red fur from their Chow Chow Rosie and a blossoming love for field hockey at school. At the beginning of their teens, they moved to Whitfield, Sandton, and made the first netball team in their new school.
By the end of Grade 7, Bissett badly wanted to stay still. They were swimming captain at a Vereeniging boarding high school for three years. During the holidays of 2016 and 2017, their family moved between shelters. There was Jesus Alone Love Service, Pretoria, and Kids Haven, Benoni. But Bissett needed a break from the memories of their past. At the end of high school, 2019, they chose to move in with their aunt and grandparents in Port Alfred, Eastern Cape, and attend Rhodes University.
In their search for independence, they moved to Makhanda permanently this year. Makhanda represents choice, opportunity and freedom. It is not just another pin on their life map.