Roses For Thorns: Shante Hutton

When you were a child, you lived with the innocence of a child. You laughed wholeheartedly like a child and you loved unashamedly like a child. But when that child dies, you must twist your body into the mould of an adult. You must let pain lead you, regrets make you, terror push you and you must lose the ways of a child in a split second. Soon, you begin to wonder whether you were born at all, or if you just suddenly existed, formed from the destruction of a moment.

For many of you, we’ve probably already met, but in case you’ve just followed the series and know nothing about me…I’m Shante, a Brit who moved to SA in 2010 to marry the love of her life. Together, we have a beautiful daughter, Rosie, who is turning two this May and is strong-willed, self-assured, and utterly breathtaking. Aside from taking photos (You can find me here), I also own my own Copywriting & Social Media Agency (Sweet Lemon Communications), built on 10 years of experience in writing, print, advertising and marketing.

I didn’t start off wanting to put myself into the series. I had no intention of being in front of the lens. Tam, our amazing stylist and concept developer, coaxed away my reluctance, suggesting that my story would also bring healing for others.

So here I am, letting go of the little pieces of armour that I have left, ready to tell you where it all begins…

Lights flash across the car windows highlighting smudged finger prints and smeared lip traces, and Mum explains for the third time that once we reach the Leisure Centre, she’ll pay for the swimming after she has gone to the bathroom.
I am annoyed with my brother, folding my arms across me in anger and refusing to look at him – it was only a few hours earlier that he had taken a compass and stabbed a hole in my brand-new school photo.
We reach the Leisure Centre, Mum heads to the bathroom whilst Jhordan and I stand in the foyer, uncertainty between us. I follow my feet towards the leaflet stand and Jhordan heads to the weighing machine that stands opposite – it is a heavy piece of machinery with a jutting out base to stand on and a huge circular face. It’s great for adventures, for pretending that the floor is a sea and the machine is the ship to sail upon.
Jhordan rotates his body on and off the base like he is performing a dance, a dance we have both done many times before. The sea begins to churn and the space between us suddenly grows; air falters, noises are silenced and in one sweep of arms and legs, the giant of metal and glass topples like corn in the wind – the defiance of its ruler is broken as underneath its ugly bulk he falls without sound. Crimson erupts from his face and head, each droplet flows into another, weaving a map of vermillion across the ebony floor.
Air blasts back into my nostrils, a man swirls around the conquered hero and Mum comes running, apparently screaming, to lift the demon from its final resting place.

20 years ago, on the 5th November, when I was 9, my 7-year-old brother, Jhordan, was crushed to death in front of me beneath a mountain of steel, bolts and glass.

There it is. In its most crude form. Ugly. Bare. The facts.

That day I met death.
He was not fearsome or terrifying, he was small, almost missable. He commanded no grand entrance, he merely stepped in as I forgot to breath, and gently and gracefully took my heart and replaced it with winter’s ice.

The girl who was so self-assured, so in control, suddenly found herself in a world that she no longer recognized, a world that she was viewing through raw eyes.

I couldn’t see anything but darkness, the futures I once dreamed of were embers and all I felt was this mantle of pity and sympathy from people that made my skin crawl. To combat this pain and uncertainty I buried myself behind a fortress of iron, locked away to prevent the pain from being felt. The walls I built were so high, the boxes I packed people away in were so tight, all so that I could be impenetrable.

The name of my brother was sent to the deepest recesses of my mind, never to be uttered, never to be heard.

I buried our childhood in a moment.

I wouldn’t let my mother touch me because it burned like fire and I pushed all family away, no one was to step in to my space for then my armor would falter.

Broken but unwilling to admit it, I began to live a lie that would crush my soul for decades…

I let men use me so that I could drown my fears of being alone, of not being enough.

I let darkness consume me.

I let my skin become the canvas for my pain.

I chose to hate the way I looked, to aim for the worldly view of enough and attack my health to fit in.

I hated myself. My parents. The brother who was born two years later to help us heal. The fact that I felt this way.

I boxed everyone in my life.

I cut ties with those who loved me.

I bled. I ran. I hid. I raged.

For so many years, I exhausted myself in my efforts to hold myself together in grip of iron and I gave up so much to do so. Because my brother and I were close, exceptionally so, it was as though the very essence of my soul had vanished with him. We did art classes together, ballet, gymnastics, swimming…and without him, I dropped out of everything because I couldn’t face showing up alone. Until I was 16, I couldn’t bear going anywhere without someone. I couldn’t even go to the shops without my mum.

My innocence was gone, the world was no longer safe for me, it was deliberately out to get me and I needed to be prepared for the absolute worse.

What else do you do when you’re a child and you witness the “loss” of your best friend? Man, I hate that word. I didn’t lose him. Death isn’t loss. To lose someone implies some sort of ambiguity. Death has no illusions. No doubt. No hesitation. It is final. A clear line drawn through potential years that will never be lived. My brother, an incredible budding artist, will never have his art shown. He will never get married. He will never see his niece. And I’m not sad for him, I fully believe he is in heaven, I am broken for the many moments when I could have done with his comfort, his jokes, the funny way he scrunched up his face and looked like a bat.

My parents had two other children after Jhordan’s death. Rohan was the son to heal and he brought out an animalistic pain that I don’t remember. I only know that in his infancy, my mum wouldn’t leave us in the same room together for fear I might harm him. There is one hazy memory I have of being in the bath with him and wondering if it was possible to drown someone and save them at the same time, such was my craving to prove myself worthy, to prove that I was not a complete failure as a big sister…that title was never worn again after Jhordan’s death – A big sister implies a fun, protective presence – whereas I had always been bossy before, now it was a dictatorship. Do it my way and then no one can ever get hurt. I lived in constant fear of losing another sibling.

Despite the way I acted towards them, my brother and sister are two of the most noble souls on the planet. Rohan has the most precious, understanding heart that is quite positively supernatural. I am forever thankful for his love for me.

One of the reasons for holding back from putting myself into this series was pity. I struggle so hard with people looking at me with “‘oh you poor girl” eyes. My pride has done me many wrongs and it still remains one of the driving forces in my emotional arsenal. Sometimes it can save, but many times, it can cut wounds so deep, they never fully heal.

I really do wear my pride well.

In my fortress, during the darkest days of my depression, my OCDs, the nights spent sleeping with a knife under my pillow & my panic attacks, I let silly thoughts inhabit my mind. I scared myself into believing that my friends would all leave me, my family would disappear and I would be left bereft.

I was consumed by self-loathing and a sense that everyone, everywhere, was going to pack up and leave if I didn’t keep them focused on me. Whilst I have taken a sledgehammer to many of these walls, my natural instinct is to destroy relationships with anyone who slightly hurts or angers me. In a matter of seconds, I can delete years of love and friendship to “protect myself”. I fight it every day. It’s exhausting. I fight my pride – I can be so terribly judgmental – and I fight to be giving, gentle and approachable. Though I will say, cross my loved ones and I will bring such wrath that even demons will quake.

In my worse days, I would spend hours planning my funeral, wondering about all the possible nice things people could say about me, and a final end to this race that no one else seemed to be running…just me, alone, and oh so tired. Counseling was tried, medication was administered, but the problem is, you need to acknowledge the issue and want to change otherwise it’s just a complete waste of time. Time that we don’t actually have the luxury of wasting.

Death is such a cruel entity, it steals from the living not just by taking a loved one, but by assaulting our senses and making us cower behind layers of grief, denial and anger.

Through the grace of my daughter’s birth, the most amazing God-given light forced out the shadows, stripping away the torment. The total surrender during labour and birth removed those heavy burdens that I had carried for so long…they literally melted away and the floodgates opened.

Her birth turned my entire being inside out. I could no longer hide my emotions. I could no longer not feel. It’s the strangest thing to tell you that I finally felt warmth.

I could talk about my brother with my family, without feeling as though I was betraying myself. And yes, over time, his death, and my maturity had mellowed my stone heart, but not to such a huge extent as Rosie’s birth. I found myself unable to contain my tears, and I didn’t want to. The more I opened up, the more I loved those around me because I was giving them space to be themselves, instead of insisting that they walked on eggshells in my presence.

It took 20 years to appreciate myself, and for some, that time will take even longer.
There are still fears when it comes to parenting; I need to know that I can rescue, that I can meet death and stand firm. I need to be more than anyone believes of me. But mostly, I need to save. I need to know that I will not fail my daughter. I am constantly battling a deep-rooted panic that I feel when I think of her safety, or when I think of the possibility of her facing the sames things I did.

My main concern is that I must be enough this time. I mustn’t ever let her down.

As I’m raising my daughter, I want her to fully appreciate and know her own worth, to celebrate her self-assurity in a world that demands submission. I want her to know that she is a pearl, each incident will make her brighter, stronger, and will bring out her shine…as long as she has the strength to stand firm in who she is; a pearl won’t form outside of its shell, likewise, we’ll never reach our full potential if we keep running from ourselves.

I think we’re all trying so hard to survive that to do so, we bury our feelings so deep that we become detached from actually living. We squash ourselves into a mould so tight, we forget to breathe. Every day we set ourselves up for the greatest show on earth…the show where no one ever sees that we’re hurting. And it is so tiring. You’re tired just reading this. But we fear that if we let our mask slip, just once, that people won’t like what they see – we fear being judged for the very person that we are.

We relinquish our crowns for the sackcloths of the world. But we were made to bloom.

I am just so grateful to now be able to acknowledge that my fiery, determined self can be, and is, good. That loving others is not a weakness. And, I am thankful that I can see the beauty that was born from a tragedy, and the empathy and determination it has given me.

By allowing myself to be soft and inviting, I am encouraging peace, I’m encouraging my own frailty…which isn’t as awful as my younger self would believe.

The Concept, from Tam:

Shante speaks so beautifully about how becoming a mother really motivated her to embrace and overcome her challenges, sharing who she really is, allowing others in and allowing herself to be vulnerable. She also speaks so openly about her brother’s death, a horrific tragedy, witnessed by her when she was only a child herself. With these images we really wanted to honour her brother’s memory, but also a childhood lost, not just her brother’s, but her own by using vintage toys and books, and having Shante bury them – we tried to allude to not only the heartbreak and tragedy of the death of a loved one, but the death of childhood itself and of course the burying of that which is painful, suppressing those memories and feelings as a way to protect herself. 

We also wanted to bring in the symbolism of the seemingly impenetrable wall, standing tall and protecting that which is tender and vulnerable within, keeping it hidden – and that is how the concept for the “Secret Garden” filled with both “Roses and Thorns” was born. 

We were very fortunate to be welcomed into the beautiful garden at Langverwagt in Kuilsriver for Shante’s shoot, and it was the perfect setting, filled with the most beautiful blooms (a metaphor for the blossoming that took place during motherhood, where Shante gave herself permission to open up and let others in), the loveliest buildings, structures and old stone walls, gated areas, and tangled canopies. There was also an abundance of the most incredibly ivy – a plant which is not only evergreen, but resilient too, and often seen climbing tall walls, breaking through the toughest foundations and structures – another reference to the walls built to protect, but also to Shante’s determination to break down these walls to allow people in, her tenacity.

The flowers that Coral provided featured lavender in them – she didn’t know this, but they were Jhordan’s favorite flower.

This shoot wouldn’t have been possible without:

Photography: Brett Hutton – my love, my best friend, thank you for stepping into unfamiliar territory and taking such bloody good photos.

Styling and concept development: Tapestry

Dresses: Jacoba Clothing

Custom Crowns Headpieces and Bespoke Accessories: Magpie Calls

Toys and book props: My Pretty Vintage

Floral arrangements and flower crown: Epanouir Floral Studio

Makeup & Hair: Polished Artistry 

Location: Langverwacht 


You Might Also Like


  • Reply Kerry January 24, 2018 at 5:10 am

    I am always at such a loss for words after reading these posts, they are so raw AND beautiful at the same time.
    I have also really enjoyed getting to know some of my old favourite and new favourite bloggers stories and what brought them to where they are today.
    You are a vision in these images and your story made me cry but I am not going to give you pity, that is not what you want, so I am going to say that you are a beautiful, strong and powerful woman with a special talent to bring out all the feels with your words.
    This is just incredible, and so are you.
    This series has been one of my favourite things I have ever seen on a blog.

    • Reply Shante Hutton January 24, 2018 at 3:27 pm

      Kerry, thank you. It’s been an incredible journey and putting it into writing has just exposed so many silly negativeness I had which just isn’t true. I just only hope the story can give hope where it is needed.

    • Reply Connie Sedres January 29, 2018 at 9:55 am

      Beautiful Shante, your story touched me so deeply that I found it difficult not only to find words, but to actually find my voice. You told your story in such a delicate yet profound way and I’m in awe of you right now. Reading your story, your pain and then how the birth of your daughter opened your heart to this incredible love again is wonderful. And isn’t it amazing how the opening of your womb caused an opening of the heart! Like a flower you have opened and become even more beautiful than you already were.
      I also lost my brother 34 years ago. I was 23 and he was 26 and because we were the last two of 8 kids, we were very close. So one sunny morning 34 years ago, I kissed him goodbye as I dropped him at work, not knowing that as I watched him walk away I would never see him again. For many years I would search for him on a crowded street or shop or anywhere thinking, it was just a mistake and that he was alive somewhere and I suppose that was how I coped.
      So thank you for your story, we all need to be reminded of how God, in His infinite wisdom can bring us out of darkness and into His beautiful light.
      Never forget how strong, courageous and breathtaking beautiful you are.
      love n blessings

  • Reply Clare January 24, 2018 at 5:14 am

    As children and now as adults, I have and will continue to always admire both your strength and courage. The first time I heard this tale, I didn’t know how to react, well as a teenager who does? Now as an adult I still don’t have the right words, other than love and admiration for you and your whole family.

    • Reply Shante Hutton January 24, 2018 at 5:25 am

      So, that made me cry. I just think back to how awful I acted in so many situations, but I’m so grateful for your love, and for your friendship when it all felt like too much. Thank you Clare

  • Reply Jonelle January 24, 2018 at 5:16 am

    This speaks to me in such a profound way. Death has been such a big part of my life. My cousin, who was more like my brother was killed at 13. He was riding a motorbike and a truck knocked him down. His Death brought such suffering to my family. Not only did he die but a part of us too, for a long time our family was filled with ugly. My father introduced him to bikes and he felt responsible for the death. Your story has so much meaning to me. Thank you for bravely sharing it. 🖤

    • Reply Shante Hutton January 24, 2018 at 5:42 am

      Thank you my friend. We sometimes forget how truly intertwined we are with death, how unforgiving he is, and how terrible it is to be “left behind”. Thank you for sharing with me my precious – the beauty is that the cracks that break us, make us so much more inviting, and loving

  • Reply Lindsay January 24, 2018 at 5:37 am

    Shante every post is in this series is moving. Your commitment dedication and bravery is remarkable. Your strength is an inspiration. I hope more people will read this and find comfort in knowing that there is indeed a light at the end of the tunnel.

    • Reply Shante Hutton January 24, 2018 at 5:44 am

      Thank you for your beautiful words Lindsay – it’s been an honor to create something that has had such a profound affect on so many people.

  • Reply Kim Muller January 24, 2018 at 5:43 am

    My husband’s sister and brother died. She when she was 2 years and him a few days before his 16th birthday. Every day is hard for him, more so because our eldest child is a copy/paste of his brother. Your story brought me to tears and reminded me of how far my husband, and his parents, have come in the years following their deaths. Thank you for this 😊

    • Reply Shante Hutton January 24, 2018 at 3:27 pm

      I am so sorry to read that Kim – death is such an awful cloak to wear, robbing us of so much. I’m so glad that they are slowly taking the burdens off

  • Reply Luchae Williams January 24, 2018 at 6:19 am

    Breathtaking! Thank you for sharing!

  • Reply Mariska Goussard January 24, 2018 at 6:54 am

    Once again the stunning photography left me breathless! You are angelically beautiful. Thank you for sharing and trusting your story with us.

    • Reply Shante Hutton January 24, 2018 at 12:10 pm

      Thank you Mariska, thank you for following the journey

  • Reply Abieda Siers January 24, 2018 at 6:58 am

    OH MY GOSH, this was sad but beautiful and you are beautiful and wise and lovely

    My heart is full.

    • Reply Shante Hutton January 24, 2018 at 12:10 pm

      You are too kind Abieda – thank you for the love!

  • Reply Mandy Lee Miller January 24, 2018 at 7:01 am

    These photos of you are exceptional and tell the story without the words. Your words are always so true and clear and pierce through any emotional distance we place between ourselves and other people’s pain. You may not have intended to be part of this series, but I believe this series was born of the need for you to share this here and allow you to see yourself as the exquisitely beautiful, strong and talented woman we all see. Sending you love x

    • Reply Shante Hutton January 24, 2018 at 12:11 pm

      Your words are just so perfect – thank you for reading and sharing in the journey…and most of all, for your constant love and support

  • Reply Charlene | High Heels & Fairy Tales January 24, 2018 at 7:09 am

    I love this series! I’m so glad you finally gave in, and decided to feature yourself – thank you for sharing your story. You’re so strong! And the photos are gorgeous! You look stunning! ❤️

    • Reply Shante Hutton January 24, 2018 at 12:11 pm

      Ah thank you Charlene! It’s been an absolute honour to just let everything go, and to give space for others to do the same

  • Reply Celeste Booysen January 24, 2018 at 7:22 am

    Shante, I don’t actually even have any words. Death too has touched me a number of times with its cold hand in my adult life, but most recently with my own Father. An incomplete story was ours before he died nearly 6 years ago and so suddenly, and there was no chance for words of forgiveness between us and never will be. I’m sorry for your loss and experiences when you should have been carefree and dancing through your childhood, but I am grateful that you have experienced your healing. This post has been a huge trigger for me, but I really needed to read it.

    • Reply Shante Hutton January 24, 2018 at 12:12 pm

      Celeste, I’m so sorry to read about the death of your father. There are no words I can offer that would bring any comfort, just know that by sharing this, your heart can become cherished by someone else, someone who wills for you to heal

  • Reply Ingrid Jones January 24, 2018 at 7:40 am

    Dearest Shante, it took ne also years to own myself. Now i only tell things as they are, feel things as they are. Im in love with this post. I’m in love with this you.

  • Reply Chalice January 24, 2018 at 7:44 am

    Am amazing journey Shante.
    So happy for you that God brought you out and blessed you with gorgeous Rosie.

  • Reply Maryam January 24, 2018 at 7:48 am

    I have just discovered your series… Thank you for your courage on sharing such a personal part of yourself. I am in awe…. This touched me very deeply ❤️

    • Reply Shante Hutton January 24, 2018 at 12:14 pm

      I’m so glad you found it – I’m so glad it resonated with you. Thank you for reading

  • Reply Sharon January 24, 2018 at 8:08 am

    Your story is heartbreaking but also quite remarkable!
    I just wanted to say one thing….. don’t ever confuse pity with compassion. I made that mistake during my 7 year journey through infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss. I cut myself off from everyone because I hated their pity, which made me feel small and uncomfortable. It took me a long time to realize that because of my own insecurities and not feeling good enough, I saw pity when in actual fact it was love and compassion that I was rejecting and turning away from.

    • Reply Shante Hutton January 24, 2018 at 3:17 pm

      Thank you so much Sharon. It is true, pride has done me so many wrongs, it has closed so many doors that I will never be able to open again. It even turned me against my own mother when really, she knew me better than anyone else. xx

  • Reply sandra January 24, 2018 at 8:16 am

    What an inspiring story from a beautiful women Thank you for opening up and may you and your family be blessed

  • Reply ChevsLife January 24, 2018 at 8:40 am

    Profound and deeply touched.

  • Reply chastin dreyer January 24, 2018 at 8:56 am

    this entire series… I have no words, such beauty born from such pain and heartache, I cannot imagine, thank you for allowing people to read these stories and about the journeys that have made each of the 4 of you who you are today, incredible beauty.

    • Reply Shante Hutton January 24, 2018 at 12:15 pm

      Thank you Chastin for following the series, for following our journeys

  • Reply Sigrid January 24, 2018 at 1:25 pm

    This post, this series, it is incredible. That there are those among us who conceal these amazing stories beneath layers upon layers of time and hurt – it just boggles my mind. That saying about being kind because we all have a story is more true than we can imagine.
    I admire your strength, one I’m finding is a core of myself, too, in a place I thought was filled with weakness.
    My heart breaks for your childhood loss, but what a gift the birth of your daughter must have been! I hope you share this with her when she is old enough to understand.

    • Reply Shante Hutton January 24, 2018 at 3:29 pm

      It is so true, we walk alongside people and we never know what they have faced or what we say or do that might affect them. Thank you so much for your lovely, supportive comments

  • Reply Lynne Jarche Ford January 24, 2018 at 1:47 pm

    The experience of death when you are very young can indeed colour the rest of your life, if you let it. I know. It sears the soul and must be used to gain strength. Shine like a pearl, love those close to you and grow. You are finding your way, let it be a happy path from now on, with the past just a memory. xxxx

  • Reply Tracy Dawson January 24, 2018 at 2:16 pm

    Shante, wow, this has left me speechless. Your writing is so beautiful, your pictures are stunning. Everything about this article is just breath taking. What a tragedy you’ve been through, cannot imagine having to go through this, but you’ve made it and through all of it, you are still able to shine so brightly! Keep on shinning!

    • Reply Shante Hutton January 24, 2018 at 3:30 pm

      Oh thank you Tracy – I intend on being brighter than I ever thought possible, as long as I remember how far I’ve come.

  • Reply Maz January 24, 2018 at 7:10 pm

    This was hard to read, because I hold you so dear and the fact that you went through so much pain upsets me. That’s too much pain. You are incredible. You are strong. You are smart. You are loving, caring and loyal. You are fierce AF. And you are an amazing mom. I am so glad you decided to write your story as well. I want to write a more profound comment, but I am crying too much. lol

    • Reply Shante Hutton January 25, 2018 at 8:32 am

      Thank you my love, thank you for your constant support

  • Reply Hayley Malan January 24, 2018 at 9:45 pm

    Shante, you are such a brave and strong woman. Thank you for sharing your story, so beautifully written.

  • Reply Kathryn Rossiter January 25, 2018 at 5:36 am

    So very beautiful – the words, the images, you. What an incredible series. Well done x

  • Reply Melissa Javan January 27, 2018 at 2:40 pm

    Loss for words. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Reply Laetitia Corder February 16, 2018 at 12:52 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this. You are such an inspiration.
    I can relate to this in so many ways. I met/literally faced death for the first time when I was a teenager. And faced it again when I lost my dad. I was already pregnant with my daughter when I had to say goodbye to my daddy. The walls that I have built in my life are bigger than enormous. Giving birth to my child changed me for the better in so many ways. I still have a long way to go.

  • Leave a Reply