Book Review: Rediscovering new identities

2016-09-11 07:18
The Keeper of the Kumm
Sylvia Vollenhoven
R192 at takealot.com

The Keeper of the Kumm Sylvia Vollenhoven R192 at takealot.com

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What does one need to survive the increasingly volatile and conflicting times that we are living in?

Resilience? A thick skin? Unwavering courage?

These are some of the issues that I found myself engaging with in Sylvia Vollenhoven’s debut novel, The Keeper of the Kumm.

A biographical account of her personal quest to find her place within society by going back to her roots, Vollenhoven unearths the richness of her own culture, and manages to deliver the many wonders of her ancestry and what this means for her personal sense of identity.

Anyone who has a keen interest in their own identities and the importance of knowing where they fit within the racially complex South African society, should read this book.

Its importance is not simply confined to the stories that Vollenhoven has to tell, but speaks to the greater context that all South Africans are constantly struggling with.

As such, the book is broken down into four parts: mixed, coloured, black and Khoisan.

Former minister of finance Trevor Manuel said of the book: “Our ancestry is about our forebears, their languages, their cultures and their stories.

Apartheid sought to cut this off … nowhere more so than with the creation of a ‘new race’ of coloureds.

Sylvia reconstructs the tapestry of what she was not meant
to know.”

That is where Vollenhoven takes us on a biographical journey into her very own history – a quest to unravel her ancestry and how a reconnection with the past influences the way forward.

In her prologue, she speaks of her career in journalism and her role as a correspondent for a foreign media company, while covering the effects of apartheid.

“Standing outside the prison gates, watching Nelson Mandela take his first strides towards freedom felt like a dream.

Afterwards, covering the negotiations that preceded the new South Africa, the dawn of democracy and our first elections took me ever deeper into a painful collective history.

With apartheid out of the way, I could focus on other aspects of what ailed us as a nation. My own pain came rushing to the surface like lava from an erupting volcano.

As I delved into the story of a long-dead ancestor, I began to understand that centuries of trauma have to be acknowledged before we can move on.

Until we see ourselves in //Kabbo and engage with the //Kabbos in our own histories, we will continue to flounder in a sea of social problems.”

This was one of the most insightful reads I have ever encountered, which shines a light on the //Kabbo and their place within a post-apartheid society.

Vollenhoven has been fighting a landmark case against the SABC over censoring her documentary, Truth Be Told: Project Spear, which deals with the large-scale corruption of the apartheid government and its impact on South Africa.

After taking the public broadcaster to court in May, the high court ruled last week that the material belongs to the SABC and that Vollenhoven could in no way broadcast the documentary.

The SABC must in good faith, however, negotiate for the sale of the documentary.

Read more on:    coloured  |  khoisan  |  black  |  identity  |  the keeper of the kumm

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