Experiences of those who left their homeland

2013-07-17 00:00

LONG-STANDING readers of The Witness will remember the name of Eve Hemming who, for 10 years, was a columnist for the paper, writing on a variety of subjects. One of the main ones, both before and after she left Hilton for a new life in Auckland, New Zealand, was leaving the land of her birth and settling elsewhere.

“Writing for me has been a way of putting emotion into words,” she says, speaking on one of her regular visits back to South Africa.

“At the time of leaving, I wrote about the build-up, then the honeymoon period, and some of the pain we went through. But the longer we were away, obviously the less significant it would be to people here.” So she stopped writing her columns, but moved on to a book.

Scatterlings: A Tapestry of Afri-Expat Tales is the result. It contains much of Hemming’s story, but also that of others who have left their homelands and gone elsewhere, for all kinds of reasons. “There are the experiences of about 80 people in the book, some long, some short. It’s divided into sections, dealing with various aspects,” Hemming explains.

“I can’t separate working it out for myself from the whole project. I started with a lot of anger, anger that things worked out the way they had. At the start, when I left, I wanted everyone to leave with me. The book isn’t a diary, but it factors in the emotional turmoil and the roller -coaster ride that is emigration. The early feedback has been positive: people have found it very healing. Both those staying and those going.”

Hemming has made a point of including a wide variety of perspectives in Scatterlings, not just those of white, middle-class South Africans, which is how she describes herself. “There are people who live here, who live abroad, people who left and came back, and even those who left, came back and left again. There’s a black British woman who came here and now lives in Australia; people from cross-cultural marriages. There are people who left ‘accidentally’ by going away to study and then staying.” Hemming talks about the “waves of leaving”, those who left at different times, for different reasons, but insists she refused to include the racists, those who supported apartheid and still wave the old flag. And she is not trying to encourage people either to leave or to stay.

The title, with its echoes of Johnny Clegg, appeals to her because the word scatterlings means vagabonds, those without a settled home. Hemming says the research and writing, seeing all sides of the question, and sharing other people’s stories, has been cathartic for her. She hopes other people will experience the same.

• Scatterlings: A Tapestry of Afri-Expat Tales, published by XLibris, is available from the author at eve.epiphany@gmail.com or www.facebook.com/groups/444149872274109/ or www.amazon.com, as a book or e-book.

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