Love and discrimination

2010-11-10 00:00

KK Mashobohleng and Katryn van der Merwe come from two very different worlds. KK’s family hails from a rural village in Limpopo, while Katryn’s home is the bustling city of Pretoria.

KK has just broken off a relationship with his childhood sweetheart — the woman his family was convinced he would marry — and is excited to begin his new job as a teacher in Pretoria. Katryn is a teacher too; she meets KK on the first day of the school year at HF Verwoerd High School.

The two soon become close, with KK taking on the role of Katryn’s personal Sepedi tutor. Their working relationship blossoms into a friendship which quickly develops into love. Besotted with one another, the couple perseveres through scathing stares and remarks from staff, students and complete strangers.

Katryn introduces KK to vegetarianism, which he embraces, losing weight and feeling healthier as he does. KK’s family is not convinced his new relationship is all that beneficial. What is the hold this white woman has on their son, they wonder. He’s losing weight, has stopped eating meat and refuses to reconcile with his childhood love. Surely the ancestors cannot be pleased?

Katryn’s weepy mother is equally unconvinced her daughter’s new relationship will work. What is to become of her Kattie when the neighbours discover she is sleeping with a black man? With KK’s family beseeching their ancestors to put an end to KK and Katryn’s love, and right-wing Afrikaners doing all they can to intimidate and bully the pair, their love is put through its paces.

Motana writes a beautiful novel and touches on the very different faces of racial discrimination. Not only does he explore the difficulties an interracial couple faces, but he also describes the different family backgrounds two people in such a relationship deal with. He is even brave enough to broach the topic of racism in city schools and rural village churches.

It was a pleasure to read this novel, which struck close to home. I laughed out loud in some parts and wanted to scream at the characters in others. A wonderful book and a very important story too. Jerusha Sukhdeo


Son-in-law of the Boere

Nape ’a Motana

Umuzi, Random House Struik

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