The future of the past: Memories of apartheid

These are the things that sit with us.  Edited by Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Friederike Bubenzer and Marietjie Oelofsen.  Photos are by Noncedo Gxekwa and Botswele Mogotlane.  Published by Fanele.   142 pages R280
These are the things that sit with us. Edited by Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Friederike Bubenzer and Marietjie Oelofsen. Photos are by Noncedo Gxekwa and Botswele Mogotlane. Published by Fanele. 142 pages R280

A beautiful and terrible new book of words and photos tells everyday memories of apartheid in an attempt to spur meaningful discourse around the truth and reconciliation that the nation has been robbed  of. Here are extracts of three of the voices documented:

Painful things happened to people here in Langa


I was born in Brinton Street in Langa. Apparently, my grandfather was among those who built these houses here in Langa.

My mother was too much into politics. We didn’t know about the meetings she was attending. She continued fighting and not earning money even though we were poor. She would say: “My children, it will be alright. It gets like this, but it will be alright.” Our house would be raided by the Boers, we would cry and it would be painful. She would be manhandled and put in the van. We wouldn’t even know which jail she was going to be thrown in. We would search for her with her comrades.

Tembeka Toleni

There were a lot of painful things happening to people here in Langa. My mother fought against them. Like the dipping. Men who came from the rural Eastern Cape to work in the city had come with ... with ... what do they call that thing? Ijoyini. There was a hall with a big passage. The men were dipped there. We were peeking as children. They looked like cows in a dip. The men would open their suitcases and they would have something poured on them. I don’t know if it was DDT, but something was poured on them so that they don’t bring diseases. They were dipped. That is what was done to them. The men walked down in rows like cows waiting to be dipped. The women would be standing – watching, singing. The song went: “There in Langa, on a Wednesday, the migrants are dipped. And in went Mbombela ... The fathers are dipped!”

Apartheid oppressed us. It was difficult. You’d be walking in town, and you’d see a white person approaching with their children. Without them prompting you, you would go and walk off the pavement, even if it meant being crashed into by a car because they will shove you and push you and you can’t retaliate. Or you would pass by a restaurant and wish to eat there or drink coffee there. But you couldn’t!

That ball should not have rolled there


I was born in Brian Street in District Six in 1946. In 1957, my mother and father received a letter that said we had to move out. Either we move our own stuff or they will remove it for us with the big council trucks. We moved to Bonteheuwel when I was 11.

Abeda Stofberg

I remember one day, when we were already staying in Bonteheuwel, my father took us to the beach. We had to take the train from Langa and then to town. My two sisters and I wore shorts, sweaters and sun hats. My mum and dad were also carrying things. I had a beach ball in my hand that was blown up already. The train was divided into non-whites and whites-only sections. As I got up to get out of the train, the ball fell out of my hand and rolled under the seat of a chair in the whites-only carriage. The police were watching us. My daddy could see that one of them was getting his baton ready. I wanted to run and fetch the ball, but my daddy stopped me. He knew they would hit me.

You know how they beat up my daddy? That ball should not have rolled there. That’s a coloured ball; what was it doing there? He beat up my father so badly. We cried. My father was taken to Caledon Square Police Station at the Parade. He was full of blood. And while he was being beaten up, he had to see us crying too. My mother was crying. My sisters were crying. And I was crying because I felt I was at fault. I should not have let the ball go. But I didn’t know the ball would hop and roll underneath that bench.

I felt strange that I hadn’t gotten the hiding. I thought they beat up the wrong person. My mother almost fainted. We didn’t bother to go to the beach as planned. We turned around and went home.

We lost everything on that piece of land


I grew up in the Brooklyn/Milnerton area. I was born there and I went to school at the Holy Cross Catholic School. My father worked at Wellington Fruit Growers in Paarden Eiland. My father was from the Darling district.

The story of my father is a different story; it is heartsore. My father had the farm Slangkop in Darling. He inherited it from his father. That is what he said to me.

He owned a piece of land and we had cows and chickens. I don’t know how it became my father’s land. No one knows. But I know the piece of land that my father lived on.

He named it Kalkgaatjie, but the big farm’s name was Slangkop.

The former owner who was on the farm first – his son inherited the farm. The son decided that, no, this man’s cows and bulls can’t roam on my farm.

The farmer came to tell my father that my father’s cows were eating the feed on his land. My father then needed to go to Cape Town to work for food for the animals on the farm.

Peter Felander

I remember I was very little – I was about six years old – and my father said: “Let’s go to Cape Town.” When we went back to the farm, everything was gone. My father’s cows were gone, his kraals were gone, his chickens were gone. We lost everything on that piece of land.

My father taught us so many things there. You could get away with no money there. We were near the sea. We didn’t fish, but we used to wait for the red boats to go out. The fishermen had nets, and then we would wade out and all the fish that fell out on the sand – it wasn’t their fish; it was ours. We each used to take a sack of fish home. My father showed me how to catch crayfish. He would take mussels out and break it and put it in my mouth and I would eat it. It was nice.

When we moved from Brooklyn to Kensington, it was fine and we could keep chickens. But when we moved here to Bonteheuwel, we weren’t allowed chickens and cows. We had to get rid of them. It was a double knock for my father.

A couple of years later, we went back and the farmer was building over the graves. He had no respect for them. There is nothing you can do.

They constantly talked about a piece of paper, a piece of paper and have you got proof? Where would our forefathers get proof from?

These are the things that sit with us,edited by Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Friederike Bubenzer and Marietjie Oelofsen

Photos by Noncedo Gxekwa and Botswele Mogotlane

Published by Fanele

142 pages


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