BORN during the Apartheid era and raised by her mother’s white employers, Rosie Motene hated being black. She associated her race with inferiority and did everything she could to not be associated with being black. This included avoiding her biological family.
A TOUGH DECISION
Rosie was born a ball of energy. This made her mother’s employers fall in love with her and offer to foster her. Although painful for her biological parents, the decision meant that Rosie could have the kind of life that was only reserved for white people, with material comforts and excellent education. But reality was far from ideal, and Rosie’s mother had to take the back seat in her child’s life, turning her into a bystander. “My mother was a domestic in the home. My foster mother disciplined me and my mom stood by and watched,” she recalls.
HATING HER BLACK SKIN
Other than hating being black, she refused to learn her home language, SeTswana. Her idea of hell was travelling to her ancestral village of Phokeng in the North West. “Being black during Apartheid was bad enough, but being black in a white home brought the obvious differences and pain. When I was naughty, I was threatened that if I were naughty again, I would be sent to Phokeng, so I automatically began to see it as a place of fear and remorse,” she recalls.
Rosie’s moment of facing her heritage, more than ten years ago, was inspired by how lost and confused she felt. She did not understand her culture and an incident with her foster family left her feeling betrayed. Her psychologist advised her to write down her issues. “Working through the memories and pain made me realise that I was in denial about many things in my life, and my identity crisis was the major one. I needed to own up to the fact that I was ashamed of where I came from.” Acknowledging her abortion, and the trauma that she caused her biological mother were the two most difficult things she had to come to terms with. “I knew that it was a decision that had to be made but I had not thought through it properly. I also did not mourn the child. Only now have I forgiven myself for it. This act created a world of solitude and coldness for me, as I believed that I had no right to then become a mother and conceive again. I became numb to the feeling of children and family.”
BACK TO HER ROOTS
Rosie only established a relationship with her mother after thugs broke into her foster parents’ home in Emmerentia, Joburg. Her mother held Rosie’s hands, which made her feel safe. However, it was only after moving to Phokeng in 2012 and cutting ties with her foster family, that she started having a relationship with her father. “Some of my wounds have healed but there will always be a scar. The process takes time and then with the healing, you need to forgive yourself,” she shares.