Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

I Want To Go Home Forever: a powerfully original collection of raw and honest personal stories about xenophobia and belonging in Gauteng

Like all excellent ideas the one that animates this book is both disarmingly simple and powerfully original. So much has been written on xenophobia in South Africa, and yet so few have listened with care and precision to the voices of the ordinary people at the coalface. This book unsettles so many old assumptions, like who is host and who visitor, who belongs and what indeed it might mean to belong at all. It does this simply by creating a space in which people bare witness to their lives.
- Jonny Steinberg, South African writer and scholar and author of A Man of Good Hope (2015)

These are raw, honest personal stories – some heartbreaking, some uplifting. Beautifully told, each story is a study of journey-making. No matter where we may have been born, each of us seeks a place where we will be safe and respected for who we are. The stories in this collection illustrate that no journey is easy – each act of leaving and each attempt to begin again is tough. At their core however, these stories grapple with the making of a nation. Taken together, these narratives illustrate the quest for dignity and so they tell the story of humanity and striving, and ambition in the midst of profound difficulty. This book speaks to South African and African concerns but at its heart, it documents a set of global phenomena that are important to anyone who cares about the state of the world today.
- Sisonke Msimang, activist and author of Always Another Country

Generations of people from across Africa, Europe and Asia have turned metal from the depths of the earth into Africa’s wealthiest, most dynamic and most diverse urban centre, a mega-city where post-apartheid South Africa is being made. Yet for newcomers as well as locals, the golden possibilities of Gauteng are tinged with dangers and difficulties.

Chichi is a hairdresser from Nigeria who left for South Africa after a love affair went bad.

Azam arrived from Pakistan with a modest wad of cash and a dream.

Estiphanos trekked the continent escaping political persecution in Ethiopia, only to become the target of the May 2008 xenophobic attacks.

Nombuyiselo is the mother of 14-year-old Simphiwe Mahori, shot dead in 2015 by a Somalian shopkeeper in Snake Park, sparking a further wave of anti-foreigner violence.

After fighting white oppression for decades, Ntombi has turned her anger towards African foreigners, who, she says are taking jobs away from South Africans and fuelling crime.

Papi, a freedom fighter and activist in Katlehong, now dedicates his life to teaching the youth in his community that tolerance is the only way forward.

These are some of the thirteen stories that make up this collection. They are the stories of South Africans, some Gauteng-born, others from neighbouring provinces, striving to realise the promises of democracy. They are also the stories of newcomers from neighbouring countries and from as far afield as Pakistan and Rwanda, seeking a secure future in those very promises.

The narratives, collected by researchers, journalists and writers, reflect the many facets of South Africa’s post-apartheid decades. Taken together they give voice to the emotions and relations emanating from a paradoxical place of outrage and hope, violence and solidarity. They speak of intersections between people and their pasts, and of how, in the making of selves and the other they are also shaping South Africa. Underlying these accounts is a nostalgia for an imagined future that can never be realised. These are stories of forever seeking a place called ‘home’.

Loren B. Landau is the South African Research Chair in Human Mobility and the Politics of Difference at the African Centre for Migration & Society, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. Some of his books include The Humanitarian Hangover: Displacement, Aid, and Transformation in Western Tanzania (Wits Press); editor of Exorcising the Demons Within: Xenophobia, Violence and Statecraft in Contemporary South Africa (Wits Press), and contributor to the Wits Press book, Go Home or Die Here: Violence, Xenophobia and the Reinvention of Difference in South Africa.

Tanya Pampalone is the managing editor of the Global Investigative Journalism Network. The former executive editor of Mail & Guardian, has won the prestigious journalism award for creative writing, the Standard Bank Sikuvile, in 2012.

Book details

  • I Want to go Home Forever: Stories of Becoming and Belonging in South Africa’s Great Metropolis edited by Loren Landau, Tanya Pampalone
    EAN: 9781776142217
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!

In Dress as Social Relations Vibeke Maria Viestad challenges the myth of the nearly naked Bushman

To dress is a uniquely human experience, but practices and meanings of dress vary greatly among people.

In a Western cultural tradition, the practice of dressing ‘properly’ has for centuries distinguished ‘civilised’ people from ‘savages’.

Through travel literature and historical ethnographic descriptions of the Bushmen of southern Africa, such perceptions and prejudices have made their mark also on the modern research tradition. Because Bushmen were widely considered to be ‘nearly naked’ the study of dress has played a limited part in academic writings on Bushman culture.

In Dress as Social Relations Vibeke Maria Viestad challenges this myth of the nearly naked Bushman and provides an interdisciplinary study of Bushman dress, as it is represented in the archives and material culture of historical Bushman communities.

Maintaining a critical perspective, Viestad provides an interpretation of the significance of dress for historical Bushman people.

Dress, she argues, formed an embodied practice of social relations between humans, animals and other powerful beings of the Bushman world; moreover, this complex and meaningful practice was intimately related to subsistence strategies and social identity.

The historical collections under scrutiny present a wide variety of research material representing different aspects of the bodily practice of dress. Whereas the Bleek & Lloyd archive of oral myths and narratives has become renowned for its great research potential, the artefact collections of Dorothea Bleek and Louis Fourie are much less known and have not earlier been published in a richly illustrated and comprehensive way.

Dress as Social Relations is aimed at scholars and students of archaeology, anthropology, material culture studies, dress studies, ethnographic studies, museology, culture historical studies and African studies, but will also be of interest to people of descendant communities.

Vibeke Maria Viestad is a Norwegian archaeologist and Research Fellow in the Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History at the University of Oslo. She is an Honorary Research Fellow at the Rock Art Research Institute, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

Book details

Launch: The Politics of Custom edited by John and Jean Comaroff (15 August)

These compelling and wide-ranging studies explore the staying power and apparently counter-intuitive resurgence of chiefship in Africa … Chiefs have clout because their role draws on sources of sovereignty that go beyond the conventional realm of politics to encompass kinship networks, ritual, business, and the global economy. This book shines new light on the interplay of tradition and modernity, showing that chiefship is neither wholly of the state nor of the customary, but always entangled with both. Deborah James, London School of Economics

How are we to explain the resurgence of customary chiefs in contemporary Africa? Rather than disappearing with the tide of modernity, as many expected, indigenous sovereigns are instead a rising force, often wielding substantial power and legitimacy despite major changes in the workings of the global political economy in the post-Cold War era – changes in which they are themselves deeply implicated.

This pathbreaking volume, edited by anthropologists John L. Comaroff and Jean Comaroff, explores the reasons behind the increasingly assertive politics of custom in many corners of Africa. Chiefs come in countless guises – from university professors through cosmopolitan businessmen to subsistence farmers – but, whatever else they do, they are a critical key to understanding the tenacious hold that ‘traditional’ authority enjoys in the late modern world. Together the contributors explore this counterintuitive chapter in Africa’s history and, in so doing, place it within the broader world-making processes of the twenty-first century.

Event Details

  • Date: Wednesday, 15 August 2018
  • Time: 5:30 PM for 6:00 PM
  • Venue: Wits Institute for Social & Economic Research, WiSER seminar room, 6th floor, Richard Ward Building, University of the Witwatersrand
     
    It is generally easiest to Uber onto campus because parking is often difficult. Ask to be dropped at the Origins Museum at the top of Yale Road. WiSER is about 100 metres east in the Richard Ward building.
     
    | Map
  • Guest Speakers: Mbongiseni Buthelezi, Dineo Skosana, Rogers Orock
  • RSVP: info.witspress@wits.ac.za
     

    Book Details

    • The Politics of Custom: Chiefship, Capital, and the State in Contemporary Africa edited by Jean Comaroff, John Comaroff
      EAN: 9781776143207
      Find this book with BOOK Finder!

The wound at the heart of Afrikanerdom: Koos Kombuis describes how a new book about child abuse helped him solve his identity issues

By Koos Kombuis


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I recently flew back home from yet another Afrikaans arts festival in the platteland. As it was the last day of the festival, the flight was full of Afrikaans celebrity performing artists. I remember overhearing one of them saying, as we were boarding: “As hierdie vliegtuig vandag val is die hele Afrikaanse kultuur in sy moer.”

I sat on the plane, surrounded by people I knew from my past, having collaborated with many of them, and knowing a lot of their personal lives. It struck me how almost all of us shared certain traits. We had all struggled to get where we were. Many of us, especially those of us who had set out moving boundaries and setting new trends, were filled with ambivalent feelings about our own culture.

Being an Afrikaner has always implied, to me, to have a love-hate relationship with oneself.

And, speaking of relationships: I realised that day, as I looked at my friends and colleagues from the entertainment industry, what a surprising number of us had had turbulent personal lives. Some had struggled with drugs or alcohol. Some had survived messy divorces.

Apart from the personal problems, there was also lots of hostility bubbling under the surface. Though, on the face of it, we all got along with one another, we all knew about the factions, the petty rivalries, the in-fighting and gossip. Oh, yes, we all smiled at each other, but our smiles were hiding so much hurt, so much resentment, so much personal baggage.

Fortunately, the plane did not crash, and we all arrived at our destination, plus all our luggage AND baggage.

It is the year 2018, and the Afrikaners, as a group, are possibly more isolated from the outside world than ever before. We are isolated from our fellow South Africans, we are isolated from the rest of the planet, and we are isolated from ourselves.

That is a surprising paradox, given the fact that our arts industry is thriving. We are making CDs, writing books, producing films. We are creating new works in great quantity and of great quality.

Yet our paradise has a dark side. We may be doing well for ourselves, but we are in hell. There is something rotten in the state of modern Afrikanerdom, and we are powerless to do anything about it. We somehow cannot break free to make real contact with others, to truly connect with ourselves.

The one ray of light in this dark diagnosis is the fact that, as a group and as a nation, we are not all that unique. Many nations have a dark side. Both the British and the Americans are suffering, collectively, from deep inner divisions, and the fact that they voted for Trump and Brexit tells the sorry story of their schizoid states. The Germans are haunted by the shadows of their own history. South African blacks, of course, have their own demons to fight as they struggle to overcome the cultural and economic wounds inflicted by apartheid.

Few nations, however, are as ignorant of the true causes of their own suffering as the Afrikaner. We all know how we feel, but we are not sure why we feel like this.

This ignorance and denial is mirrored in the selective way many of us have chosen to deal with the historical fact of apartheid.

Take Afri-Forum, for instance. Oh, we all love to hate Afri-Forum. We hate them, because they say out loud what many of us secretly think but are afraid to admit to ourselves. They say things like: “Oh, apartheid wasn’t all that bad. It certainly wasn’t a crime against humanity.” (This same sentiment is often uttered around the ritual braaivleis fires of Afrikanerdom, and often in much less nuanced language.)

I have often thought whether there is a deeper reason for our vehement denial of the pain caused by apartheid. The answer, when it hit me, came from the most unlikely source imaginable.

A few months ago, I happened to meet a prominent counselling psychologist during drinks with friends in a Kalk Bay restaurant. She mentioned that she had just had a book published in America.

“Congratulations! What is the book about?” I asked her.

“It is about survivors of sexual abuse in childhood,” she said.

“What a terrible thing that must be to endure in childhood!” I exclaimed. “I have had a rotten childhood myself, but thank God, I was never sexually molested.”

It was only when I started reading her book, weeks later, that I learnt the terrible truth about my own denial.

In the opening chapters of Working with Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse, published by Routledge (Taylor & Francis Group), psychologist Liezel Anguelova outlines eighteen different types of child sexual abuse and classifies them in three categories: “very severe”, “severe” and “less severe”. Among the “less severe” she lists occurrences such as “touching of clothed breasts or genitals”, “use of child as an emotional partner”, and “use of enemas”. Among the “very severe” she lists “genital sex”, “penetration with an object”, “depiction of sexual acts”, et cetera.

It was a heading under the middle section (“severe”), however, that caught my eye: “pornography”.

When I was a very young boy, there was a paperback publication with photographs of scantily-clad women lying around our house. At some stage I picked up the book and glanced at the pictures with interest.

That, however, was not what caused the scar.

It was the day some of my family members brought me the book, forced me to page through it, and stood around laughing at me while I did it, that caused the scar.

It was an incident I had confronted my father with already years before, while he was still alive. I did not realise, at that stage, how much damage he had caused with his age-inappropriate deed. For years, I had thought my problems with relationships, my weakness for voyeurism and my inability to connect the sexual act with emotional intimacy was caused simply by lack of self-control or immaturity.

Once having identified this one incident as the pivotal moment the wound was inflicted, as I read through Anguelova’s book, a pattern emerged and I started connecting the dots. My family’s obsession with purgatory medicines. The numerous enemas. The time, when I was a toddler, my father taunted me by embracing in front of me in a suggestive way, dressed only in his underpants.

After finishing the book – I read every part of it, also these which did not apply to myself, I thought of how the ultra-strict Calvinist dogmas of my youth had actually caused the impact of the pornography incident to be more severe. Sex was depicted as something evil and naughty, and masturbation was considered a sin.

This teaching in itself, according to Anguelova’s system, could be categorised under “less severe” or “psychological” molestation.

Anguelova’s book changed everything. I had thought I had worked through all my youth traumas. I had already forgiven my parents. It was all there in a corner of the room: the cardboard boxes filled with notebooks in which I had worked through the pain.

After reading this book, I filled one more notebook. I put it in the top box, and closed it one final time.

And I was free. Finally free. The truth had set me free.

How many of my fellow Afrikaners, not only those of my generation but also many younger than me, carry the scars of their upbringing with them?

You see it all the time, the horror effects of a patriarchal system based on outdated tribal values. The family killings and suicides. There are too many victims, too many cases like Henri van Breda, too many of my friends who simply cannot fix their damaged relationships with their parents and siblings.

Is this what lies at the heart of our hostility to our fellow South Africans? Because the real cruelty of apartheid was not simply the most obvious incidents of torture, murder and jail. Apartheid was a social engineering tool that separated families, degraded peoples’ self-respect, and, through the homelands system which virtually forced adult males to seek work on the mines, created an entire generation of blacks who had grown up with absent fathers.

It seems preposterous, on the face of it, to link apartheid with sexual abuse, yet I can see it now, I can see it clearly, and it makes me sick and nauseous to even think of it.

After meeting up with Liezel Anguelova, and reading her book, I sent her one email, asking her: “How many people you treat for childhood sexual abuse are Afrikaners?”

And she replied: “Many. Most of them.”

This, I believe, is the real wound. This is the real reason we are still in denial about apartheid. It’s not simply the fact that we cannot face the pain we caused others. More importantly, it’s the fact that we cannot face our own pain.

Of course, there is hope. As the era of the Verwoerds and the Bothas recede further into the past, and as many South Africans from different backgrounds start mingling socially or at the workplace, young Afrikaans-speaking people are developing a different perspective on the world. Both my children have had school crushes on, and friendships with, children who are not white. This is the kind of thing that would have caused an uproar as late as the 1990’s. In the years between 2000 and 2010, it might have been frowned upon. Today, it is hardly noticed.

It will take a long time for the scars to heal. We will not be a completely normal society until they heal. But perhaps we are slowly getting there.

I sit here, staring at those closed cardboard boxes in the corner of my study, and I think: there, buried inside those boxes, lies my old agonised and bitter self. It is finally dead and dying, like apartheid, even as a new me is being born, a new me who will hopefully find his feet in a new country, finally freed from the hurt and the hell of the four decades after 1948.

Book details

Launch: Frantz Fanon, Psychiatry and Politics by Nigel C. Gibson & Roberto Beneduce (30 July)

The revolutionary and psychiatrist Frantz Fanon was a foundational figure in postcolonial and decolonial thought and practice, yet his psychiatric work still has only been studied peripherally. That is in part because most of his psychiatric writings have remained untranslated.

With a focus on Fanon’s key psychiatry texts, Frantz Fanon, Psychiatry and Politics considers Fanon’s psychiatric writings as materials anticipating as well as accompanying Fanon’s better known works, written between 1952 and 1961 (Black Skin, White Masks; A Dying Colonialism, Toward the African Revolution, The Wretched of the Earth).

Both clinical and political, they draw on another notion of psychiatry that intersects history, ethnology, philosophy, and psychoanalysis. The authors argue that Fanon’s work inaugurates a critical ethnopsychiatry based on a new concept of culture (anchored to historical events, particular situations, and lived experience) and on the relationship between the psychological and the cultural. Thus, Gibson and Beneduce contend that Fanon’s psychiatric writings also express Fanon’s wish, as he puts it in The Wretched of the Earth, to “develop a new way of thinking, not only for us but for humanity.”

Nigel C. Gibson is Associate Professor of Postcolonial Studies at Emerson College. He is author of Fanon: The Postcolonial Imagination (2003) and Fanonian Practices in South Africa (2014), and the editor of Rethinking Fanon (1999) and Living Fanon (2011). He is the editor of the Journal of Asian and African Studies.

Roberto Beneduce is Professor of Medical Anthropology at the University of Turin. He is the founding director of the Frantz Fanon Center in Turin. His recent publications include a collection of Fanon’s psychiatric writings in Italian, Decolonizzare la follia, Scritti sulla psichiatria coloniale (2011), and L’histoire au corps (Embodying History) (2016).

Event Details

Anna Dahlqvist's It's Only Blood shatters enduring taboos surrounding menstruation


‘Only when we call out the unnecessary shame and stigma that surrounds periods can we demand meaningful change. Dahlqvist’s deft, compassionate storytelling, and her critical global perspective, are a tremendous contribution to the movement for menstrual equity.’
Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, author of Periods Gone Public: Taking a Stand for Menstrual Equity

‘A lushly detailed and often intimate portrait of a global social movement. What’s more, Dahlqvist’s perceptive account reveals the insidious power of stigma to limit lives.’
Chris Bobel, author of New Blood: Third-Wave Feminism and the Politics of Menstruation

‘A wide-ranging exploration of the enduring taboos surrounding menstruation, taking the author around the globe. What she uncovers in this provocative and insightful book will make us forever rethink our “first world problems” by putting periods in a global context.’
Karen Houppert, author of The Curse: Confronting the Last Unmentionable Taboo

Across the world, 2 billion experience menstruation, yet menstruation is seen as a mark of shame. We are told not to discuss it in public, that tampons and sanitary pads should be hidden away, the blood rendered invisible. In many parts of the world, poverty, culture and religion collide causing the taboo around menstruation to have grave consequences.

Younger people who menstruate are deterred from going to school, adults from work, infections are left untreated. The shame is universal and the silence a global rule.

In It’s Only Blood Anna Dahlqvist tells the shocking but always moving stories of why and how people from Sweden to Bangladesh, from the United States to Uganda, are fighting back against the shame.

Anna Dahlqvist is a journalist specialising in gender, sexuality and human rights. She is editor-in-chief of Ottar, a Swedish magazine focusing on sexual politics and has previously published a book on illegal abortion and abortion rights in Europe.

Book details