I recently finished writing Swordfish and got it all wrapped and sent off to my editor. Now I’m putting together my proposal for the next story I want to write for BSB–fingers crossed it gets approval because I’m really excited about this one now.
It will be set mostly in South Africa–in the shadows of Table Mountain. If you’ve read some of my blogs before then I’m sure you’re aware that I spent some time as a child living in South Africa, but I’ve never really spoken too much about it. What’s to say, right? I mean I was only a kid. I was five when we moved out there, and we came back when I was about ten. Far too young to really know anything about it all. And you’re right, I didn’t. Then. But I saw. And I learned. And I knew right from wrong. Unlike the other children my age I’d already had schooling before we left the UK and in my class in England we had a little black boy, and an Asian girl. In South Africa, they weren’t allowed to attend the same school, go to the same swimming pool, or beach. The had different busses, used different shops, and in the same country they lived a different life.
A political and cultural system that systematically oppressed the majority population of a country by the people in power who originated from an invading force. We were taught to call them ‘coloureds’, and grown men were called ‘boy’ even by children like me. While we lived there my family had a maid and nanny and a gardening boy. He was older than my grandparents. They liked working for British immigrants because we treated them humanely, paid better wages, we never beat them, and we honoured their days off and holidays. I learned that this was not always the case with Africaans. I’m not suggesting that all of them were so bad, but there is no denying that some, if not most, were.
I’d be amazed if you had never heard of Nelson Mandela and the struggles of the ANC party as they fought for equality. While I was a child they were considered terrorists. I was even told that by my father. We were fed stories about them being murderers, thieves, and rapists. And children…they do believe. In Africa for every white child going to sleep, the boogieman had a face, a colour, and a race. They were taught to fear, and from fear comes hate.
Now, you’ll be shaking your head and telling me this is indoctrination, and you’re correct. But giving it a name doesn’t take away the powerful effect this had on the country. We left in 1989, just before the fall of apartheid. And in the twenty four years since the country has gone through a myriad of changes. Good and bad. Violence is still a way of life. Racism still exists. And the poverty is just as vast as before. But now Black people can vote, can be leaders, and can–in theory–work in any job they choose. But still education is not equal, shanty towns and slums house the majority of black people, and health care is not a right but a privilege too few can afford. AIDS is spreading like wild fire, Malaria, and dysentery continue to take lives everyday.
I loved growing up in Africa. I loved seeing a different way of life and having my eyes opened to the world in a way I never would have seen if we’d stayed my whole life in the UK. Braai’s (BBQ’s) every weekend, building tree houses all the time, the flamingo’s settling in the Pan (lake) opposite my house, and swimming everyday after school. In many ways my childhood was idyllic, full of laughter and fun. My education there was excellent, so much so that when I returned to the UK I was two years ahead of my peers. But it has left it’s mark on me too. I look back and see a stunningly beautiful country torn apart by anger, fear, recrimination, retribution, and revenge. I see too many wrongs that can never be put right, and too many people holding grudges on both sides. I’d love to see peace in Africa, true peace. Where women don’t sleep with guns under their pillows in case someone breaks in during the night to rape and murder them.
So now that I’m moving on from Swordfish and Nightingale this history–my history–is set to become the backdrop to my next story. This is where I start. Why? Because Africa has haunted me for the past twenty four years and it has many, many story’s to tell. Now, it’s time to tell my story of Africa. In the shadows of Table Mountain, on the vineyards of the Cape, Imogen and Amale will begin to tell you their tale…
This is me and my family at the cable car station at the top of Table Mountain when I was 7. Also in the picture you have my Grandparents, Harold and Jean, my dad, mother, and my younger sister, Lisa.
Growing up and going to school in the late sixties – I was really unaware of this level of prejudiced behavior. In San Francisco, we lived in a true melting pot ,and I had friends of every color, all the time. I lived my early years IN the projects, which is what my mother could afford.
It breaks my heart to know that people get hurt, abused, and tossed aside, simply because of the color of their skin.
I see character, spirit, and honesty. I wish everyone would.
Prejudice of any kind is despicable, Yvonne. Any little that can be done to raise awareness of it and the pain it causes can only be a good thing as far as I’m concerned. Here’s to melting pots and the tolerance and equality they can breed.
i think its a great setting ( and subject) for a novel. In 1980s San Francisco, if we weren’t protesting nuclear weapons, the war in Nicaragua, we were protesting apartheid. An old friend of mine once joked her baby son’s first words would be “Free Nelson Mandela”. Joking aside, it’s a despicable racist system and as you say, the effects still linger even though it’s officially gone.
Thanks, Kathleen. It really does amaze me that it was a part of our world and that one person could, can, and does treat another like that. But South Africa itself is a stunning country. There’s a mountain pass that they call God’s Window it’s so beautiful. I still think I was incredibly lucky to live there and see it.
When a colored family moved within a mile of us in 1952, my father quickly sold our home and moved us across town to where we’d attend white-only schools. Busing didn’t begin until my senior year in 1964, angering black and white alike, since the burden of time and distance was one sided, and racism was still very much alive and well in my hometown. Still, I cannot imagine how much worse it must have been to be one of a majority, treated as inhumane. A fine piece of writing. Brava!
Thank you, Marguerite. I hope I can do justice to the issue and thank you for sharing your experience with me.
Great writing Andrea. I had a similar experience to yours in spending a number of my early years in Rhodesia and subsequently having relatives the fled the country after the end of UDI and Mugabe coming to power. I was brought up on tales of the heroic white forces fighting ZANU and ZAPU and to fear the terrorists. Things were so different when we returned to England and settled back into a very multi-cultural school in South London. Looking forward to your novel bringing out the great beauty of Africa and highlighting the dichotomy of the brutality of many peoples existence there.
I will do my very best, Mags. And thank you for telling me of your experience.
Enjoyed your interesting blog. As a child , you had not ideal the history you were living and would someday share with the world. Love your novels. I hope there is a lot more love in your new novel plus the beauty of Africa and their kind people. Keep writing for us.
Thank you, Sheri. Don’t worry, I’ll keep writing 😉
I guess I turn a blind eye when it comes to things like that. I sometimes let my self believe since I live here, that those things don’t make a difference to me. But reading what you had to say it does matter. I have heard of N. M. and his doings but never really cared. It’s hard to care when you only hear most about them from news reporters, and they can never give you an honest answer about what color underpants they are wearing. Thanks for opening my eyes. I don’t doubt this book will be amazing! You might have given me a report topic for my exam paper 😉
Thank you, Jen, for your kind words, and your honesty. Seeing the people behind a political problem is always a difficult reality to face, but I think the most important one.