A lament

  1. William Kentridge South African artist

Fireside stories. Warm, fuzzy—the kind of tale you want to use as a nice, comfy pillow when you drift into dreamland under a magical star infused sky. The reality is, though, that when talking about South Africa, about home, it’s not all warm and fuzzy—is it? It’s not always safe and comfortable. The rose-tinted lens of nostalgia is easily smudged by the truth of yesteryear and the reality of right now.

Today, rioters destroy homes, livelihoods, safety and sanity. Race regardless. There is no rainbow today. Was there ever?

Some of us look on from afar; glad we got out, guilty for getting out and mourning what was with hands clasped in prayer for our friends and family. Others of us prepare for war—against rioter, against fear, against fury, against apathy and despondency, against injustice. A war to survive. Are these the kind of stories we tell around the fire? I think they are. I think we must… tell them. For those of us who call ourselves South African…

…we are the land.

The land is in us.

Dust and wind fraternizing in the mother’s tender hands as she lovingly sculpts her offspring into perfect shape before belching them from her belly; awoken by the rain, hardened by the sun. Pledged to the land. To South Africa. Naked. Exposed. And then rescued by the embrace of family that has come before. 

…we are the people

Near or far.

Her story is our story and our story, hers.

What if a mother is not bonded to her baby? Will not the baby cry and scream; fight—for the love and protection it is owed? And will the mother not respond, in one way or another? 

…we are the mother.

Oh Africa.


Author & Storyteller: Andrea Zanin

Andrea is a writer, wife, mother and dreamer; also the author of this website. She moved to London in 2006 to earn £s, travel, see bands and buy 24-up Dr Martens—which she did, and then ended up staying. Andrea lives in North London with her husband (also a Saffa) and five children. She loves this grand old city but misses her home and wishes her children could say “lekker” (like a South African) and knew what a “khoki” is.

CONTEXT: 13 July 2021 South Africa burns. The catalyst: the arrest last week of former President Jacob Zuma on charges of corruption, with his supporters blockading major roads – the economic arteries of the nation – as they demanded the release of their political hero. Low income levels and unemployment – standing at a record high of 32.6% among the workforce and even higher at 46.3% among young people – are seen as the ticking bombs that have exploded. (Source: bbc.co.uk)

Image Attribution: William Kentridge “Other Faces”

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