I don’t remember the past.
For a long time, in schools in Port Elizabeth. Swaziland and Johannesburg I was very unhappy with myself. I thought my South African self, had not turned out properly. All neat around the edges. I had no identity to speak of, no culture, no tradition, no heritage, and most of all no inheritance. I only had the genes of my mother and my father on my side. So to progress in life I educated myself. I read all that I could. All my life I was the proverbial square peg in a round hole. This image or rather idea that I had of myself was not an identity. It was a spoilt, dysfunctional identity that had no sound psychological framework.
Where did this child, a Coloured child of mixed race belong? How did I become traumatised?
It is easy to begin with the land question in retrospect, the politics of the day, the divide between the haves and the have nots, the black majority not ruling the country, the white minority in power and the Coloured playing the role of Moses in the wilderness. Nobody wants to talk about the intellectual abandonment of the Coloured people. The complete difficulty, complex and mysterious collapse of culture, identity, consciousness over generations.
When I was in school I was a child and we were taught as I am sure that children are still taught today that time waits for no man, woman or child. That we should look to the future because aren’t all children as the song says ‘the future’ but there comes a time in your life when you are an adult and you wonder where did all that time go. You realise that time flies. Studying history when I was in high school, Bethelsdorp and the Kat River Settlement were not in the curriculum. It will still not be written about today I am sure. There are no longer historians who are so up to date.
Why would they write about a vanishing tribe of people? A people who only exist as rock paintings.
Rock paintings on the walls of caves in Bethelsdorp, Nelson Mandela Bay. There are no hiking trails to mark their position. No tourists who flock to these caves but my father, an educationalist has seen these caves. He wants to take me there. This is our shared history not just a living legacy.
When I was a child I knew nothing of the London Missionary Society. Even less about the scourge of apartheid and the promulgation of the Group Areas Act. The cause and effect of emotional damage that trauma can cause. What happens to the genius, the creativity of a marginalised, disadvantaged, disenfranchised generation? What do we as a people, as a ‘tribe’ relate to? We have inherited a culture. Remember these words. The Kat River Settlement. Apartheid. Detention. Banning. Dennis Brutus. Stephen Biko. Kwame Nkrumah. Franz Fanon. Black Consciousness. Frank Talk. Bethelsdorp. The promulgation of the Group Areas Act. W.E. Du Bois. Bantu Education. Azania.
For a long time, I was openly distrustful of the world when I was an adolescent. I have always been an introvert, withdrawn and reserved and had an uneasy attitude towards people of other races, other faiths but then democracy, and three presidents into that democracy changed all of that. I am still sensitive but it is a healthy sensitivity. Beyond the trauma I know now of a novel world.
A world that is beautiful in perpetuity, full of opportunity and breakthrough but the trauma has never left me.
Not completely though. I have to understand the darkness and the light of God to perhaps to understand His people. I have to live in this world and praise it at the same time and I cannot reject the youth who find no escape from their own sorrow. I too have a dream in the final analysis. That my people, my tribe would become spiritually great. That the Coloured youth would become productive members of society.
Contribute positive outcomes and be happy instead of damaged and living in denial that this is the way that life should be. A violent fight song with a gun. Coloured trauma almost always involves the territory of drugs and violence. Coloured trauma is sexual violence and rape. Coloured trauma is going to the funeral of your child whom you have to bury before you cross over. Coloured trauma is indecisiveness and not having choices. Coloured trauma is not a mystery. It is murder, aggression against your peers and family. I want to change the world I live in and how can I not do that by writing about it. I don’t know how and when things will change.
In this version of my life I am both a student and a teacher, a leader and a follower, a poet and a writer.
And perhaps someday there will be others like me in the Northerns (the Northern Areas) who will be both a student and a teacher, a leader and a follower with potential, a poet and a writer, an introvert.