Remembering life under apartheid with fondness : the memoirs of Jacob Dlamini and Chris van Wyk

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 10
  • Abstract:

    A number of works of non-fiction written in the post-apartheid period reflect on childhood and adolescent experiences during the apartheid years. This paper looks at three of them: Jacob Dlamini’s Native Nostalgia (2009) and Chris van Wyk’s two memoirs, Shirley, Goodness and Mercy (2004) and Eggs to Lay, Chickens to Hatch (2010). Dlamini’s memoir describes his childhood in Katlehong, while van Wyk’s deal with his early experiences in Riverlea. These memoirs are unusual in that, while they do not hesitate to expose the injustices of apartheid, they nevertheless seek to convey the persistence of normality and the “ordinariness” of family and community life within the abnormality of apartheid. This paper considers the implications of “fondness” or nostalgia in all three memoirs, as well the ways in which Dlamini and van Wyk present non-deterministic conceptions of identity and pay tribute to powerful matriarchal figures. The use of humour in Shirley, Goodness and Mercy and Eggs to Lay, Chickens to Hatch is also analysed. Finally, some possible reasons are given as to why van Wyk’s memoirs seem to have been spared much of the criticism which has been directed at Dlamini’s.