What was the impact of apartheid on the lives of South Africans? How are people living with painful memories in their day-to-day lives? How do we conduct research in a manner that respects the dignity and of research participants?
These are some of the questions that are explored in a new book titled These Are the Things that Sit with Us, edited by Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Friederike Bubenzer and Marietjie Oelofsen and published by Fanele, an imprint of Jacana Media.
Working with a group of researchers, the editors compiled a collection of short stories of the enduring impact of experiences of apartheid from people living with the memory of this past in Langa, Bonteheuwel and Worcester.
The book makes visible undocumented everyday experiences that shaped the lives of ordinary South Africans during the country's brutal and painful past. It is a record of things that “sit" within all of us. By sharing their memories, the storytellers map the scope of the wider, and difficult, conversation about the meaning of justice and the missing parts of the discourse of reconciliation in South Africa. It creates a space for a conversation about South Africa's history and what it means to talk to and to hear the other within the context of this history.
'Ons het gehuil en gelag, maar ten diepste was ons hartseer.'
'They shot him in broad daylight, there was no warning.'
'Olu loyiko, oku kuzithoba isidima yayiyinto endiphazamisayo.'
The book makes an important contribution to current debates on decolonizing the way knowledge is produced. Its most unique feature is that each story has been published in Xhosa, Afrikaans and English, the languages used by the storytellers.
Presenting the stories alongside photographs carefully chosen by the storytellers and sensitively taken by two photographers, Noncedo Gxekwa and Botswele Mogotlane, the book aims to show agency, dignity, and humanity behind the stories of suffering.
In publishing these stories, the authors hope that the book will stimulate conversations among South Africans across languages, and enable South Africans to connect with one another in a manner that seeks mutual understanding about the complicated aspects of our shared history and the continuing impact of this history on the lives of individuals and communities.
The book is based on a research collaboration between Stellenbosch University and the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, which was funded mainly by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences.
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