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Books on South Africa
Date: 25 April, 2004
order any of the titles, and raise money for Christian Aid,
click on the title or cover of the book.
stinging criticism of Western Christianity's obsession with
servanthood should be compulsory reading.'
Haines Lyon reviews ten books about South Africa to mark the country's
tenth anniversary of the end of apartheid.
To order any of the books,
and raise money for Christian Aid, click on its title or cover
World with a Human Face; A voice from Africa
The Archbishop of Cape Town doesn't waste paper
- he takes a mere chapter to detail his journey from incarceration
to his current lofty position. He then manages to challenge, educate
and inspire in the remaining 100 pages of this impressive book.
Assessing the current state of South Africa, he accuses globalisation
of exacerbating the poverty. His deft explanation of this issue
alongside his compassionate but provoking pages on AIDs and sexuality
warrants buying the book alone. His stinging criticism of Western
Christianity's obsession with servanthood should be compulsory reading.
Never has so much wisdom been squeezed into so few pages.
On page 106 of this harrowing book there is an astonishing picture.
Five moustached white men, pose as if for a family portrait, belying
the fact that they are some of the most feared men in South Africa.
Security policemen and perpetrators of dreadful apartheid atrocities,
they testified at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The following pages include a photo of the Tshidiso Motasi who survived
the murder of his parents by the above men. Exactly what happened
is disputed by all.
Truth and Lies combines a photographic essay with a diary
of the esteemed Commission alongside actual submissions from victims
and oppressors alike. This contradiction of truth provides a vexing
embodiment of the complexity of South Africa's past.
Country of My Skull
Don't read this unless you are prepared to be disturbed by humanity's
inhumanity. Krog, a writer, poet and journalist, attended nearly
all the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings over a period
of three years. (Those she missed were due to a breakdown caused
by the trauma of her work.)
The Country of My Skull not only gives a horrific insight
into the brutalities that occurred in South Africa on behalf of
all sides but most interestingly captures the Afrikaners' journey.
Despite being an anti apartheid campaigner, as an Afrikaner, Krog
struggles to come to terms with her complicity in her community's
actions. Could she have done more? How can she relate to her people
as she begins to understand quite what they were capable of?
An exceptional exploration of how each of us is tarnished by the
guilt of others.
a Divided City
Jo Beall, Owen Crankshaw, Susan Parnell
Drive through Johannesburg and you will quickly become aware that
extreme wealth exists alongside utter poverty. Sandton City Centre
and Rosebank villas tower over the shacks of Alexandra.
Even on the road there is such incongruity. The desperation of kerbside
hawkers is striking as they plead with drivers of Mercedes, Landrovers
and Audis to buy their wares.
Johannesburg is a microcosm of the most important issue facing the
world today, according to Beall and co; the ever widening gap between
rich and poor.
The city's fiscal policies, restructuring and community involvement
are analysed with the hope that the concerted efforts of the great
city, might provide a blueprint for breaching the chasm.
Whilst somewhat academic, it is a rare book that actually provides
grounded hope for a fair world.
M Lanning, N Roake, G Horning
Soweto's reputation is often sullied by high crime and poverty.
Part travelogue, part coffee table volume, part cook book, Life
Soweto Style demythologises South Africa's most famous township.
Full-page photos are evocative of the brash, vibrant, entrepreneurial
soul that has sat alongside struggle and hope in Soweto over the
years. Whilst it catalogues the juxtaposition of the millionaires'
houses next to the shacks, the message is clear; you don't have
to be wealthy to be rich in spirit.
A beautiful portrayal of a much maligned township.
One of South Africa's most loved writers has given us a vibrant
collection of poems, stories and observations of the Rainbow Nation.
The simplicity of Sometimes when it
Rains, seduces you with images of the natural environment. This
is before confronting you with the stark reality of poverty and
imprisonment that is only too familiar to many South Africans.
We are at War brilliantly challenges what Mhlophe sees as
the war on women. In a country where more women are raped than in
anywhere else in the world, we are asked "can there be hope
when there is so much violence?"
Steering by the Stars
Available from www.africabookcentre.co.uk
The Managing Director of the World Bank with responsibilities for
Human Development has spent much time living and working in rural
South Africa. After the elections in 1994, she decided to find out
what the reality was for children in urban post apartheid South
The result is a heart-rending batch of stories of 16 teenagers growing
up in the New Crossroads, Cape Town. These include Bulelwa, a young
woman determined to succeed in her education and career whilst avoiding
the destructive patterns of drugs and violence around her.
Not all of her biographies are so positive however. There are other
stories of refusal of education due to lack of hope and shootings
amongst the overwhelming fights for survival.
A gripping exposé of the harsher side of South Africa.
Walk to Freedom
Possibly one of the most read political autobiographies in the world
and with good reason. Talk to any South African and they will tell
you that the miraculous transition to democracy in 1994 is largely
down to one man - Nelson Mandela.
The Long Walk to Freedom details Madiba's childhood, the
influence of the Methodist church on his life and then of course
the beginning of the struggle for his country's freedom.
His explanation of his decision to take up arms against the state
is stunning as is the grace displayed by the Nobel Prize winner
throughout his struggle for liberation.
An inspirational testimony of the power of human perseverance.
the Beloved Country
Rev Kumalo lives in a traditional rural Zulu community. Like so
many fellow countrymen and women, his family have migrated to the
big city, in this case Johannesburg. In a metaphor for the challenge
for South Africa, Kumalo decides to find his kin with the aim of
reconciliation and everybody living together happily ever after.
Does he succeed? Well that would be telling but you can be assured
of heartbreak, racial tension, sacrifice and redemption along the
Almost biblical prose illuminates the South Africa of 1948 - just
before apartheid became official. It is surprisingly reminiscent
of the current struggles and hopes of the country. Read it and weep.
Aside from having
to reconcile the different races, the new government in 1994 was
faced with the mammoth task of developing a successful country that
had previously only catered for the white minority.
It has not been an easy journey and with bad news eclipsing the
successes of the country we are left with a question: Is the Rainbow
Nation going to become the archetype of hope in a broken world or
will it fall prey to suspicion, recrimination and general disaster?
With care and effort South Africa can be a success argues Sparks
as he recounts the struggle to end apartheid and to develop a model
country. Although full of personal stories, this is an authoritative
history book that is recommended by blacks and whites alike.
Energetic and chatty it is the reading equivalent
of learning history from your wise uncle in the pub.
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