A South African Memory

Remember when…

We used to play freely in the streets with our neighbours:

Meeting at the Mulberry tree to pick fruit and engage in imaginary play.

Houses were not surrounded by six foot walls and electric fencing:

We could walk right up to the front door to ask our friends to come out and play.

Image copyright: http://fence-erect.co.za

Remember when …

We walked home from school everyday.

Our parents did not feel obligated to pick us up, or have someone else fetch us:

They did not worry we would be taken by a stranger and disappear from their lives.

Remember when ….

The faces we saw at school were the similar to ours:

We were separated from other races

And met only those who had the same colour skin as us.

Some people lived in the suburbs; others in the townships.

Remember when ….

Going to the restaurant, the cinema, the toilet, we would see the signs:

“Blankes” and “Nie Blankes”.

Separation of races.

Separation of the races for services.

Remember when ….

The army and police were moved into the townships to control the riots;

To dampen the anger and the frustration of a group of people.

The protestors barricaded the roads with burning tyres
Image copyright: http://www.sabc.co.za

Remember when ….

We were all kept in isolation,

Separate and fearful of each other.

We did not know one another:

Language, culture, the way of doing things.

Remember when ….

We lived under Apartheid:

Living in the same country, and yet being separate.

Remember when ….

South Africa was not the “Rainbow Nation“.

Rainbow nation flag
Rainbow nation flag (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Remember when.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2013

(This South African memory from my childhood was inspired by the prompt for this week’s Five Minute Friday)


42 thoughts on “A South African Memory

  1. Now we remember when going out to arm the alarm and lock the doors. Now we remember at night to make sure all doors are locked, windows closed and arm half the house with alarm. Now we remember not to leave valuables visible in the car when going shopping. Oh, the list goes on. Yes, the country has changed.


    1. Yes it has – the memories I have of my childhood living in South Africa are far removed from my memories of living there as an adult. Seems almost like two different countries.


  2. That sort of freedom of youth is an almost forgotten memory. Even the boys no longer cycle to school, as they used to in droves, and as I did throughout my schooldays.
    Now we mix freely and share facilities. As we used to, anyway, but not officially. How the Aparthied regime failed to see the irony in those separate facilities when chidren were brought up by black nursemaids etc is quite incredible.
    Standards have declined.
    Violent riots continue, but are less controlled.


    1. The hand of control is definitely not as firm as under the former National Party. It is my wish that the police could work towards controlling the crime as it would be wonderful to see children ride their bikes in the streets again, or walk in groups to their schools.


    1. The townships have been in existence since the late ’50s and the forced removals. Some parts of the townships are now quite wealthy, while other parts reflect abject poverty. Riding in the former white suburbs, you know can find many areas that reflect poverty as well. The face of both the townships and suburbs have changed. Added to which there are now the squatter camps (which may have been what you saw).


    1. Depends who you were and where you lived. My childhood was what every child should have. I was fortunate enough not to be born into abject poverty; or to experience the riots in the townships.


    1. When you are living in the current South Africa, you continue living your life, hoping that you are doing everything you can to keep yourself and your family safe. And all you can do to keep dreams alive.


  3. Memories that can never be taken away from you. There are still many good memories also about the past as well as bad ones. Build the future on the good things from the past! Still we don’t always want to accept the good and want to keep on clinging to the bad parts.


  4. Shame, that the experience for all South Africans could not have been the same back then. Shame that segregation had to exist at all anywhere in the world. Shame we couldn’t all be treated as equally important in this world and work together for peace, resolution, tolerance and adjustment for a healthy, sustainable community with dignity for everyone….the result…

    Self-segregation by the S.A. whites – voluntarily – with high fences and razor wire for protection.

    Who is free and who is segregated now?


    1. Not only are whites using high walls and razor wire for protection – it is all races. This is unfortunately a result of the crime that has escalated in the country long before the constitution in the country was changed.


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