Prof Geoff Brundrit of Simons’ Town, after reading my article about the ruins of Redhill Village sent in this article on his reflections written upon hearing the stories of ex-residents of Redhill Village and of residents of the present Redhill Camp on the International Day for Sharing Life Stories in 2008.
Links in the Chain
This is my personal reflection, after hearing the ten stories of events from the lives of Elizabeth, Alfred, Cecily, Jacqui, Joan, Lily, Liz, Louise, Rochelle and Siphokazi, at Simon’s Town Museum on the International Day for Sharing Life Stories.
It is not a summary of those stories, but rather sets down the links that the stories brought to mind within my own experiences, particularly in recent times. These links become a person, a place, an institution and an overall impression of the lives themselves.
The person is Steve Biko, whose own story and death was such a powerful influence on Cecily. As she spoke, it brought to my mind the wake and the funeral of Mary Roberts, which I had attended the previous week. In life, Mary had been a vigorous activist who, on hearing of the tragic death of her friend Steve Biko, had driven through the night to attend his funeral and to share the grief of his loved ones.
The thought of Steve Biko also brought to mind two other women who will ever be associated with his name. Mamphela Ramphele, the mother of his son, whom I had worked under and supported during her time as Principal of the University of Cape Town, and Helen Zille, now the Mayor of Cape Town, who as a young reporter had investigated the entire circumstances of his death. But mostly I thought of Steve Biko’s philosophy of Black Consciousness, which gave such power and self-pride to the people ofSouth Africa.
The place is Redhill, up on the plateau above Simon’s Town, which links together so many of the storytellers. There is Louise, born on the top of Redhill, joining her older sister Lily, who had such fond memories of family life there, before they were all uprooted and forcibly removed in the sixties. A place now marked on maps as a ghost town.
There is Alfred, coming from the Eastern Cape in the seventies and setting up home in the squatter camp on the far slopes of Redhill, the same place where Siphokazi has spent most of her life.
There is Jacqui who has the task of keeping law and order in this poor community, and helping the people raise themselves up.
There is Liz, who brought me to Redhill after the fire which utterly destroyed so many houses in the lower camp, and which we have helped rebuild in all sorts of ways.
And finally, there is Rochelle, coming in to minister to the children and the destitute, who is so happy when she is in such a warm, friendly and unthreatening community. Some places seem to be at peace with themselves, and Redhill is one of them.
The institution is theMethodistChurch, within which Elizabeth and her husband have lived and worked for so many years, and which links them to Cecily. It is also the Church which was at the heart of the old Redhill community, of Lily and Louise and their families, and is now just a ruin. But it is a ruin which may yet again become the heart of a living community, if their claims for the return of the land are successful. How wonderful that would be for them.
My overall impression on hearing the stories of special and important experiences from the lives of all these people is way in which goodness and faith can lead to a triumph over personal adversity.
Prof Geoff Brundrit