Memoirs of Life in South Africa

English 162: Literature and Place (A Queens College Study Abroad Course)

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Blog 9: Ideas for project

January 25th, 2012 by stephaniejeanbaptiste · Uncategorized

For my research project I would like to create a parallel between what it felt like for me to be labeled colored in South Africa and what it felt like to be labeled “light skin” in Haiti. I am the same color everywhere, but my color means something different depending on where I am; creating “multiple truth” or multiple realities surrounding my notion of self. I will simply then create a comparison of what it felt like to be the color that I am in Haiti and what it feels like here in South Africa to be that same color.

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Laughter is good for the soul.

January 23rd, 2012 by raquelabraham · Uncategorized


Laughter is good for the soul
Everyone Knows
It covers wounds that don’t tend show
But How is Laughter good for the soul
it speaks the truth and everybody knows
humor hides the pain one feels inside
Some keep it in because they have too much pride
humor allows one to no longer hide
the pain injustice or suffering is now set free
laugh about it, its no longer a burden you see
laughter is good for the soul, i hope you know
your story is now told through this creative works of humor
laugh about it
For laughter is good for the soul.

Humor can be used to counter injustice or respond to suffering in different ways. Humor often tells truth about a particular place, person or thing that may be offensive if it wasn’t in a form of a joke. But more than often this offensive joke can be true. Humor can be used to counter injustice by simply laughing at the situation. Laugh at the situation because you are not alone. there will be thousands or people in the same situation as you. taking out the bad and replacing it with the good— the humor. Humor can also be used to respond to suffering. Laughter is the best medicine- it can help people cope through the rough times in their lives. By taking these difficult situations and introducing them in a different light, people can start to feel better about them. Using humor to fight difficult feelings and struggles is an effective way to heal the pain.

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Blog #11

January 23rd, 2012 by mikestrianese · Uncategorized

Blog 10: Option 1: Write a satirical account of a Cape Town expeirence or Option 2: Write about how humor may be used to counter injustice or respond to suffering.


Today was overbearingly hot.  Maybe I’m crazy but the sun feels stronger in Africa.  Dat African sun does damn burn! I wonder if the ozone is thinner or something.  The intensity of the sun can be measured with eyes in Africa.  In New York you can’t look directly into the sun, but in Africa sometimes you can’t look directly into the sky without being blinded.  The beams of sun are visible and so bright that they bleach out objects on the horizon (especially Table Mountain).  I’ve never sweat so much in my life.

Unless you want to get up before 8am there’s no need to set an alarm here.  Some people have roosters as clocks, Graca Machel has Paul Bunyan wannabes.  Every morning at exactly 8 there is something to wake you up.  Whether it be landscapers, loud maids, sirens, Amir Ouadid, etc.  This morning at 7:45 landscapers were revving multiple chainsaws! (Chainsi??) For over an hour their saws howled like hungry wolves.  I don’t know whether to find it annoying or nice that people start their days early here, but I know I want to sleep a little later than 8am.

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My Story Was Unheard.

January 23rd, 2012 by raquelabraham · Uncategorized

The testimony I chose was from the “Women Hearings” was on the case of Simon Fonko Malakoane. To give a brief summary, this case was about a couple who were separated during a tragic shooting. The couple was outside when a group of people started shooting at them. The husband managed to run away but the wife unfortunately was left behind because she was pregnant. While on the run the husband, Mr. Malakoane, stopped at strangers house to tell him his situation, he stayed at this strangers house, leaving the next morning. When Malakoane reached home, he was informed that his wife was dead. She was shot “just underneath the armpit” which also resulted in the child’s death as well.


if anyone were to read this testimony, one will clearly be able to see that a lot of details were left out, and the story doesn’t really make sense. the first indication of misinterpretation is when the Malakoane is asked if he prefers to talk in Sesotho or english? the question was left unanswered. The testimony begins without the reader being told whether malakoane chose to speak in Sesotho or english. This is really important in this case because we don’t know whether the use of the language is misinterpreted, causing them to miss out great details, or whether Mr. Malakoane’s english is not great. Mr.Malakoane is asked “As you came back to your place where did you find your wife?”, his response: “the distance was from about where i am seated to the end of your table there.” Once again a question that is asked is left unanswered. Mr. Malakoane doesn’t describe where the body was from, but instead he describes the distance or length of the body. Instead of rephrasing the question or see to it he answers correctly, the assistant just proceeds to the next question. A enormous amount of details are left out when certain question are left unanswered. This goes to back to Friday’s class when we discussed material being left out of recalled events and testimonies because lack of translations of interpretation. We as humans make mistakes, therefore we can be almost certain that Malakoane testimony was not properly delivered. and so in my opinion the voice of his wife is still unheard. He wasn’t able to tell her story and what she may have encountered, because, for one he wasn’t there at the time, and two, the little bit of information given may not even be one hundred percent factual.

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What do Neil Armstrong and Michael Jackson have in common…..

January 22nd, 2012 by Nathalie Nieves · Uncategorized

Humor is whatever people find funny. The jokes can be sarcastic, satirical, ironic, witty, corny, knee slappers…the list goes on. The elements behind humor are based on uncomfortable or taboo topics that are offered up for entertainment. The reason why people think it’s funny is because they are so far removed from the awkward situations that they allow themselves to laugh. If some of the strange situations that are in jokes actually happened in front of us, I seriously doubt people would think they were funny. It’s the distance between the actual situation happening within the joke and the audience that is hearing it. We find it funny because it isn’t happening to us, doesn’t affect us directly, and has been impersonal. Therefore an awkward scenario, uncomfortable situation, or even a painful memory can be transformed into something humorous. Yet what people find funny varies based on culture, location, and societal constructs.

A group of us Queens college students went to Table Mountain to take the cable car up and we approached the window to buy tickets. She promptly told us they were closed and started to move away from the window. We all stared at each other in shock and just kind of stared at each other. The lady called us back and shook her head, laughing AT us because we actually believed her. Not funny.

This morning we went shark cage diving and our driver told us there was a problem with our cage. He said we would be dipped into the ocean and then taken out right away. We were so exhausted we all just stared at each other and kind of nodded…until the driver began laughing AT us again. This is a serious disconnect between what we as Americans find funny and what is funny in South Africa. Our visible discomfort was a source of great amusement to the South Africans we have met so far. It’s a different cultural viewpoint that dictates humor should make clueless tourists uncomfortable. Or more accurately, that a deadpan sort of misleading humor is a source of entertainment to South Africans.

Making fun of certain situations, injustices, or negative stereotypes is a way to deal with those uncomfortable events and transform them into a source of pleasure. The transformation allows the joke teller to reclaim the negative event, discuss it publicly, and then reinterpret it in a comical, more positive way. This is a way to alleviate any tensions or pain with an event and essentially be able to poke fun at something tragic that acknowledges it while creating a new, lighter perspective.

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January 20th, 2012 by Nathalie Nieves · Uncategorized

The ideas of language and how individuals within different social, economic and racial classes interpret their experiences discussed in class today were really interesting. I am a strong believer in how narrative can be manipulated by an individual’s personal consciousness greatly influences how they interpret and share events in their lives. The case I chose to discuss involves a man wrongly accused and sentenced to many injustices through the legal system. His case was the Johannesburg Prison’s Hearing. This man suffered terrible injustices at the hands of the apartheid law makers. He was sentenced to many years in jail and was accused of being part of many political organizations that were banned. But the most interesting part of the testimony, and the main focus of my blog post, is:
“CHAIRPERSON: We are going to start now, even two of our panellists are not back yet, or one of our panellists. I think I exceeded my powers by suggesting this break. Now we shall call upon Vuyisile Mnyani who is going to give us an over view of the homeland prisons.

Mr Mnyani, are you going to testify in Xhosa or English?

MR MNYANI: I am going to testify in Xhosa.”

Based on the conversations we had in class today, there is a completely different lens applied to the material being presented by the TRC. It is through lens of a Xhosa speaker and the cultural nuances that pepper his interpretation as a Xhosa speaker must influence the testimony presented in court by the interpreter. There is than a kind of contract we enter in similar to the autobiographical contract between the interpreter and the person speaking. There must be a trust between them that their words will be correctly translated and the context won’t be lost because of the language differences. It’s a heavy burden I know realize, to be the link between a person and the rest of the world. How can one person possibly be responsible for interpreting what another felt, saw, heard, or thought. This class has made me highly cynical with literature, documentaries, and just words in general. After all, the written word is a social construct; humans do not organically feel the need to record and mass produce every word that pops into their heads. The heavy importance of language in building a person’s future, reputation, or possible freedom is a very serious social construct that I can’t even begin to wrap my head around. This class has helped me make a start though.

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Through translation, you are silencing me….

January 20th, 2012 by Merzela · Uncategorized

Blog 11: Choose a piece of testimony in the “Special Hearings” section of the TRC web site and present it for the rest of us. Be sure to use quotations from the piece you choose. Make a connection to an idea Krog writes about in her book.

I will give a brief summary of KEDEBONI DUBE testimony. Her testimony was under the heading “Women’s Hearings.” In the beginning of the testimony Ms Dube is asked whether she will speak in Zulu or Sotho. She answers, “I will speak Zulu mix and I will mix it with Xhosa.” She goes on to tell the story of how the Inkatha invaded Swanieville and the comerades were looking for her. She was afraid and was caught by the comerades. They took her to a church where a man she knew recognized her. He took her from the church, threatened her and raped her repeatedly during the night. He told her he would kill her if she told anyone what he had done to her. She went back home a highly distressed woman. She told no one of the incident at first except for her boyfriend. He told her that it was a disgrace and that no one should know about it. At one point she says “We should not talk about this, because people will look at him [my boyfriend] in such disgrace that his girlfriend had been raped.” She finally tells her mother and sister about the incident. When they argue with her, they accuse her of having AIDS; a stigma in her community. However, she does not have AIDS but she contacted syphilis when she got raped.

This was a very difficult testimony to read. The translation was in English and I felt there were many “silences” in her testimony. First, she uses a mixture of two languages that I’m assuming may have been difficult for the translator to translate. Besides a few grammatical errors (such as when “were” is used as appose to the more appropriate “where”) there are other things in her testimony that may have not been translated correctly; Mainly when the word “husband” is included in the testimony. The problem with this is that the word “boyfriend” is used everywhere else. At one point the translation seems to be saying she has a husband who thought the rape was shameful but that her boyfriend was still looking for the guy who raped her. Soon after it says that she says her boyfriend thought it was shameful. Was Ms Dube having an affair? I highly doubt so. It seems that “husband” was the wrong translation seeing as it is not coherent with the rest of her testimony. Another issue that I found in the testimony was the inability to translate the cultural she was raised in. Ms Dube repeatedly said she did not want to tell anyone about the incident and reading her testimony, we can get that she had a feeling of shame. Yet, the person questioning her repeatedly questions her on why she didn’t tell anyone about the incident, not even her doctor. She goes on to explain how her family and her boyfriend thought that her rape was shameful and that she in a way was the shame. Rape carried a particular stigma in her culture and that was not translated in her testimony. The many silences in her testimony were caused by this inability to translate the context in which she and her society understood her rape.

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A memory at the Market Place

January 20th, 2012 by Merzela · Uncategorized

Blog 7: Tell a story about a Cape Town experience (keeping Eakin’s ideas about autobiography in mind).

For the first time, I was starting to feel at home in Cape Town. The highlight of my day began when with the Mellon Fellowship, I took a trip to the market. We were encouraged to tag along with one of the South African students during our shopping so they could help us haggle. I chose Gift, a funny, well-intended young man. I made my way through the market with excitement; I love shopping for crafty things. Gift followed with my camera in his hand, joking about the way I was being bossy to him. It was true. I was being bossy but in the nicest of ways and this is why it didn’t bother him. I liked almost everything I saw and self-control was hard to practice. Luckily for me, I didn’t carry a lot of rand on me.

The market reminded me of my mother and her stories of the markets in Haiti. She would tell me stories of bustling markets where mainly woman sold crafts, clothes, food and their other specialties. When she told the stories her eyes would brighten with warm memories of her home country while reminiscing of the ways she use to haggle. The market in Cape Town bought her stories to life for me. There were stands selling all sorts of things. Men and women kept their eyes open to see whom they could attract to their stand. Many times they followed you a bit to convince you that their products were good and they were offering the best price. A man followed me for nearly five minutes after I showed an interest in a leather bag that I decided not to purchase. “I give you good price my sister,” he told me as he followed me to three stands.

Being at the market was really a simple experience but by connecting it to a memory and a person that I cherish, it made the place familiar to me. It made me comfortable and it made Cape Town more like home. This was the first experience that I connected to a memory and/or a person but I continue to do this on a daily basis. Now I even call the dorms home.

At the market, I bought my mommy a bracelet made of copper. The lady said it helps with treating high blood pressure and Gift confirmed what she said. My mother will love it.

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Blog 9- Project Ideas

January 19th, 2012 by Talisa Feliciano · Uncategorized

I still want to do a video essay with visibility as the topic or theme.  Today’s class made me reflect on motive.  I think a great way of incorporating my motive and making it clear to the audience would be to introduce it in the beginning of the video.  My motive is to present and critique aspects of Cape Town that are visible to me as a student/tourist.  I want to move away from the dichotomous view of wealthy Cape Town and township Cape Town.  Through re-presenting via video footage what is physically and literally visible to me I hope to offer a more complicated Cape Town.  In order to make my motive clear, I think its important to reflect on what my biases are so that the viewer can know what lens the film is made through.

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Blog 8- Eakin’s rules

January 19th, 2012 by Talisa Feliciano · Uncategorized

On the first township tour I went on, the infamous terrible tour guide gave us a detailed biography of her life in District 6.  She spoke of being coloured despite “looking white,” of the official testing procedures that determined race, of the anguish of being re-located, of participating in protests, and of the divisions within her family of members who took on different races and left.  Then the tour came to the townships.  Here, the trust she had built with the group in her honesty was destroyed.  The group’s overall dissatisfaction with the tour came with her violation of nearly all of Eakin’s rules.  First, she was not honest.  During the township tour she played on stereotypes such as pointing out an affluent house in Khayelishta and claiming that only drug dealers could afford such houses.  Second, she violated the privacy of others.  She spoke openly about boys and the huts used in circumcision rituals and encouraged us to interact and photograph children.  Finally, she did not portray any semblance of normalcy. She portrayed something along the lines of a violent, drug and gang-infested life.

Because she broke Eakin’s “rules of autobiography,” I began to doubt the authenticity of her portrayal of life in the townships.  Although when speaking of herself, she seemed to have followed the rules of honesty, privacy, and normalcy, when speaking about others she blatantly broke them.

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