Author shares tales of growing up during apartheid

Author of My Blood Divides and Unites, Jesmane Boggenpoel at the book launch.

A book describing the hardships of living under apartheid as a person of colour was launched in Athlone last week.

In her book, My Blood Divides and Unites Jesmane Boggenpoel tells of her experiences of apartheid, living in the coloured township of Westbury in Johannesburg.

The 154-page book was launched at RLabs in Bridgetown on Monday. Ms Boggenpoel says it took her more than two years to write.

She says she wanted to show that despite the division and pain that apartheid caused, Westbury residents were still able to thrive.

She speaks about how families managed to reconcile, how they built themselves up from scratch, and how they managed to land jobs, study further, and enjoy their freedom when it came.

Ms Boggenpoel was born in the Eastern Cape but her family moved to Westbury when she was 2.

She is also the author of the Farmer and Friends children’s book series that teaches children about farming and how to take care of their environment.

In the first part of My Blood Divides and Unites, Ms Boggenpoel speaks about her personal experience, and in the second part she speaks about her interviews with people all around the world – from the Americas and Mexico, to India, Pakistan, Nepal and Rwanda – who have dealt with oppressed groups or been part of one.

In her interviews, she asked them how they managed to reconcile with their families and move forward.

“I want people to know that despite our history of being deprived and treated unfairly and being separated from our families, people can still reconcile and grow from there.”

This is an extract from her book: “I am a coloured woman of South Africa. The blood flowing through me was despised by apartheid, for it was not pure and it was not white. Because of this, I struggled with feelings of self-doubt and shame.

“I am a microcosm of nations riven by internal strife. I reconciled with myself by turning to the conflicts and contradictions within. This forced me to explore my past so as to truly understand who I am and to grapple with my lingering emotions. Our world today is divided and fractured. That is why I urge individuals, communities, and nations to undergo a similar process of self-reconciliation, to explore their stories, embrace their contradictions, and craft new narratives of acceptance, inclusion, and boundless possibilities.

“Now, a quarter century after the fall of apartheid, I understand there is much beauty and value in my blood. I am the product of newcomer and native, slave master and slave, of white and black, of German and Jew, and more. I am a reflection of countless conflicts and contradictions – yet my blood unites me.”

The book costs R280 and is available at Exclusive Books and online. For more information visit wwwmybloodunitesanddivides.com