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Pan Macmillan

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Excerpt: Jacob Dlamini’s Look at Family Politics in Categories of Persons

Categories of PersonsAerodrome has shared Jacob Dlamini’s contribution to Categories of Persons: Rethinking Ourselves and Others, a collection of essays which he edited with Megan Jones. The book offers alternative ways of looking at how we present ourselves and challenging racial and social discourses.

“In his childhood is a house,” Dlamini’s chapter on the politics of family starts. The house, which features throughout his childhood, lies between his own home and the church he attends: “He thinks it is while walking to church with an older cousin one day, past the big house, that he first hears that here lives his father.”

On his father’s occasional visits, Dlamini writes: “The visits are always unannounced. They always end the same way: with the boy crying and the mother upset.” As he gets a bit older the visits stop and so does the maintenance his father had been paying.

Read the excerpt:

In his childhood is a house.The house is a single-storey rectangular building with a roughcast facade, long sides that extend into the backyard, big front windows protected by white burglar bars, a veranda that faces onto the street, and a narrow garage on one side that can fit four cars. The building has a red tin roof, making it stand out amid the asbestos roofs that come standard with the two-roomed government-built houses it neighbours. The house, out of place in its own neighbourhood, is similar to the houses around this East Rand township in which live the ‘Reeftown elite’, that group of local notables studied by Dutch sociologist Mia Brandel-Syrier in the 1960s. Around the yard is a concrete palisade fence that locals call the ‘stop nonsense’.This is, as they say in the township, a ‘big house’. Here lives respectability, says the house, which sits along one of the few tarred roads in the township. It faces the hospital where he was born. It is, his aunties and cousins whisper, his father’s house.

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