Tag Archives: biography

Hartebreker: Christiaan Barnard en die eerste hartoorplanting

Suddenly he shot to fame, worldwide. One man from South Africa, with his flashy smile. In a time that South Africa was a state in growing isolation one man found his way to the front pages of newspapers and magazines worldwide. His name was Christiaan Barnard (1922 – 2001). He was a surgeon at the Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town. On the third of December, 1967 he performed a heart transplant, the first in recorded history. The patient who received a secondhand heart passed away 18 days later, due to another disease. A month later a second transplant took place, the patient lived for 19 months with the transplanted heart. 

A biography of this famous surgeon has been written by James Styan, from Cape Town. Read more about the Afrikaner language version of this book here.  Hartebreker


‘South Africa’s leaders blame Mandela for their own failure’

This is an interview with the man who finished Nelson Mandela’s biography on his presidential years. Mandla Langa finished what Mandela had started. The late president had been unable to finish his literary work due to his hectic schedule, travelling worldwide and meeting so many people. Photo: Mandla Langa by ©Victor Dlamini


My secondhand copy of this book (The Long Road) has been signed by the writer Bruce Cerew in 2010, in the Dutch town of Ede. He travelled a long way to get to The Netherlands. I assume that this book is an autobiography, in which Bruce writes about his life in Nigeria (where he was born and raised and where he worked as a tailor), Liberia, Sierra Leone and The Netherlands. It is not clear to me if the original English text of this book has been published in English. Maybe only the Dutch translation has seen life in print. I did not see any English title in the colofon.  

The protagonist in this book is named Ray. He lives in Aba Town in southeastern Nigeria, where he was born around 1971. Hardship is his due with a very difficult relationship with his father. During the long summer holidays he stays with his grandparents in another place called Amata. Here his dreams and nightmares with apparitions start.  A constant dream is about a young white girl, who he names Nexus. In his dreams the two even marries. To Ray this is a sign that also in real life he wants to marry a white girl. 

After many days and months in turmoil Ray returns to his father (his mother and siblings have been sent away by Ray’s father!) and for a period of three years he studies and works to be a tailor. He moves to Part Harcourt where he gets a job in a tailoring sweatshop. He is very talented and gets the approval of the wife of the governor of Cross Rivers State. He gets a job with her. The wife of the governor, however, is not the only one who is interested in the skills of Ray. One Jenny Bangale wants him to go to Monrovia to work for her company. 

In Monrovia disaster strikes for they witness a coup against sergeant Doe. After some time they manage to escape to Sierra Leone, but also here life is pot of boiling water. All the time his dreams of a white girl is still very much alive in his mind and he stays away from other girls. 

The next phase of the life of Ray are the attempts to leave West Africa to get to Europe. One day he is on a boat leaving Monrovia and suddenly he is at Schiphol Airport in The Netherlands. All the time he has given details about the events he was involved in but now: nothing on his journey to Amsterdam. Silence, complete silence. WHY? 

In The Netherlands we follow his long journey through Dutch screening to weigh his life and his background and his motivation to settle in The Netherlands.  At times Ray is very critical of Dutch society and politics and the camps he has to stay in. And still his dream of a white girl is alive. In the Dutch part of the book the hunt for a white girl is on, both inside the camps for asylum seekers as outside. He visits clubs and disco’s, looking for that girl. Later on he moves to near Utrecht and in the streets he starts conversations with white girls. He hooks girls but not very succesful in the end, till he meets Trudy. In the end he marries her. 

Remarkable are his tailoring skills that seem to have absconded once he arrives in The Netherlands. In the first plays he stayed in a camp he was in love with a Russian girl and the feeling was mutual, but when they are brought to different camps, there is not much effort on the side of ray to find out where she lives.  

At the end of the book Ray recounts what happened to some of his friends. One married to a Dutch girl and lives in The Netherlands. Another friend also married a Dutch girl and the couple now lives in Canada. Jenny Bangale and her husband seem to have vanished into thin air.  And The Russian girl Irina? He does not know where she is.

At times Ray gives the impression that he is very shy, but underneath he is very clear about what he wants and he works towards it, also in his relationships with women. 

A few times Ray mentions that he is a member of the Seventh Day Adventists (SDA). I have know several SDA members from Central Africa, and they were very clear about their christian position. For Ray religion does not play a role in his life. 

Bruce Cerew – De lange weg. Het verhaal van een oorlogskind – 2009 Afbeeldingsresultaat voor bruce cerew de lange weg

Zelda la Grange on typing up Mandela’s manuscript

These is still a flow of books on the first president of the post-apartheid South Africa. Nelso Mandela still rings true and his name is connected with a man who tried to build bridges and bring people together. He wrote books (with ghostwriters ?) and others wrote books on him and his political context. It could be that that enduring attention to the work and life of Nelson Mandela is in part due to those who followed him in being the president of South Africa.

Thabo Mbeki did not have the same stature as Mandela, maybe he was aloof, to different from mainstream from South Africa, alienating people by his views on HIV/Aids. Jaco Zuma seems to have not stature at all.  His name is connected to corruption, self enrichment, handing over the leadership of the country to a few men from the east. 

Dare Not LingerNelson Mandela was working on a book on his presidential days, but he could not finish it. The writer Mandla Langa did finish the book and Zelda La Grange did the typing. She has been a secretary to Mandela and she wrote a book on the man. She tells about her part in finishing the book Dare not Linger

Khwezi Speaks

Tragic stories abound, in real life and in books. Some of the real life stories end up in books. One of these books is “Khwezi”. Khwezi is the name by which Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo bggecame known in those heady days of 2005 when she had accused president Jacob Zuma of having raped her. In the end the president went scotfree.

For Khwezi the afterlife was not so easy. The followers of Zuma came after her and she fled the country (did she go to The Netherlands?). In 2016 Khwezi returned to South Africa and started talking to Redi Tlhabi. Shortly after telling her story Khwezi died. Redi finished the book and published it.

Here you will find an excerpt of the story.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor khwezi

Cape Town book signing: Killing Karoline

The apartheid has many legacies. Literature in South Africa (and surrounding countries) is filled with these legacies. 

Sara-Jayne King tells about her roots in the days of apartheid. She was born (in 1980) out of a relationship between a white mother and a black father. That was an illegal and unwanted relationship during the days of apartheid. She was given the name Karoline King, her adoptive white parents later changed her surname. Sara-Jayne was classified as white and was raised in a white world.

In her book Killing Karoline she tells about her journey set against the background of her family and the history of her country.

In a few days time she will be doing a book signing in Cape Town, next month there will another sessions in the very same Cape Town.

Read about it here

Oh look, she’s got red blood!

‘Colour me Yellow’ is the title of a book written by Thuli Nhlapo, who confronts herself with her background in her family and at school were she got the nickname Yellow, her real name was not used by others. There were shocking experiences, that have not left her.

Here you will an excerpt from her book.