‘Vat en sit’: South African men through the eyes of the women?


By Laetitia Simorangkir
While conducting fieldwork for my research on the orga-nization of care arrangements in South African communities, I surprisingly often ended up in situations where my female respondents started to see me as ‘one of their own’. An unexperienced, ignorant one though, but still, ‘one of their own’. They enjoyed telling me about their communities and teaching me about their ways of living. One of the topics we discussed regularly, was the difference between men and women, especially their efficiency and usefulness within the household. Lees verder

Poor Whites in South Africa

Just like last year, various master students obtained a small financial allowance from the Vamos Bien-Foundation of our Department. In  return, they write blogs about their fieldwork, posted on the vamosbien.nl-site. Like last year, we will re-post some of these field stories on our Standplaatswereld site. The first one is by Dafydd Russell-Jones. He went to South Africa to explore the experiences of poverty among white communities living in informal settlements in and around Pretoria.  This research will explore the lived realities of white South Africans who have experienced a great shift in social and economic security since the end of apartheid.


By Dafydd Russel-Jones   After commuting in and out of Westfort (an ‘improvised’ community near Pretoria) for the past 6 weeks, I was presented an opportunity to live in one of the spare rooms with a member of the Democratic Alliance and so I have been living as he does for the past week. On the very first visit to Westfort, I spoke with a young Soweto man with two kids, and Indian family who lived next door to a Zimbabwean family, a Zulu man, who was neighbours with an Afrikaner lady and also a coloured family. I was told by one of my supervisors that I should not go looking for the ‘rainbow nation’ whilst in South Africa because I simply would not find it. It is clear that the rainbow exists right here, but the colours are not united in their freedom of choice, instead they are bound in their daily struggles and alas, there is not a pot of gold sight.

During my time, I have tried to speak with a diverse range of people as possible but have carried out the most in depth interviews with minority of Afrikaners (20) as they are the focus of this study. Regardless of cultural background, there are three clear insecurities that would dominate any humans daily psychological, emotional and operational capacities; no running water, no electricity and not knowing that you will still be sleeping under the same roof come tomorrow. Lees verder

Another World

IMG_1150By Duane Jethro. I cut in the queue to buy cigarettes. The big guy behind me approaches and says, “sorry but I was in front of you”. I let him pass. But he’s not content. He turns and says, “don’t be like the Dutch they were like that. They exterminated all the indigenous people. Just look at Holland, its all flat, indicative of the flat, all conquering mindset of the people that live there”. A short, stocky dude, he’s clutching a pack of salt, rice and milk. I wonder where he comes from. “You should be more like the Spanish” he continues, “they are nice”. “Did you know the Spanish were the first people to conquere the Cape? They liked eating babies but they didn’t like black babies that’s why there are so many black people in South Africa”, he says. He speaks in deep monotones and has that wild eyed look that I do not want to test with historical facts. I am confused but nod, and try to avoid eye contact. He pays and leaves, but the confusion and anxiety of the encounter hangs like smoke on my shoulder.

Commemorations, death and memorials. These are the things I am struggling with later that same evening. The words splashed on my computer screen seem to speak with the same accent of the guy at the counter. Dealing with my thesis, I now try avoid eye contact, nod and keep saying yes. The stairs creak as my girlfriend comes downstairs clutching her phone. “Switch on the TV, president Zuma is going to make an announcement, they say”. I close the computer and switch on the TV. The public broadcaster is preparing for something big. Jacob Zuma is wearing black, and conveys the bombshell that is Nelson Mandela’s death in his own slow muddled way. We become teary and embrace. A little later, Barack Obama splashes onto the TV screen. We’re ambivalent, but he speaks with sincerity. Tears are now streaming down our cheeks. It’s all so confusing. We’d never imagined it would be like this. Lees verder

Stormachtige tijden in Zuid Afrika: Goodbye Mandela

Kaapstad universiteitFemke Brandt, momenteel als post-doc werkzaam in Kaapstad, deelt enkele etnografische observaties omtrent het overlijden van Nelson Mandela op donderdag 5 december. Hoe ervaren Kapenaren het vertrek van hun nationale symbool van verzoening en vrede? Is er ruimte voor kritische reflecties op de erfenis van de eerste ANC president? Femke doet verslag van verschillende herdenkingsmomenten en een speciale vakbondsbijeenkomst op een wijnboerderij.

Vrijdag 6 december – 00:00, middernacht
Een stevige zomerwind blaast door de stad rond middernacht wanneer ik in mijn blauwe Toyota Tazz stap, na een avond onbezorgd dansen op reggae en dub in een piepklein Chinees restaurant onder aan de Tafelberg. Terwijl ik het voertuig door de nacht navigeer meldt passagier Jenny ontsteld, en nog vol ongeloof, dat zij op haar telefoon diverse meldingen binnenkrijgt dat Mandela is overleden. Ik zet de radio aan.  Alle zenders presenteren speciale uitzendingen over de Father of the Nation. De media is duidelijk voorbereid, het lijkt alsof de documentaires en programmas in de studios op dit moment lagen te wachten. De Kaapse wind blaast ze nu de samenleving in en ik vraag me af welke kanten het nieuws de komende tijd op zal waaien.

10:00 uur
Nkululeko komt voor de zoveelste keer mijn kantoor binnen en maakt een rusteloze indruk. De wind giert nog steeds om de Tafelberg en verder is het muisstil op de universiteit. Het academische jaar is ten einde en in de hoofden van mijn collegas waaien herinneringen op. Nkululeko was vorige week nog in de buurt van Mandela’s geboorteplaats in de Oostkaap en heeft zich afgevraagd of de wegwerkzaamheden op tijd klaar zouden zijn voor de begrafenis. Hij was een tiener toen hij voor het eerst over Mandela hoorde, die toen al achter tralies was gezet door de apartheid regering en het zelfs verboden was om over hem te spreken. De strijd om zijn bevrijding bepaalde het ritme van de vrijheidsliederen, de dans van geweld, en schiep hoop voor de zwarte vrijheidsstrijders in (buitenlandse) kampen ver van huis. Lees verder

Blackening Up for the Festive Season

As in earlier years, the controversy on the significance of the figure of ‘zwarte piet’ cropped up again. On those earlier occasions, we have posted both blogs arguing in favor of the ‘tender Dutch tradition’, and blogs stating that the arguments about the ‘innocent custom’ simply won’t do. This year we again, simultaneously, publish two contributions, by Duane Jethro and Rhoda Woets, questioning the guiltless-ness of the figure of zware piet.

By Duane Jethro  It is that time of year again when, slowly, the Netherlands is being invaded by those loveable effigies of dark-skinned, red-lipped ZwartePieten. From Albert Hein to the Kapsalon, Rotterdam to Maastricht, little dark Pieten are colonizing inches of display space, as all across the Netherlands children wait anxiously for their white, bearded boss-man, Sinterklaas, to arrive from Spain and steam into cities and towns this November.

In keeping with the annual celebration, I have been asked to engage with the significance of the commemoration of Sinterklaas. I hope to use this opportunity to embark on my own intocht into the tradition, with the intention of dishing out intellectual snoepjes and cadeautjes that hopefully will add to the annual Standplaatswereld debate about the significance of that mercurial of Dutch folk characters, Zwarte Piet. Lees verder

Having Your Boerewors Roll and Eating it

Duane jethro’s braai

By Duane Jethro  The 24th of September marked Heritage Day in South Africa. Inaugurated in 1996, the state figured this public holiday would afford South Africans the opportunity to critically reflect on the post-apartheid nation’s rich cultural heritage and diversity. Responding to this implicit appeal, on the 24th of September 2005, the Mzansi Braai Institute initiated the idea of reframing Heritage Day as being a celebration of the braai, or barbeque. Lees verder

The Politics and Ethics of keeping things clean: striking insights from South Africa


Image taken from http://kimmoment.wordpress.com/2011/08/18/mayhem-madness-media-exaggeration/

 By Tarryn Frankish Globally, the question of how to deal with the ‘dirty business’ of keeping things clean remains pertinent. In this blog I look to South Africa for insight into these questions as strikes around the globe by cleaning staff force us to think about the politics and ethics of keeping things clean elsewhere.

As a Desmond Tutu scholar, working at the Vrije University in Amsterdam in the Netherlands and the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa I have the unique opportunity of spending time in two countries as I work towards my doctoral degree. My first trip to Amsterdam coincided with a strike by cleaning services in May 2010. More recently, as I was leaving Amsterdam in February 2012, the working conditions of cleaning staff were again in question. This question resonates with what I have come to know in South Africa.  Striking similarities in the way ‘cleaning’ is organised in the Netherlands and South Africa became apparent to me during my stays despite the contextual differences between the two countries, wherein cleaning work is performed and negotiated. The situation in South Africa (and some of the similarities witnessed in Amsterdam) suggests much for thinking about the politics and ethics of keeping things clean in a global context. Lees verder