“There are heroes of our people.” The writer reclaiming the story of District Six
Peering over her glasses, Farieda Abrahams reads aloud from the book she’s just published. As her voice softens, her eyebrows furrow. Precious memories are embedded into every word. How could the feelings of revisiting her childhood not erupt on the grandmother’s face? Growing up in the District Six area of Cape Town, Abrahams watched how drugs, gangsterism and unemployment ravaged the community after the apartheid government forcefully removed them. But for years, she kept the stories of the past on the back page while raising her three children and six grandchildren. Though she fulfilled her obligation to her family, Abrahams had a bigger duty – to share her personal and painful history.
“I remember my mom reading the letter stating District Six was declared white,” Abrahams says. “I thought to myself, why is everyone crying? The government only wants to paint the houses white.” Abrahams was only seven when her family had to leave their home. Decades later, the emotions and trauma are still vivid in her mind. As a social worker at a drug rehab centre, Abrahams has observed the desolate attitudes of the youth around her. It made her realise that writing her story wasn’t a whim, but a need. Abrahams had to show kids the resilience they were capable of. “There are heroes of our people,” she says. “But very little gets said about them.” Her book, My Lover, My Country, ensures their tales are told.
“We have a troubled past,” Abrahams says. “But it’s through sharing stories that we can prevent it from repeating in the future.” With the success of her first published book, Abrahams’ second novel is already in the works. The proceeds go towards the rehab centre she works at, and children’s homes in Mitchells Plain. “I wanted our youth to see what we went through, the sacrifices we had to make so they can have equal opportunities today,” she says. By writing about her community’s past, Abrahams is giving the nation a personal history lesson. Through the wisdom gained from it, their story will make for an easy read.