Khayelitsha: uMlungu in a Township by Steven Otter
The gunshots came in rapid succession. There were three of them, followed by screeching tyres and a screaming engine. In a matter of seconds I recalled the conversation I’d had with Mary. She’d been right after all. ‘You’ll be fine for a few days,’ she’d said, ‘but after that they’ll turn on you. Our cultures are too different. You won’t live through it, not just because of the cultural differences, but because of the common crime. Find a home here in the suburbs where you belong.’ The three gunshots had been my first, but perhaps for those who’d lived in these streets for years they were only three gunshots among countless others. Who knows? Perhaps three a week, maybe even three a night? Either way, I’d have to get used to them – or leave. Ignoring advice from his white friends, and to the bemusement of his black friends, Steven Otter throws caution to the wind and moves into Khayelitsha, a black township outside Cape Town. The story of his experiences in the uneven spread of shacks and informal housing that are home to more than a million people provides an unusual perspective on and insight into a predominantly Xhosa community and their reaction to an umlungu in their midst. Steven comes to understand his identity as a South African, the true meaning of community and brotherhood, and that some tsotsis are not what they seem. He finds that his preconceived notions of culture and race are called into question and that ubuntu, community and a sense of humour may still thrive alongside poverty and crime.
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