A Home on Vorster Street: A Memoir by Razina Theba caught my eye for some reason – I can’t remember how I discovered it but with mention of memoir, Fordsburg and Oriental Plaza, it became a ‘must read’.
It took a flight from Johannesburg to London via Nairobi and Amsterdam to read – although it was finished before touchdown in Amsterdam. So, a fairly quick read.
A collection of recollections of growing up in South Africa under apartheid and the impact on family and community life for someone of Indian heritage. This had been inspired by Razina’s son asking ‘who will remember me?’ Coming from a different South African population group, and of a similar age to Razina, it was a journey of discovery into another side of familiar places and experiences. A significant chunk of my early working career occurred in and near Fordsburg and one of my favourite sensory experiences was visiting the Oriental Plaza – not the crowds and noise, but the smells, tastes (of the very samoosas Razina disparages), colours and vibrancy – it was a world removed from the clinical towns and cities we moved around: The equivalent of Razina’s family visiting Johannesburg central business district.
This is a book written from the heart. While school experiences, juggling wider family expectations and religious diversity resonate across the cultural divide, it’s the detail that separates us. And at the end of the day, we all have the desire to be remembered.
As for the title, it’s the central home where grandparents resided keeping the family together – the space many of our oldest memories turn to, when we were young. 7a 6th Street and ‘the Plot’ being my equivalents: refuges and places of encounter and discovery. Home is where identity is formed and where we return to for comfort – at least those of us who were priviledged enough to grow up in loving and caring families. This comes through in Razina’s recollections.
For other experiences of home, the following TSL books might be of interest: