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1986. UMTATA, TRANSKEI.

 

HILLS OF MANDELA'S HOMELAND

Early 1986: I head off to University in Grahamstown while the family moves from Queenstown to the (then) 'independent' Republic Of Transkei.

MOVING. In March of that year, my family shifted from Queenstown to the city of Umtata, about two hours' drive away. Umtata was the capital of what was then a nominally independent country called The Democratic Republic Of Transkei (where our former Pres. Nelson Mandela comes from). In fact, our first house there was in a road called Stanley NELSON Drive. The Transkei is on the whole a very attractive part of the country, though it's quite under-developed and scrappy in terms of the urban areas, but the countryside is still quite traditional and worth a visit, especially for its awesome coastline. The place was under a 10pm curfew and martial law at that time (not just the house - the WHOLE COUNTRY!) and we experienced a couple of military coups there too, but life was not too hectic - at least the soldiers made it more interesting. Umtata was one of the few truly multi-racial cities in Southern Africa, and the 'independent country' of Transkei had its own army, laws, courts, everything, all set up by the then-(White) government of South Africa to lend credibility to what was essentially just a dormitory state for non-white workers who weren't at that time allowed to live permanently in South Africa itself.

TYPICAL RURAL TRANSKEI SCENE

 
 
OUR FIRST HOUSE IN UMTATA

THE PORSCHE IS NOT OURS. Our House In Umtata - the first of 5! This was the first place we lived in, and it was in this front garden that my Mother was stabbed in the hand so many years later by one of the criminals that have made life there so dangerous...

SO. While the family's still based there, we're all living in different places so we've not all been in the same place since the mid-90s, but we've got SOME proof that we're all related. Here's an example: a rare pic of us all in one spot, in the pool at Stanley Nelson Drive in 1987.

DARRELL, SHELLEY, ZANE, KYLE, CADE, RYAN
KYLE IN HIS RES ROOM, ADAMSON HOUSE, 1986

EJUKAYSHIN. At the beginning of February, as the family moved to Umtata,  I headed off in the opposite direction, off to the little Settler city of Grahamstown, where I  started my 6-year stint at Rhodes University. This also happened to be the place where I met Laetitia Du Plessis, the girl who I'd marry in Rome 6 years later. 

SINCE THEN. The political situation in South Africa has changed completely since the advent of a democratic political system in 1994, and the Transkei has been reincorporated into greater South Africa as part of the Eastern Cape Province (click on the map for a larger version). EASTERN CAPE. UMTATA IS ON THE RIGHT...

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