Last evening, I attended the launch of this new book which is a collaboration of writers and researchers into the lives of South Africa's youth in post apartheid South Africa.
Growing Up in the New South Africa -
Childhood and adolescence in post-apartheid Cape Town
Rachel Bray, Imke Gooskens, Sue Moses, Lauren Kahn, Jeremy Seekings
The book was born out of a groundbreaking study based on rich ethnographic research, carried out by volunteer researchers and guided by experts in the field in the three communties that exist side by side in the Fish Hoek Valley:
- Fish Hoek (predominantly white, middle to upper middle class)
- Ocean View (predominantly 'coloured', lower income)
- Masiphumelele (predominantly black, largely poverty stricken)
While geographically in close proximity, these three places have developed side by side but parallel, with very little crossing of cultures, despite the official end of apartheid 16 years ago.
These areas were then used as a microcosm of communty and youth experience throughout South Africa.
Co-editor Sue Moses (right, with red bag) chats to readers at the launch
The book is unique in that the youth cultures and communities are seen from inside, through the eyes, minds and words of the young people themselves rather than by assumptions and conclusions cast apon them by well-meaning but misguided adults.
Readers listen to Sue Moses (with mic) and co-editor Dr Rachel Bray (in red trousers)
The team comprised writers who each focussed on one specific community, connecting with the children (aged 8 - 21) at schools, clinics, community meeting places, malls and homes. Then the researchers (there were 2 per area) went deeper in to the community, asking questions, listening, and relaying what they learned to the writers.
The book contains photographs (taken in many cases by young people), as well as colour coded 'maps' hand drawn by different children / teens which depict how they see their own community in relation to the neighbouring ones.
At the launch, a question was posed by a member of the audience wanting to know what the most surprising discovery was for the writers. The response - how open minded and desirious the youth were of crossing the boundaries that divide the 3 communities - yet how they felt that they just couldn't make that move - for fear of safety, for the unknown element, or because of parental concern.
On the whole the study revealed that while society tends to view today's youth in a negetive light as lost and depraved (often thanks to media reports that focus on the sensational) there is a lot more to be positive about than one would think. But there is also a lot that needs doing - a change in education (especially health issues with regards to HIV and Aids, sex education and breaking down of tabboos).
Roshan Cader, Commissioning Editor of the HSRC Press
Big up to HSRC Press for taking on the publishing and marketing of this readable and important study.
The book launch was held at Wordsworth Books in Long Beach Mall which serves the Fish Hoek Valley residents from all three communities.
Buy your copy at bookstores countrywide or online