Someone asked how I came to be a South African – well, it’s not really my fault. It all started because my ancestors had itchy feet or toothache or lice or something else that prevented them from sitting still.
Actually, I know that for the French Hugenots it was religion that gave them ants in their pants, but they were the second wave of immigrants. The first lot were the Dutch, and my first ancestor in SA arrived in 1680-something. I suppose the promise of land promoted the pedal itchiness – we all know that Holland lacks land – why else all the land reclamation?
The Dutch, on finding themselves with a continent spread out before them, immediately got agoraphobia or something and set about reclaiming some land from the sea. That’s Hollanders for you: land on a continent, build a dyke and reclaim some land.
The next lot started arriving in the 1820’s: they were British and were doing it for the sake of empire and land which are probably the same things. Then there was the Boer war, which was about empire and land with the added incentives of gold and diamonds. Nothing like a bit of gold and diamonds to get a few people into the country and a war started.
There were probably a few Indonesian slaves and maybe a few Khoi (the only indigenous inhabitants of this country, sadly dying out in the face of competition from black and white settlers) in the family-tree, but you’ll have to shake it hard to make them emerge.
Back in Apartheid days, families went to great lengths to conceal any ‘touch of the tar brush’ in order to prevent race reclassification, forced removals, loss of civil liberties and all the things that went with being of mixed race.
My own paternal grandmother was 'dark' and had to show her ID in order to ride on the bus. Ironically, she was a massive racist – perhaps on a ‘Methinks the lady doth protest too much’ basis.
Anyway, that’s how I came to be a South African: itchy feet, huge nuts (Hugenots), land and empire. I’m ‘white’ only by default, but then, race classification was more than a bit arbitrary and I’m not complaining even though it’s not the advantage it used to be.
Today's pic: lost in Africa - semi-desert area