IN THE PLAIN: The cover of the book Mitchells Plain A Place in the Sun. This book illustrates that not everyone who is coloured thinks in a certain way. Picture: Supplied
A heartwarming book that for the first time tells the inspirational stories of leaders from Mitchells Plain who remarkably rose above their circumstances has been launched.
The book, Mitchells Plain: A Place in the Sun, was compiled by Marlene le Roux, Artscape’s director of audience development, in collaboration with Dr Ludmila Ommundsen Pessoa of the Alliance Française.
The book also showcases Ryland Fisher, the editor of The New Age, who grew up in Mitchells Plain. Other subjects include Theresa Solomon, who was a previous mayor of Cape Town, James Bhemgee, Venete Klein, Alistair Izobel, Mel Jones, Mark Kleinschmidt, Mymoena Richards and Veronica Simmers.
Le Roux said it was important that ordinary people told their stories. “It’s also about making them our heroes. It is vital that we should be proud of who we are. You know the coloured identity has always been a controversial issue. This book illustrates that not everyone who is coloured thinks in a certain way. Apartheid put people in boxes. The book contains stories of brave people who rose above their circumstances,” she said.
In the book Fisher writes: “I always wanted to be South Africa’s biggest-selling novelist but realised at a point that it might be difficult to achieve. So I became a journalist instead. Mike Norton was a fellow journalist who moved to Mitchells Plain. Together we worked in community structures. We laid out pages, wrote articles and at 11pm we had to dash across the parade to catch the last train to Mitchells Plain. It was only after Mike’s death, when his family came to the funeral, that I found out that Mike was white. That was the kind of non-racialism we had. Mike had a profound influence on my life.”
In her account Theresa Solomon says: “We were some of the first people who moved into Woodlands. This is where my life as an activist began. There were a lot of issues that forced us to take action. These included the lack of schools, the lack of transport for the kids to get to school. The washing line campaign (maisonette living forced us to take action), no pavements, no parks, no hospital and no police station in Tafelsig.”
Another remarkable story is that of Michelle Ohlsson, whose son Matthew disappeared aged 13 and still has not been found. The Ohlssons have since started an organisation for missing children. Ohlsson said: “Now we’re working with 24 families on a personal basis, families who haven’t heard or seen anything of their kids since their disappearance. And when these kids are found, we assist in integrating them back into family life.”
The book costs R60 and is available at Exclusive Books.