Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Our first meeting

We did our first interview today with three truly wonderful men:
Ahmed Kathrada, Andrew (Clox) Mlengeni and Kwede Mkalipi. Ahmed
hosted the interviews at his Cape Town Apartment. We arrived a few
minutes before 10 am. I noted a library and bookshops close by
certainly the right community for a man with such love of books. Mr
Kathrada was very welcoming and we soon sat in the lounge and chatted.
Almost immediatly he made comment that the passage he marked was not
something he remembered doing and he felt there were other passages
from Shakespeare he would have been more likely to choose[which we later discovered him to be correct. We had marked the wrong passage and Kathy spotted it]. Any nerves
I may have had quickly subsided through the warm welcome Mr Kathrada
bestowed on us. We were soon joined by Parliamentarian, Andrew
Mlengi, and again we received a warm greeting as Mr Mlengeni shook our
hands and introduced himself as Andrew. Unsure of how he might be
able to help us, and like Mr Kathrada he didn't remember choosing the
passage for Shakespeare. However, Andrew began to talk about his
experience of Shakespeare and was soon quoting Lady Macbeth. The third
Comrade Kwede Mkalipi arrived and immediatly had his comrades and Matt
and I smiling. Being the younger Comrade by a few years he was soon
teased for this by Andrew. As we all sat down it was clear to see the
respect and shared admiration the three men had for each other.
Over the next two and 3/4 hours the conversation flowed. We now have the task of transcribing the passages and for me I am
already thinking of the story to be told.
It was a remarkable start to our work and it is hard to imagine
the warmth of spirit and learning that came from all three of these
men. Humanity can learn so much from taking the time to recognise the
experience imprisonment had on these men. For Kwede, he went in an
angry man that hated all white men,but after witnessing of the
terrible treatment of one white prisoner by a white guard that hatred
was not always about the colour of a human's skin. Alongside Kwede's
personal experiences, he also told us that with the support and
learning he received from his elder Comrades including Andrew and
Kathy, Kwede realised that knowledge, patience, using your wits and
using a wide range of strategies to resist and eventual be freed from
the oppression of Apartheid. Andrew told us how he always thought a
day would come when they would be released and they could create a
democratic South Africa in which they would be able to enfranchise the
disenfranchised. And Mr Kathrada shows how important resistance to
oppression through consumation of learning can not only help maintain
ones own hope but can also support comrades through their captive
There is so much knowledge and experience I am still absorbing from
today's interviews and once we transcribe the interview I will have
much to create with and share.

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