Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Of Mixed Parentage

South Africa has just marked “Heritage Day” – a day where we as a nation celebrate our rich diversity of culture and history. And I am part of this diversity:

My Paternal Ancestors came to South Africa from Germany, landing in Mossel Bay in 1870. (I Googled my name and “bingo” I have a namesake in Germany today). They soon moved to Outshoorn and became Afrikaans. One of their children then moved to Cape Town, and rejected learning Hooghollands in favour of English. So on my Father’s side I am German/Afrikaans/English.

My Maternal Ancestors were the English aristocracy of Cape Town. Ralph Henry Aderne had sailed from England on the “Eliza” at the end of 1830. Add to this my Grandfather’s passion for anything Scottish, and a Kilt of the Ancient Frasers inherited through his mother, and I am English/Scottish.

I can chuck in some interesting relatives like Mary Arden, the mother of William Shakespeare; Dr James Arderne, personal chaplain to King Charles II; David Philip of publishing fame; Rev Ernest Lasbrey, rector of St John’s parish for approximately 40 years; ethnomusicologist Andrew Tracey, Captain Hurrell of the Salvation Army began the Mission to Seamen in Simonstown, Ruth Grassow represented South African bowls at the Olympics; and Margaret Lasbrey played Springbok hockey. And then there are some maiden aunts and cousins that we do not mention in polite company – oh yes there is the uncle who faked his own suicide in order to escape his creditors, only to be discovered in a bar in Bulawayo some years later.

What does this really prove? Nothing at all – and everything. I am of a mixed background: German and English in my veins, Scottish and South African to the core. Add to this the fact that I was born in Mthatha in the Transkei; I have lived in a “coloured” township for 10 years of my life; I was part of the South African Military; I joined the UDF and played tennis for SACOS; and I currently live with neighbours who are Muslim, Afrikaans, English, German and Jewish.

I love this country. And I love its diversity. I am not white, or black. I am not English or Afrikaans. I am neither European nor Xhosa.
I am a South African.

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