Changing my Grandmother Name

Since I’ve been here in South Africa, I’ve decided to change my grandmother name from “MotherDear” to “Magogo,” which means “old lady” in Xhosa/Zulu.  This part of my journey has inspired me to take the name, because it is unlike any other grandmother name in America.

When we met Linda Biehl, she told us how Easy Nofemela and Ntobeko Peni, two of the men convicted for killing her daughter, had become family to her and their children call her “Magogo.”  When we met Lindsay Henley, Program Director of the Beth Uriel, and she informed us that the boys of the house call her “Magogo” as well.  Even though, she has been working there since she was in her 20s and was far from being an old lady, it was a name that gave her a family title.

“Magogo” is the Grandmother that cares for her family and extended family. It is traditional in African culture to take in children as part of the family who need care. And it is often the Magogo who takes care of these children with her pension and whatever means she can find. She too will tell stories to the children and anyone who will listen.

This name has grown on me and I must adopt it!  This grandmother name change will also allow me to mark this part of my journey in my life.  Since my only grandbaby, Mink (18 months) has not yet begin to speak my name, I think it’s a great time to implement a grandmother name change!  “Magogo!”  I LOVE IT!!

August 27 – 27th Day in Cape Town

Today we visited Beth Uriel, which is a supportive living environment aimed to provide young men from impoverished communities the chance to pursue meaningful, independent lives with a deep belief in the transforming power of God; Beth Uriel, “House of Light.”

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We were given an introduction to the facility by the Program Director, Lindsay Henley, or “Magogo,” as she is known around the home.  She is originally from the United States (Chicago area) but has been a part of the Beth Uriel family since 1999.  She came on board full-time in 2003 and has managed the home since 2004.  With a background in social work, Lindsay is responsible for working alongside Nosipho Seleka (Operations Manager) and Melvin Koopman (Program Manager) and supporting them in any way possible.  She is also dipping her toes in the cold, cold water of fundraising and other “not so glorious” administration required in non-profit management.  Lindsay is the proud mother of LJ.


We were given a tour of the home by one of its newest members, Richard.

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Afterwards, we stopped for a bite to eat, on our way to the Amy Biehl Foundation’s Youth Spirit Awards and Memorial Lecture, at Lady Bee, a Dehli Diner that offer home-cooked meals, including a wide range of quality curries, pastas, breyani, roasts and other favorites.


At the Amy Biehl Foundation’s Youth Spirit Awards and Memorial Lecture, we were first entertained by Aviva Pelham, a well known opera singer and the children of the foundation.

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Trevor Manuel, who is currently serving in the Cabinet of South Africa as Minister in the Presidency in charge of the National Planning Committee, was the guest speaker.


Final remarks were given my Linda Biehl, Amy’s Mother.


At the end, we met Erica J. Barks-Ruggle, who is the Consul General of the United States.



August 25 – 25th Day in Cape Town

As I mentioned in the post for August 19, one of the Memorials we visited was Amy Biehl’s.  She was a white American graduate of Stanford University and an Anti-Apartheid activist in South Africa, who was murdered by black Cape Town residents while a black mob shouted racial slurs.

In 1998 the four youths convicted of her murder were granted amnesty by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) after serving five years of their sentence – a decision that was supported by Amy’s parents. Easy Nofemela and Ntobeko Peni, two of the convicted men, now work for the Amy Biehl Foundation Trust in Cape Town, a charity which dedicates its work to putting up barriers against violence.

Today marked the 20th Anniversary of the tragic and we joined Clive Newman, who was one of the main organizers in the commemoration of her death.  The commemoration started at a church service at the St. Columba; an Anglican church in Gugulethu, South Africa.  What I found intriguing and a bit overwhelming about the service was the excessive use of the thurible; a metal censer suspended from chains, in which incense is burned during worship services.  Burning charcoal is inside the metal censer. Incense was placed upon the charcoal. This was done several times during the service as the incense burns quite quickly. Once the incense has been placed on the charcoal the thurible is then closed and used for censing.  It was used in the entrance procession; at the beginning of Mass to incense the cross and the altar; at the Gospel procession and proclamation; after the bread and the chalice have been placed upon the altar, to incense the offerings, the cross, and the altar, as well as the priest and the people; at the elevation of the host and the chalice after the consecration.  It was used so much; you can see the smoke on all of my pictures. 096 095 097 099 100 103 107 108 109 110 112 111 113 114 115 127 102 104 116 131 132 105 121 125 133


After church we walked down the street to Amy’s Memorial site, where children from her foundation played music, people gave speeches reflecting on their experiences with and about Amy.


Linda (Amy’s Mother) and Easy (one of the guys that killed her daughter)

A typical sight in Gugulethu

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Later that night, we went to see Sindiwe Magona’s Mother to Mother play, which is based on her novel Mother to Mother and explores the South African legacy of apartheid through the lens of a woman who remembers a life marked by oppression and injustice. Magona decided to write this novel when she discovered that Fulbright Scholar Amy Biehl, who had been killed while working to organize the nation’s first ever democratic elections in 1993, died just a few yards away from her own permanent residence in Guguletu, Capetown. She then learned that one of the boys held responsible for the killing was in fact her neighbor’s son. Magona began to imagine how easily it might have been her own son caught up in the wave of violence that day. The book is based on this real-life incident, and takes the form of an epistle to Amy Biehl’s mother. The murderer’s mother, Mandisi, writes about her life, the life of her child, and the colonized society that not only allowed, but perpetuated violence against women and impoverished black South Africans under the reign of apartheid. The result is not an apology for the murder, but a beautifully written exploration of the society that bred such violence.


Me with Sindiwe Magona, author of Mother to Mother

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August 24 – 24th Day in Cape Town

Today is our second class day without Dr. B.  Now, Dr. Murphy is our primary teacher and she chose to have class outside!  We walked down Main street to reach our destination of the Sea Point Promenade!  Dr. Murphy conducted class using her Kindle.  After class she stayed to search for sea shells and my flatmates and I walked to the Waterfront.  And what a walk it was!  One of the Green Point Park security guys that we asked for directions thought we were crazy for choosing to walk to the Waterfront; “I see you girls like to walk, yeh?!”  We didn’t want to tell him that it wasn’t that we liked to walk, but we were not real comfortable catching the city bus.  Besides, we had no idea how long it would take to get there.    067 078 079 082 080 086 083 089 085 091 094 092


Oh, I almost forgot to mention.  During our walk we looked up and saw people Hang Gliding off of Signal Hill!


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Dr. B’s “Going Back Home” Gathering

Dr. Bredesen aka Dr. B

The Chef
65 on Main

Cali and Emily

Amber and Arlene

Jaimee and Ronisha

Our Waiters
Doesn;t he look like Raz B?!

Dr. Murphy and Clive

Hilton and Anna

Me and Clive

Dr. B., Denise and Rachel

Clive, Me and Dr. B.

AAWW Surpise!

She LOVES her gifts!!

Today we had a special gathering for Dr. Bredesen (Dr. B as we have grown to call her) at 65 on Main.  Her job here in South Africa has come to an end and though we understand that she must go, we will surely miss her.  She was AWESOME!  Her passionate South African knowledge was captivating and a huge assistance in getting us accumulated in this new environment.  061 040

August 21 – 21st Day in Cape Town

Today we visited the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa, which plays a direct and active role in national affairs.  The national government is composed of three (3) inter-connected branches, with three cities acting as the capital:  Legislative, located in Cape Town; Executive, located in Pretoria; and Judicial, located in Bloemfontein.  Our visit was to the Executive branch.

The President, Deputy President and the Ministers make up the executive branch of the national government. The president and ministers are Members of Parliament who are appointed by the President to head the various departments of the national government. The president is elected by parliament from its members. The ministers individually, and the Cabinet collectively, are accountable to Parliament for their actions.

Our Tour Guide

The National Assembly Chambers

President’s seat in the National Assembly Chambers

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During our visit, the Women’s Parliament was in session in the Old Assembly Chambers.  We sat in the session, but were not allowed to take photographs.

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August 19 – Nineteenth Day in Cape Town

Today we took a tour in the townships.  Our tour was led by Clive Newman, who is a Project Manager and very passionate about history.  He began the tour at the lookout point of the Cecil Rhodes Memorial (the lower slopes of Devil’s Peak), which we had visited before.  Clive wanted to bring to our attention to how the white South Africans were currently living and I must say it is beautiful.

Clive Newman, our Township Tour Guide

Our view of the township for whites


Khayelitsha and Gugulethu grew to become the largest townships in the Cape Flats due being products of informal settlement and forced government relocations.  Informal settlements are shacks made of tin (in reality ridged iron), cardboard and wood.  They are mainly illegally occupied by Xhosa people, who were designated under apartheid as residents of Bantustans.  Almost all of the communities of the Cape Flats remain, to one degree or another, poverty stricken.  Serious social problems include a high rate of unemployment and disturbing levels of gang activity.  

Our next stop was to the Cape Flats, an expansive, low-lying flat area that has become home to people the apartheid government designated as non-white.  Our first stop was to the Memorial of the Trojan Horse Massacre, one of the incidents that demonstrated the increasing desperation of the apartheid government.  The Trojan Horse Massacre happened when three anti-apartheid protesters were killed and fifteen others wounded in a police ambush at the corner of St. Simon’s and Thornton Roads in Athlone. A group of onlookers and protesters, who were angry at the widespread Laws of Apartheid, had gathered at the corner of St. Simon’s Road. As anticipated, someone in the crowd threw a stone towards the truck as it passed.  Then the security force men arose from their hiding place and, without any warning, used automatic shotguns to fire shots into the crowd. People scattered. Michael Miranda, aged 11; Shaun Magmoed, aged 15; and Jonathan Claasen, aged 21 were gunned down, and died as a result. A further thirteen adults and two children were also injured in the shooting.

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Our next stop was to the Memorial of the Gugulethu Seven, which was an anti-apartheid group of men between the ages of 16 and 23 that were shot and killed on 3 March 1986 by members of the South African Police force. The seven men included Mandla Simon Mxinwa, Zanisile Zenith Mjobo, Zola Alfred Swelani, Godfrey Jabulani Miya, Christopher Piet, Themba Mlifi and Zabonke John Konile.  It was later uncovered that the police operation that unearthed the Gugulethu Seven’s plans, had been in the works for some time.

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Our next stop was to the Memorial of Amy Biehl, was a young American Fulbright Scholarship exchange student who studied at the University of the Western Cape in 1993 and tragically stoned and stabbed to death in Gugulethu township by young supporters of the Pan African Congress who were later granted amnesty through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  In remembrance of her, a non-profit organization, the Amy Biehl Foundation, was founded in 1997. Its mission is to “weave a barrier against violence” by focusing on social, cultural and economic empowerment through its many programs and, in so doing, restore hope and dignity to disadvantaged communities.


Our next stop was to Look Out Hill in Khayelitsha.  From there we had a spectacular view over Khayelitsha, the Cape Flats and Table Mountain.

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On our final stop, to drop Clive at home, we got to meet his lovely wife, Denise Newman, who has been a professional actress for more than 30 years.
Starting out at the Space Theater gave her the opportunity to create complex characters that resonated with truth and honesty.  With her theater work she got to work with some of the country’s great writer / directors including ATHOL FUGARD, PIETER DIRK UYS and LARA FOOT.  She trained under Alexander von Raumondt, an exponent of “Method Acting” who trained at The Actors Studio in Los Angeles.  In 1980 she was cast in her first lead role – CITY LOVERS – adapted for film from a short story by Nadine Gordimer which deals with the subject of love across the color line in apartheid South Africa.  While South Africans never got to see this film, it was screened in Europe, the UK and USA.


August 16

We spent the entire day at the Western Cape Wineland.  Our first stop was to Butterfly World, which is a luxuriant paradise that consists of a tropical garden in a green house.  It is home of the free flying exotic butterflies along with many other interesting animals; reptiles, tarantulas, birds, marmoset, monkeys, and meerkats).

Our next stop was to Babylonstoren; one of the best preserved farm yards in the Cape Dutch tradition.

Third stop was to Fairview Wine and Cheese, a South African producer of wine and cheeses; own and ran by Charles Louis Back, a Lithuanian immigrant to the Cape.  He also runs the Spice Route Winery.  Fairview is the most visited attraction and we ran into some people from America there!  We visited the Beryl Back Tasting Room and engaged in a seated tutored tasting of the pairing of 8 different wines, Fairview’s Jersey milk and goat’s milk cheeses.

Next, we moved to the Spice Route Winery and engaged in the wine and chocolate journey; a selection of four wines with four Artisan chocolates.

Next, we moved to Red Hot Glass; Hand Blown Glass Studio and Gallery.  Located on the Spice Wine Estate, we watched the process of molten glass being blown and formed into works of art.

Our final stop was to Solma-Delta Wine Estate, where we engaged in a tasting in the Museum that explores the slave heritage of the area.  We also enjoyed singers from the work of the Rural Cape Music Project.

August 14

Today we went to the District Six (Apartheid) Museum, which is a museum in the former inner-city residential area District Six. District Six was named the Sixth Municipality District of Cape Town in 1867.  Originally established as a mixed community of freed slaves, merchants, artisans, laborers and immigrants, District Six was a vibrant center with close links to the city and the port.  By the beginning of the twentieth century, the process of forced removals and marginalization had begun.  The first to be “resettled” were black South Africans, forcibly displaced from the District in 1901.  As the more prosperous moved away to the suburbs, the area became a neglected ward of Cape Town. In 1966 it was declared a white area under the Group Areas Act of 1950, and by 1982, the life of the community was over. 60 000 people were forcibly removed to barren outlying areas aptly known as the Cape Flats, and their houses in District Six were flattened by bulldozers. The District Six Museum, established in December 1994, works with the memories of these experiences and with the history of forced removals more generally.  The floor of the museum is covered with a big map of the district with hand written notes of former inhabitants, which indicate where their houses were located then. A well-known former resident is jazz musician Abdullah Ibrahim, better known under his artist name Dollard Brand. Other pieces in the museum are old traffic signs, presentations of moments of history, lives of families, historical declarations and the demolition. The District Museum was AWESOME!  I was most inspired by the authenticity of its personal touch.  As I person that loves photography, I was drawn by the personal pictures attached with the personal stories.  It made me aware that there were not a lot of black people in District Six and it appears that it was mainly coloreds that resided there.  Yet, their story of struggle was no different than the black struggle. Hearing Ebraheim’s (our tour guide) personal story was more instrumental to me than any book that I could ever read about District Six.  What struck me most was how he explained how a family would leave home for work and school and come back to a vacant lot.  Nothing I’ve read has ever described it in that manner.  Hearing Ebraheim’s story, coupled with the personal stories that I read in the museum, really put me there and I must say really angered me.  Even though these were stories of the past, I can strongly understand the feelings of the people that choose not to have any affiliations with the rebuilding of District Six.  You’ll never understand a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.  I am well aware of my ancestors walk in the same mile and I am very much aware of their struggle, so I strongly understand and can relate to the struggle of District Six.

You know I had to sit on this bench

I was drawn to the “Resistance” section of the Museum

Our Tour Guide, Ebraheim

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August 11 & 12 – Eleventh & Twelveth Day in Cape Town

August 11

August 11 was a study day for us, because we had a paper due on August 12.  Besides from going to our favorite restaurant, Café Extrablatt, we spent most of our day and night inside writing our papers.

August 12 – We started our day with class, of course.  Then we were escorted by Luke Angel to shop at wholesale places on Long Street.  Luke was previously an African Art Salesman and knows all of the ins and outs of buying African art.  One of the stores we visited was Pan African Market, which seems like a Sam’s Club for African art.  They had everything you could possibly think of and yet I wasn’t able to find much that I wanted.  The one bag I did buy is currently tearing up as I speak.

Our favorite meal at Cafe’ Extrablatt

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During our shopping tour, we stopped at RCaffe’, which is an unsuspecting restaurant and coffee shop in the heart of Long Street serving gourmet sandwiches and croissants, for lunch.  I had a Peri Peri Chicken wrap that was pretty good.  We all shared a chocolate cupcake that was to die for!

Perii Peri Chicken Wrap

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Later, we went for dinner and a play at the Baxter Theatre Center at the University of Cape Town called “Hayani,” which means “home” in Venda.  The play explored what home meant in South Africa and investigated the stories of two unique South Africans to reveal a complex, honest and moving journey towards understanding themselves as South Africans and what it means to be South African.  Atandwa Kani, originally from New Brighton in Port Elizabeth, and Nat Ramabulana, from Thohoyandou in Limpopo, weaved personal narratives against the joyous transitional years in South Africa.  They were excellent entertainers as they played each other’s parents and siblings, turning the performance space into an interactive playground of very personal memories. With live music on stage, they took us on a magical journey of intimate and beautiful storytelling.

The stage for “Hayani”
We couldn’t take pictures of the play

The live music in the play

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