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This is an autobiographical poem. Tatamkhulu Afrika lived in Cape Town's District 6, which was then a thriving mixed race inner-city community. People of all colours and beliefs lived together peacefully, and Afrika says that he felt 'at home' there.

In the 1960s, as part of its policy of apartheid (or separate development) the government declared District 6 a 'whites only' area, and began to evacuate the population. Over a period of years the entire area was razed to the ground. Most of it has never been built on.

The poem was written just after the official end of apartheid. It was a time of hope - Nelson Mandela had recently been released from prison, and the ANC was about to become the government of South Africa.

Tatamkhulu Afrika's life story is a complicated one, but knowing something about it will help you to understand the feelings expressed in this poem.

Tatamkhulu Afrika's life

Tatamkhulu Afrika was brought up in Cape Town, South Africa, as a white South African.

When he was a teenager he found out that he was actually Egyptian-born, the child of an Arab father and a Turkish mother.

The South African government began to classify every citizen by colour - 'white', 'black' and 'coloured'. Afrika turned down the chance to be classed as 'white', and chose instead to become a Muslim and be classified as 'coloured'.

In 1984 the poet joined the ANC (the African National Congress - the organisation leading the struggle against apartheid). Arrested in 1987, for 'terrorism', he was banned from writing or speaking in public for five years. This was the point at which he adopted the name he now uses, 'Tatamkhulu Afrika' which had previously been his ANC code name. This enabled him to carry on writing despite the ban.

Of his own sense of identity, the poet says 'I am completely African. I am a citizen of Africa, I'm a son of Africa, that is my culture. I know I write poems that sound European, because I was brought up in school to do that, but if you look at my poems carefully you will find that all of them I think have an African flavour.'


Was the cause

That held black people together

As brothers

Black governments

With their greed and corruption

Tore a nation apart

It pains my heart

As I drift away

From my brothers point of view

My father's son

With a gun intended to kill me

For my liberal sense

That the defenseless farmer

Did not deserve to die

Wondering why I cry

They will only listen when I die


South Africa my country

South Africa our country

A place where we all live together

Together with my sisters




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