Zebra Crossing, by Meg Vandermerwe
Set in the underbelly of a pulsating Cape Town, Meg Vandermerwe’s novel Zebra Crossing is a bold, lyrical imagining of what it might feel like to live in another’s skin.
'Tell me, learners, what is a border?' For some, dawn is the loneliest time. But not for me. I rise with the living, the sun and the rock pigeons' chorus. I watch the light dress rooftops, car parks and, beyond them, the mountain. Then it comes: memory. You see, even after all that has happened to me, I still have my past for company. It creeps out of dark corners and gathers round like specks of slowly spinning dust. Familiar faces and places return. And those questions that still demand answers. 'Tell me, learners...' Late 1990s. Primary school. Zimbabwe. I am seven. Our headmaster, Va Pfende, teaches us that Africa's borders were drawn many years ago. Va Pfende was a veteran of the war of independence in the 1970s and he likes everyone to know it. Using a bamboo stick, he points to the map of Africa that hangs on the classroom wall below a portrait of our President. 'It was the imperialist murungu,' our headmaster explains, 'he came long ago, dividing this continent like the carcass of an ox, and kept the lion's share for himself. Remember, pupils, matsoti haagerane. There is no honour among thieves. Thankfully, our great Zimbabwe is now independent. But never forget: once your parents and grandparents were slaves to greedy foreigners.' As the sunlight hits the shop windows, so that triangles of gold appear in their panes, I recall how obediently we scribbled down 'greedy foreigners', pledging to commit Va Pfende's words to heart in case Ian Smith and the other British colonialists, like locusts, ever threatened to return. On that classroom map, national borders were drawn in purple. When my brother George and I reached the border at Musina, it was too dark to see whether those purple lines existed in real life. But since that September night, I have crossed that and other borders many times. Flown so high above them that below looked like an infant's patchwork puzzle. Flown so low that I could smell the dust and see the dry seeds waiting patiently for the rains to come and split them open. On those journeys I have seen that, in reality, no borderlines are tattooed across this earth. Forests and valleys, deserts and rivers, they know nothing of borders. Instead, they exist only in the minds of politicians, who guard their manmade borders with soldiers in uniform, wearing black boots and carrying clipboards and AK47. 'What is a border, learners?' If I were in that classroom today, I would raise my hand and answer: A border is a place where barbed wire and high fences block your way. It is where you are not wanted, but where you must nonetheless go. It is where you must wait, terrified as you are, for the right moment to take your chance and dance with fate, while high above you in the starlit sky, the migrating swallows pass back and forth, unhindered. A border is where you must say goodbye. You cannot afford to turn and look back. The past is the past. That is what your brother says. Borders rhymes with orders. You follow your brother's orders. You have no choice. Time to go forward, he says. To look forward. A border is where you swap home for hope. [...]
This is an excerpt from the novel Zebra Crossing, by Meg Vandermerwe.
Title: Zebra Crossing
Author: Meg Vandermerwe
Publisher: Random House Struik
Cape Town, South Africa 2013
ISBN 9781415203927 / ISBN 978-1-4152-0392-7
Hardcover, dustjacket, 15 x 22 cm, 144 pages
Vandermerwe, Meg im Namibiana-Buchangebot
Zebra Crossing is a novel about the dangers of beeing different in nowaday's South Africa.