Cape Town, a place between

November 21, 2019 in Uncategorized

Cape Town: A place between by Henry Trotter is an odd little book, but so worth reading.

I live in Cape Town. It is a place between two oceans, between first and third worlds, between east and west. Many locals think that we are the last outpost of a European dream. Trotter asks: How can we understand a city that is most assuredly in Africa, though not—seemingly—of it?

The majority of its citizens: a people between black and white, native and settler, African and European. Jip. Ou Jan en sy manne het vrou gevat. Afrikaans, my home tongue, started here. A mixed language.

Trotter came to Cape Town twenty years ago and married a local. Now he lives here. He has a child.

Like my own, Henry’s family is not all white. He married a woman that would have been “coloured” under apartheid. Their marriage would have been illegal.

From within his own family, he began exploring Cape Town and her people.

Here is a short extract:


Cape people, half-castes, God’s step-children, BastardsHottentots, Eurafricans, half-breeds, racial hybrids, middle minority, buffer group, mixed-bloods, marginal men, in-betweeners, brown Afrikaners, middle children, twilight people, blacks, so-called Coloureds, people of mixed race, CamissakleurlingsbruinmenseBoesmansgam: just a few names given through history to the people now called—and who call themselves—coloureds.

This sprawling (and mostly offensive) nomenclature reveals South Africans’ uncertainty concerning how to understand people whose genetic and cultural diversity resists narrow racial categorization.

In fact, in apartheid law, coloureds were literally deemed those who were not “obviously” African, European or Indian.

They were a reservoir category, a collection of people who did not conform to the purist racial fantasies of white men.


This is a short book of just over 100 pages; it allows readers to quickly identify the unique pulse of the city, as well as its throbbing historical, social, cultural and political beat that underlies the transactions between all Capetonians. Anyone, anywhere in the world, should read it.

It is published by Catalyst Press and distributed in South Africa by LAPA. The ISBN is 978-1-946395-25-2.

It is available at, the Book Lounge, Kalk Bay Books and many branches of Bargain Books and Exclusive Books. Any store will also be able to order it for you.

The Cape Argus published an extract, with photographs of Henry and his family as well. Find it here.

News24 also published an extract. You can read it here.

I took this photograph in Kalk Bay a few years ago. Kalk Bay has fascinating history. It started as a fishing community. Then the rich (white) folks moved in. Apartheid wanted it segregated. Neither the whites nor the “non-whites” were prepared to budge. These flats have a long history of housing people in between rich and poor. This young boy, so smartly dressed for school, gives me hope.

Kalk Bay is like a mini Cape Town. That is why one of the launches will take place in Kalk Bay.

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