"Father worked in the gold mines
of Johannesburg before I was born. I was in my thirties
when I first laid eyes on Peter Magubane's book of photos
of "mine boys". That book angered and disgusted
me. But it wasn't till I came to the corresponding part
of my father's life that a mule kicked me full in the
belly. All this time, more than two decades after, the
despicable things those photos depicted: grown men "naked
as unpodded beans... dusted with sprayings of "DDT"
and forced to show their anuses, regular inspection
against theft of precious stones" -- the vicious
truth never penetrated my defences.
Father worked in the mines. Mine bosses
did such things to mine boys. But that such things were
done to Father never occurred to me. How do you look
at the man you have known all your life as "Protector,
Provider, Soother of spirits bruised" and admit
to yourself he suffered unimaginable violation, endured
unspeakable humiliation? How does a child love and respect
a father and know that that man has been treated in
a manner no animal ever suffered and know that there
are many who saw him as less than human? How do you
swallow a father's bitter impotence?
I wept. When the realization hit me.
When I could no longer deny that my father underwent
such brutality, a sorrow so intense overcame me. And,
I wept. For my father.
For all the men who had to leave their
wives and their children, every year, for eleven months
of the year, to go...
to a place of shadows, of dreams, of promises false.
Where lives are slighted, wasted, ill-used and squandered;
sacrificed to greed and need, real and manufactured.
Where rich men dream of richer riches;
and poor men die clawing at stones."