White boy in a ghetto

Book: Khayelitsha: uMlungu in a Township

Book: Khayelitsha: uMlungu in a Township

Author: Steven Otter

Publisher: Penguin

Reviewer: Bruce Fraser

Growing up in Uitenhage, Eastern Cape, Steven Otter battled with his identity in a South Africa that was still not independent.

With his father having immigrated to South Africa from Austria and marrying a local English-speaking woman, Otter often felt divided loyalties between Europe and Africa.

Though brought up in a liberal home, Otter had very little interaction with black people but was aware of the injustices and hardships around him.

In a bid to try and find some meaning to his life Otter swopped a cosy time in the suburbs for Cape Town's Khayelitsha township.

"I moved to Khayelitsha determined to face my prejudices, the product of an ingrained racism, due mostly to the unnatural relations between people of different races during my youth

"I knew that racism didn't make any logical sense, but I very often thought racist things."

Getting used to the shacks, poverty and ever-threatening tsotsis took some doing, but Otter immersed himself in township life and soon had a group of friends with whom he socialised.

And this is the central theme of the book.

What would a township be without a shebeen, and Otter managed to spend a fair amount of time in them.

During his late-night drinking exploits Otter befriends interesting characters. Take for example Nigger. This bodybuilder from Ghana became a close friend to Otter mainly because of their mutual love of beer, playing pool and girls.

Their exploits are guaranteed to raise a chuckle as they spend countless hours hanging out together and hoping to get lucky with the local females.

Khayelitsha - uMlungu in a Township is an easy read.