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Welcome to Mitchell’s Plain

Ludmila Ommundsen Pessoa


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1This book is the result of research carried out with the financial support of the GRIC (Groupe de Recherche Identités et Cultures / Group for Research on Identities and Cultures) and the DIRVED (Direction de la Recherche, de la Valorisation et des Études Doctorales / Directorate of Research, Development and Doctoral Studies) of the University of Normandy-Le Havre (ULHN) in France. I warmly wish to thank Prof. Michel Prum, founder and director of the GRER (Groupe de Recherche sur l’Eugénisme et le Racisme / Research Group on Eugenics and Racism) of Paris Cité University, for allowing a presentation of this research at the 2019 edition of GRER’s annual conferences on South Africa.

2My “special relationship” with South Africa started in 1994 when I began a doctoral thesis on Victorian women travellers in Southern Africa, which gave me the opportunity to live in Pretoria during the busy and exciting Mandela years. It has grown in intensity, owing to the people of Mitchell’s Plain—inspirational men and women—whom I came to meet while working for the French Foreign Office as the director of the Alliances françaises in Cape Town and Mitchell’s Plain from 2008 to 2013. Although I have resumed my academic position in France since then, formal working ties have developed into solid and friendly relations. This book would not have been possible without journalist and photographer Yazeed Kamaldien, whose advice and suggestions have always been highly beneficial, Janine Van Rooy, founder of the non-profit organisation Blaqpearl Foundation, helping youth cope with the harsh realities of life through arts, who organised a debate with a group of Plainers around the issues raised by the documentary film Mitchells Plain (1980), and the assistance of Michael Bell who created Mitchell’s Plain Online,1 a website highlighting the positive and motivational stories of the area. When we met in 2019, the aims and scope of the initial research project were meant to be much broader. Unfortunately, the sudden Sars-CoV-2 pandemic and its aftermath prevented the original plans from unfolding as expected.

3This published work would not have been possible without the valuable help of Sindisiwe Fana, Parliament of the Republic of South Africa in Cape Town, Najwa Hendrickse and Melanie Geustyn, National Library in Cape Town, Beverley Angus, Africana Special collections of the University of Cape Town and Jacobus van der Merwe, Western Cape Archives and Records Service I wish to thank Trevor Moses, South African National Film and Video and Sound Archives, for his great help tracing the documentary film Mitchells Plain (1980) and his much-appreciated comments on the South African film industry. I would like to express my gratitude to Dr. Orla Smyth (ULHN) for her friendship and support in moments of struggle.

4I am immensely indebted to the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) of South Africa for granting permission to use GCIS archival material; namely all the documentary film stills included as illustrations in this work. I extend my thanks to Lester Fourie and Eben Carsten (GCIS) for their support.

5Special thanks to David Pareÿt, GRIC (ULHN) for all his administrative skills related to my research and Romain Liberge from the Department of Institutional Life, General Affairs and Communication (ULHN) for his technical competencies in film stills.

6Finally and most importantly, I am eternally grateful to my mixed Brazilian and Norwegian family for their spirit of tolerance. My debt to my parents is immense. This book is dedicated to my beloved Pretoria-born sons Florent and Hadrien.


1 Mitchell’s Plain Online, archived 2 November 2020: (archive).


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