Rod MacKenzie

White privilege: The more things change…

I gaped at the size of the property. I stood with the owner, Peter, on a side balcony of their spacious, slightly dilapidated home. Down below, the tennis courts were dwarfed by the ring of woods surrounding its fence. Some were sagging from the cascade of trees pushing through wires or pressing down the horizontal,…

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A song for the rootless

There is an urgent conversation going on among the leaves. The branches scurry, desperate to dock in bad weather. Twigs pelt about; the tall boles raise and swing their leaf-bright oars. Our garden, the veggie field and the small gorge beyond are scooped up, swirled about by the gusts and the downpour into a bag,…

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Smelling my whiteness

“O lekgoa” was thrown around whenever we smelt good, or “O nkgasekgoa” (You smell white). – Lorato Palesa Modongo Thwack … squish and I feel the mud slurp at the edge of my spade as I rip up carpets of agapanthus from my Kiwi customer’s flowerbeds. A wash of snail- and worm-slimed earth, along with…

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Facebook helps restore our humanity (at times)

I am 52 and come from a generation where one can be bewildered by, and dismissive of, the proliferation of instantly accessible information (not knowledge, there are important differences) online. This is often in my hand or in my pocket in the form of my Android. However, I use the social media to my advantage,…

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Dear Aylan and Galip, drowned Syrian children, what’s become of us?

Dear Aylan and Galip Was the world ever not a frightening place for you? Did you ever see your mom and dad smile? Or was it all just terror and hell, nothing worth living for? Here I am, past the age of 50 and I am the one with all the questions for both of…

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Liquid Viagra: Comparing descriptions of wines and rugby players

Have you noticed the rugby critics’ poetic descriptions of beefy rugby stars? Yes, those gladiators who are all about to knock the bejesus out of one other in the quest for victory in the new World Cup? Oh, those scholarly sports writers and their strained attempts to create an elegant portrait of yet another testosterone-laden…

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Ashley Madison and the culture of shame and gossip

I confess I hadn’t even heard of Ashley Madison until the other day when the hack into their data base “went viral” as the saying goes. Oooh, how the human race loves to wallow in scandal. Oh to gossip and swim about in who is having an affair, or who has been caught out for…

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‘Kist’ – did you know it’s a uniquely South African word?

Recently I finished writing a novel titled Orphan Country, which is partly set in South Africa in the Seventies and Eighties. One of my main characters, Ruth, is half-Chinese and was adopted at birth. She has little clue as to who her parents really are and part of the storyline is her finding out more…

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Shouldn’t South Africa create a new flag?

The discussion here in New Zealand about Kiwis getting a new flag has made me wonder, as an expat South African, what South Africans see and feel when they look up at that rainbow bit of history rippling against an African horizon. Does the impulse rise to put hands on hearts while throats lump with…

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The problem with “Why I can’t ‘get over’ apartheid”

I had the privilege of teaching both “white” and “black” children during the apartheid era, during the transition, and thereafter. This was from about 1988 to 2004.* Xhosa teenagers in Langa High** (I taught there in 1989 and 1990) were highly politicised, talked about oppression and how to dismantle apartheid. Once the ANC was unbanned…

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