May 26 2008

The Knock at the Door

Published by at 11:08 pm under Audio,Public Radio Features

One of the most amazing experiences of my life was getting to work for two months in South Africa, where I co-produced two documentaries and did some radio production training. I was incredibly lucky. It happened because a good friend believed in the project so much that he got it funded by two US grants and sponsored by the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA).

The radio programs were about specific aspects of life under apartheid, which had ended only the year before. (Nelson Mandela’s presidential palace was across the street from our office.) The work-pace was frantic as we traveled around Cape Town and its townships gathering interviews and weaving the painful recollections into a single audio story—all in about a month. It wasn’t enough time.

I won’t keep rambling on about these amazing weeks, except to say that I never ceased to be amazed by the openness of spirit of the South African people I met and that we interviewed: not only their willingness to talk to us about incomprehensible suffering, but to allow me—an outsider—to listen

This first program is about the forced removals under the Group Areas Act, which resulted in black South Africans, “coloureds,” Indians and others being driven from their homes so that whites could take over the area.

Two of my newly met colleagues, Sue Valentine and Siviwe Minyi, became dear friends, and thirteen years later I miss them as strongly as ever. The three of us co-produced this. It was broadcast by the South African Broadcasting Corporation, and also in the US, as I recall.

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