Shaping the Jewish South African Story: Imprints of Memories, Shadows and Silences
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Storytelling is the thread connecting history, memory and imagination, piecing together alternate truths, unravelling forgotten memories, and making meaning for the teller and her audience. This paper examines the relationship between theory, history and imagination and their combined influence on this writer’s work of fiction. I was born into the South African Jewish community, a homogenous group that migrated from Lithuania around the turn of the twentieth century to seek an alternative to growing antisemitism and poverty, only to find themselves enmeshed in another form of oppression – apartheid – but this time embedded on the side of the oppressor. Antisemitism, the Holocaust, and apartheid permeated the psyche of all Jews in South Africa, and yet the imprints of shadows and silences exhibited themselves in contrasting responses to oppression – ranging from those who supported and benefited from apartheid to opponents and activists who fought the system from within and without. This article is the based on the unexpected outcomes of my PhD which comprised two components: a novel and accompanying dissertation. What I found was that the two streams – creative and academic – fed and nurtured one another to bring to the surface stories that had been generated by academic reading, personal, collective and submerged memories of a diasporic community, and imagination.