Sleeping Dogs

The poetry of Ronelda Kamfer sheds light on the still marginalized lives of South Africa’s “brown communities.”

Markus Vollmer, Flickr CC.

Recently the rapper Lee Ursus Alexander  introduced me to the work of Afrikaans poet Ronelda S. Kamfer. Born in 1981 on Cape Town’s Cape Flats, Kamfer’s poetry reflects her split upbringing on a farm and in coloured townships in Cape Town. In 2008, Poetry International described her work thus:  “Her best poems create a sense of inevitable expression, as if, despite the manifest freshness, they have existed since the beginning of time. However, it is not only in expressive power, which often characterizes the work of younger poets, that she shines, but also in her furtive, seering insight, not least into character. This gives the impression that she has a latent poetic reservoir.”

The website continues, “… Kamfer sheds a harsh light on the still marginalized life of South Africa’s “brown communities”. This shines on the racial faultline that continues to divide Afrikaner culture and on that uneasy territory where the Afrikaans language was integrated into the so-called Coloured community long before white Afrikaners claimed it it as the flagship of their nationalism and identity.”

My favorite Kamfer poems are “Noudat slapende honde“* (Now that Sleeping Dogs”), from her 2008 book (published by Kwela Books) of the same name, and “Klein Kardo.”

Here also a link to an interview with Kamfer by South African-based Dutch journalist Fred de Vries.

  • The hyperlinks to the poems cited in this post have been updated.

Further Reading

An unfinished project

Christian theology was appropriated to play an integral role in the justifying apartheid’s racist ideology. Black theologians resisted through a theology of the oppressed.