SLICE: When TV shows hit home

THE SABC 1 television show called Khumbul’ekhaya is watched regularly in my home, and it always generates a lot of discussion.

“If I were in their shoes, I don’t think I would forgive my parent(s) for being absent all these years,” or “I don’t think I would welcome the parent that had abandoned me,” are my usual responses.

Loosely translated, the title of the show means “Go back home”. I have always understood the point of the show to be to give people with limited resources an opportunity to reunite with their estranged family members, and I commend that.

According to the show’s website, “Themes of family forgiveness, communication and the courage to act are all explored from an emotional perspective – what do all of these values mean to our society and the characters that we see in the show?”

Another show my family watches is Utatakho (Your father) on Mzansi Magic, which assists adults with paternity tests to determine who their fathers are, particularly in cases where the mothers refuse to tell them.

I am emotionally invested in the television shows I watch, but I am also critical of the content I consume, especially if it addresses larger social issues.

I find it upsetting to see mothers and fathers who abandon their children for years. More so, absent parents who do very little to try and reunite with their children, giving petty excuses such as financial constraints, which is often the case in Khumbul’ekhaya.

The social learning theory would suggest that “Increased interaction with fathers provides children with an additional opportunity to learn social skills, as well as an additional source of emotional and instrumental support” (Leidy, Schofield & Parke, 2013).

In support of this theory, Utatakho and Moja Love’s No Excuse, Pay Papgeld (child maintenance) serve the purpose of holding parents (specifically fathers) accountable, and to emphasise the importance of the involvement of parents in child development.

Watching these shows, I have always sympathised with children who grew up without a solid family structure, because I valued my parents and two sisters so much that I could not begin to imagine a world outside of that family unit.

Imagine my shock when our parents revealed that my father had a daughter outside of their marriage, and they had kept her existence secret for 18 years. My biggest disappointment was that a father who had been so present in all aspects of my life had been supportive to my sister only financially.

My frustrations with the situation were that my own family had been guilty of separating a child from her family, and the possible damages thereof. According to psychoanalytical theorist Sigmund Freud, “Loss or absence of the father was thought to have negative consequences for the child as early as the prenatal period and is associated with later behavioural problems.”

Still our parents decisively kept our sister away from an opportunity of building a relationship with her siblings from an early age and of experiencing growing up with both parents.

As a result of this, my view of these family shows has shifted. From being judgmental and condemning the people who are featured, now that the issues covered have become personal I have become more sensitive to the fact that not everyone grows up with both parents, or with siblings from whom they are inseparable.

It is hard not to criticise parents who separate themselves from their children, whatever the reason, and fail to support them emotionally or otherwise. Now that I have come to realise how uncomfortable the truth can be, but how important it is to face, I have ceased to watch the shows.

FEATURED IMAGE: Jabulile Mbatha, student journalist of Wits Vuvuzela



Slice of Life: How round are your rotis?

Why is it so hard to shake off the stares of disapproving aunts and men in fancy suits? I am almost always on the receiving end of them at every family function. The sourness of the patriarchy that laces these comments never fails to sting and especially while the women slave over pots while the men lounge back.

I have witnessed in my own life and household what I have come to understand as patriarchy. My impressions as a South African of Indian heritage have resulted in a definition of patriarchy where a where a woman’s worth often hinges on whether or not she can make the perfectly round roti.

Being born a girl into a South African Indian family means that you’re hit with a predefined list of expectations shaped by the judgement of an imagined mother-in-law. These prerequisites for the marriage to one of their sons are silently agreed upon by our own mothers, the women we look to for affirmation.. Often, when a couple shows an intention to take the next step, his mother will ask:

Who is her family? Can she cook? How round are her rotis? Can she make all your favourite meals like I can? Has she dated anyone before? If she is studying does she has to know that she can’t work after she gets married?

These questions reflect the unrealistic expectations that many communities, mine included, have of young women about to enter into marriage. As for me, I am probably looking at a life of loneliness as I not only fail to meet these expectations, I am actively resisting them.

My stubborn refusal to to learn how to cook still ignites a fire in my mother. It is often the same argument day after day, which always ends at the same question; “What will your mother-in-law say? … Do you think your husband will help you with chores, you’ve got to be kidding! No one wants someone who can’t cook and clean…” These reprimands though, rather than encouraging me to change, just embolden my resolve to resist my future enslavementAs a woman, despite having a university degree, I get asked when I will get married rather than when I will find a job. There is a timestamp on marriage and once you pass that age South African Indian people, especially the aunties, think that no one will want you and you’ve passed your sell by date. Women are treated as objects to barter with rather than human beings with their own feelings and desires. I have never, and will never, come to terms with this way of thinking.

I look at the way my brother is treated by my parents, a way that gives him the space to live his life, his transgressions excused away with the saying, “boys will be boys”. The only time parents like mine burden their sons with expectations is when they lay down the law on the kind of daughter-of-law they expect to have. I am treated differently just because I am a female, this is not inequality, it is discrimination. “Boys will be boys” is nothing more than a free pass to the male of the to do whatever they like.

I, for one, believe in the concept of equality. Perhaps it is time to grow out of old concepts and develop a culture of sharing and taking responsibility as adults. I think that gender limitations and standards should be scrapped because I never want my future daughter to think she can’t achieve something just because she isn’t a man. And to my future mother-in-law, you need not fear your son will starve if you stop feeding his expectations and his belly and instead teach him how to roll the perfectly round roti.


Slice of life: The blessing of independence from the women who raised me

My mother and grandmother are two strong women in my life who have contributed to my strong and independent character.

They have been the sole providers in my brother’s and my life, making sure that ends met so we could have everything we needed.

But they have done more than that, having taught me how to survive without depending on anyone else.

They taught me courage, self-sufficiency and independence as I witnessed how they both struggled but always provided for our family.

For as long as I can remember, I have always feared having to depend on someone else because I could not help but feel like I was imposing. In higher primary school, I refused to ask for help with my homework as I would think to myself: “If my grandmother can fix broken pipes, floors and ceilings around the house by herself, what is stopping me from figuring out primary school homework alone?”

My grandmother is somewhat of a stubborn woman, a trait that has rubbed off on me. She refuses to rely on a man to fix anything around the house. I used to get frustrated when she would ask me to help her cement the bathroom floor or to take the garbage away in a wheelbarrow to the dumping site, instead of telling my older brother to do it.

Eventually I came to appreciate her showing me how to perform these duties. I’ve learnt that I can do anything for myself without adopting the stereotypical attitude of, “this is a man’s job”. Limitations based on gender do not exist in my head because of my grandmother’s teaching.

My mother too, taught me valuable life lessons. “You need to work hard for yourself. You do not want to be at the mercy of anyone, especially a man,” she has always told me.

Determined not to rely on anyone, I decided to use my talents to make my own money. I began a hair braiding business at 15, inspired by my mother’s advice and my paternal grandmother and aunts who are very good at braiding hair. This is a skill that I am fortunate enough to have inherited.

By braiding people’s hair I am able to make pocket money for myself and help my family by contributing towards household expenses. I started off by braiding my family’s hair for free to perfect my skills, and went on to start charging my neighbours R150 to braid their hair.

My hair business was at its peak in third year at Wits when I stayed in a student residence in Braamfontein. There, a lot of young women came to my room every weekend so I could do their hair. This helped a lot because I could buy groceries and necessities for myself without burdening my family with requests for money.

Staying in Braamfontein was particularly good for my business because there is a huge market for braids and I was easily accessible, living in student housing with most of my customers. I also charged affordable prices, taking into consideration the financial constraints faced by most students. I did so, however, without compromising the end result that my customers were looking for.

In early 2013, my little sister was born and I became the middle child. The very fact that I am someone’s older sister motivates me to work even harder at being financially independent. I love spoiling those who are closest to me. I constantly want to make sure that my sister gets anything she wants. More importantly, I want to lead by example and show her that a girl can do anything without relying on anyone but herself.


OPINION: A slice of Passover – The holiday of exodus

SYMBOLIC: The “Seder” plate with the different signs representing the festival of Passover. Photo: Ilanit Chernick. 

Passover or Pesach is an annual festival celebrated by the Jewish community over 7 days in April. Wits Vuvuzela journalist Ilanit Chernick shares the experience of the festival as it happens in her home. 


As the candles sparkle on the mantelpiece we gather around and admire their beauty.

The table is set, our best cutlery and crockery laid out in order of each course, each with an accompanying Hagada (the religious text) on top. An abundance of desert wine with a seemingly equal number of glasses stand in readiness for the traditional four helpings of this sweet alcoholic treat. Each helping signifies the different levels of redemption.

Some say, “It’s the perfect opportunity to get a little drunk”. But in actual fact this is a time for family and friends to come together, to learn, reflect and grow.

We renew our spirituality, our freedom and our remembrance of trying times.

It is Passover – a festival which celebrates the exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt. A tradition passed down for thousands of generations from father to son since that fateful period when the Jews were saved “by the hand of G-d (God)”.

Yet many people still question the strange and inspiring rituals the Jewish people uphold during the first two nights of this holiday period. We read from a book that talks of our history (the Hagada), churn what seems like hills of greens and horseradish in our mouths which are hard to the touch – never mind the tongue. We mix apples, nuts and wine to make a sweet paste which is spread on to the cardboard-looking thing called matzah (unleavened bread).

The seder (Hebrew word describing the order of events over the first two nights of Passover) is held as a way to teach generation after generation – young and old – of the miracles beseeched on the Jewish people during their time in slavery. It is a time to encourage the younger generation to ask questions about the historical significance of this night. The youngest at the table sings a tune in Hebrew asking “why this night is different from all other nights?” or “why on this night do we eat bitter herbs and matzah?”

[pullquote]”These words slip off our tongues like water on a hot day as we recall the story of our ancestors slavery.” [/pullquote]

Throughout this evening we examine the fascinating plate of insignia’s, talk of “the four  sons”, deliberately spill our glasses of wine as we listen to the 10 plagues and sing songs of freedom in Aramaic. These words slip off our tongues like water on a hot day as we recall the story of our ancestors’ slavery. We long for these words to come true – for the return of a time of comfort and redemption.

As the adults eat a meal filled with chicken soup and kneidelach (matza-balls), rich meats and cooling desserts, there are squeals of delight as the children search for the Afikoman (a small piece of matzah hidden to continue the process of ‘asking’). Prizes of lush chocolates or packets of coloured sweets are handed to the children for solving this little mystery. A process of bargaining, swapping and sharing treats takes place as we  proceed to eat the Afikoman.

One after the other, the children fall by the wayside on the couch or on pillows scattered on the floor as we end this night of extraordinary events with humourous songs. They prompt us to count or take us back to a time of old school plays we performed during this period of the year. We smile as we let the wine settle and sing-along to “Had Gad Ya”, a parable similar to that of the nursery rhyme “there was an old lady who swallowed a spider”. In our dazed state we make the sounds pertaining to each character and tease when anyone misses their cue.

Sooner than we’d hoped, the plague of darkness begins to settle upon the house as each of the lights go out one by one. A reminder that 1am has come and it is time for bed. As we walk our guests out we look up at the stars with awe – a blood moon has appeared – the same phenomenon which took place thousands of years ago on the night of our redemption.


FAMILY TIME: The Chernick family gather together on Passover to recall our history.  Photo: Ilanit Chernick