It was the height of the apartheid era. The Cathedral in the heart of the city had a really mixed congregation - white people, black people and mixed race people (who had developed a very distinctive, vibrant and warm culture of their own). Somehow we all got on fine even though the government across the road from the mother church was intent on separating us. Close to the centre of the city was District Six, a very mixed settlement of people who were mostly not very well off but whose families had been in the area for over a 100 years. Quite a few of the Cathedral's coloured congregation lived there, including my young friend Reuben. He was probably one or two years older than me and was full of fun and mischief. He had an older sister and two younger brothers. His parents were stalwarts of the Cathedral, much loved by everyone there.
When the apartheid government ordered the clearing of District Six because it was an affront to their 'Group Areas Act' the family and many others were faced with the prospect of moving away from the heart of the city out to the Cape flats. This was at least 25 minutes drive by car to the Cathedral if a family was fortunate enough to own a car, which I don't think they did. I recall visiting Reuben's house in District Six once before they moved, it was an old fashioned double storey housing block with a verandah - it housed several families. I was too young to take notice of the street name. It was probably bulldozed as were most of the houses in that area. Soon after that we said goodbye to the family and I have never seen them since, they probably found a church near their new home (probably Mitchell's Plain which was a coloured area).
The Cathedral continued to have a mixed congregation despite the erasing of District Six, as there were other places in the city where black and coloured people lived, and it later became known as the People's Cathedral during the final days of apartheid, due to the inspirational leadership of the Dean and a very famous Archbishop.
More than 36 years later a photo of a doll brought back my memories of Reuben my friend. The doll was described as a late 1970s Caleb in his complete outfit with the addition of an orange Gotz hoodie (a bit large for him) and a grey fleece hat. He arrived in May and I kept him under wraps until June when I made his shirt and took him to Dawn's Sasha day. He went back into hiding again until a few days ago. It is good to have him on display with the others now.
|Reuben, as pictured on Sasha Doll UK (Photo: Shelly B)|
|Nicholas James, Miranda, Reuben, Laura, Florence and baby Mabel|