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Lauretta Ngcobo Presents Prodigal Daughters: Stories of South African Women in Exile

Prodigal DaughtersDuring the years of apartheid rule in South Africa, many women ‘skipped’ the country and fled into exile to evade harassment, detention, imprisonment and torture by state security forces. Leaving the country of their birth, many took calculated, though dangerous, risks to cross borders. Once in exile, sometimes for several decades, many experienced discrimination, danger, deprivations and the stresses associated with being a foreigner in a strange land. All lived with the distant yet distinct hope that they would one day be able to return to a liberated homeland.

In Prodigal Daughters, eighteen women tell their intensely personal stories of exile, re-imagining and reliving a past for the sake of fixing in memory narratives that would surely disappear in a country still struggling to shake off the shackles of racial inequality and oppression. Stories of being accepted or rejected in host countries, and equally stories of homecoming, read like bittersweet memories of survival, longing and intrigue. For many of these women, a life in exile enabled their growing realisation that apartheid was just one facet of oppression in the world. It connected with much broader struggles for justice and human rights.

South Africa has yet to fully appreciate the memories and records of life experienced in that ‘desert of exile’, experiences that have helped society become what it is today.

“It was in exile that I discovered, fell in love with and was loved by the African continent.” — Brigalia Hlophe Bam

“What exile did for us was to help us formulate that space which can truly be called home.” — Baleka Mbete

About the editor

Lauretta Ngcobo returned to South Africa in 1994 after thirty-one years in exile. She is the author of two politically inspired novels, Cross of Gold and And They Didn’t Die. Ngcobo was the winner of the literary lifetime achievement award from the South African Department of Arts and Culture in 2006 and the winner of the Order of Ikhamanga from The Presidency of South Africa for excellent achievement in the field of literature in 2008.

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