A Review by Margot van Ryneveld

This is a powerful, deeply personal and intense look at life by a community of women portraying memories of their childhoods forged by their experiences as township girls living through a period of transition from Rhodesia to an independent Zimbabwe. As I read this evocative anthology of 31 women’s memories I had the tangible sense that I was exploring a community-created patchwork quilt. I was afforded the opportunity to explore their communal patchwork quilt of memories as they looked back on their youth and explored joyful, painful, sad or treasured memories of a bygone era.

Each woman that contributed to Township Girls was afforded an opportunity to present a snapshot of their memories of their youth and life in the townships as they remember it. Each one of them granted us, the readers, a richly embroidered tapestry of their personal memories and experiences as they grew up in a period of transition - in a country fraught with challenges and disparities - a country they all called home - as it morphed from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe.

Each one of these women presented a different impression in my mind’s eye – I was able to imagine for a while a different life, a simpler life, a life filled with a true sense of community and compassion. I was transported to a different time and place by the multi-coloured fabric of the tales these women told. What I was able to glean from many of the tales was the power and constant presence of caring families, the key role of both church and school and the strong, and still visible threads of friendship, love, laughter, fear or rage that binds us all together to form a patchwork quilt of our own lives.
I too, was a child born, in this era of intense apartheid, violent transition and uncertainty but across t

he border in South Africa. Many memories that the Township girls shared resonated with me such as childhood games, the fashion of the day, popular bands, family celebrations and international events were all too familiar. But as I journeyed through the anthology I was also compelled to acknowledge that all of my perspectives are viewed from a space of white privilege. I was a white child, born to British parents, in a middle-class suburb of Johannesburg. I also realised and acknowledged that my personal patchwork quilt has been stitched together in a different space and place resulting in me creating a unique African quilt of my own, no less valid but different to that of the Township Girls.
The Township Girls have created a patchwork quilt that resonates with many people, across many generations and from many different cultures across the globe. They have stitched together tales that present, in the most intimate and humble of ways, their intense and intimate individual memories. Their memories, dreams and personal experiences have been woven together to create something quite unique and extremely valuable. Each of the written pieces in this powerful anthology is like a piece of carefully selected fabric in a richly patterned quilt, each of these glimpses into their past holds its own special place in the broader quilt, forming an intimate and visible completeness to the whole quilted anthology.

Some of the Township Girls patchwork squares are frayed and faded tales, sewn together with strong memories woven into the very warp and weft of the squares. Then there are snippets of personal histories from other squares that are like scraps of fabric snipped from an infant’s blanket or a much-loved childhood dress. Other patchwork squares of memory are newer and presented with a level of flair and excitement, creating a sense of nuanced adventure across several decades for us the readers. As I journeyed with these women through their anthology their individual colours blended together to create for me a sense of true community, unity and familiarity. Altogether, the 31 different tales wove together the quilt of who the township girls were and how they got to be who they are today – powerful African women.
I urge you all to buy yourselves a copy of this book and start reading it today. The real challenge that the Township Girls pose for us all as readers is to accept that we too have unique tales to tell and our own personal patchwork quilts to create. No two quilts will ever be identical as we each sew our squares together in our own special way. We need to be willing to bare our souls and share our own patchwork quilts with each other for it is in the sharing of our tales we get to know one another. The Township Girls have already inspired the Township Boys to start writing and now it is also our turn to weave a tale or two of our very own.
Margot van Ryneveld
BA, BEd (Ed Mngmnt), HDE (JP/PP)
Holy Rosary Primary School Principal
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