When Rosemary Smith walked down the aisle in a small church in Oxford, England, she didn't anticipate that she would one day have to start over in a foreign country. Making new friends and getting used to a new society were just the tip of the iceberg.
When Rosemary Smith walked down the aisle in a small church in Oxford, England, she didn't anticipate that she would one day have to start over in a foreign country. Making new friends and getting used to a new society were just the tip of the iceberg. Searching for an identity and finding a home was a winding journey, especially in an unfamiliar country that fought under the shackles of racial oppression.
Swimming with Cobras chronicles the life of former Black Sash activist Rosemary Smith in a memoir dating from the 60s in South Africa. Becoming a part of the anti-apartheid organisation and forming a bond with her surrounding community were just her initial struggles.
Apart from her role as a Black Sash activist, Smith illuminates moments that piece together the foundations of a country struggling for freedom, and how those very pieces formed her character.
“History no longer belonged exclusively to the eminent and the great, and I sensed that as a woman making a new life in an alien land I would have a story to tell,” says Smith in the book's introduction. This prompted her to begin writing down conversations, events and observations that led to some startling realisations of the apartheid regime and the oppressive atmosphere in the Eastern Cape. Each chapter is richly descriptive, from cultural nuances to the plight of marginalised black and coloured communities. Her initial sense of naiveté develops into an insightful observation of a country through an ordinary woman’s eyes.
The cosiness of family life, the familiarity of one’s community and the comfort of growing up with friends is not appreciated as much until one is forced to establish new ties. Smith's autobiographical memoir is a prodigious example of this, but also illustrates the strength of human nature in adversity.
Swimming with Cobras was launched at the Rhodes Cory Library on Tuesday in the presence of the author's closest friends from Rhodes and the Grahamstown community.