Labour Tenants Rising Strong

First published on the Association For Rural Advancement (AFRA) website

As we watched and recorded over 90 Labour Tenants and supporters march to the Land Claims Court in Randburg, Johannesburg, on Friday 29th January, I found myself awash in a whirl of emotions. Hope, elation and anxiety all swirled along with the familiar songs and chants, memories of struggles past of which I had only read, the loud blaring of the police sirens, and the sun already high and holding the promise of the heat of the long day ahead.

As an advocacy-focused land rights non-governmental organisation (NGO), the Association For Rural Advancement (AFRA) works to empower communities to  understand and be able to express their rights, and to voice their stories directly. There remain, however, spaces within which we inevitably find ourselves writing and speaking on their behalf, particularly when it comes to complex legal arguments and Court processes.

It was therefore especially significant to have as many Labour Tenants as we could afford to mobilise come to the Court itself on this day, despite the great distances, high costs, and the need for them to travel through the night without any sleep in order to attend.

Sakhe Mchunu, from the Ravensworth Community in uMshwathi, KwaZulu Natal, comes from a Labour Tenant community that has worked with AFRA at various times over the last two decades as they have searched for solutions to a wide array of challenges. He has attended countless meetings with landowners, Government Departments and AFRA itself to try and negotiate reasonable settlement options, and while he has shared with me his frustrations at the many years of what has sometimes felt like hopeless struggle, he has yet to give up. Speaking to the media outside the Court on Friday he expressed his wish: “Being as we are here, we hope that the Court can assist us to pressurise the Government to bring back the land to the farm dwellers.”

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Some days it is certainly more challenging to dig down to my gratitude than others, but I know that those are the days when doing so it most valuable. So, with some internal resistance, here are some things I am grateful for…





Finally catching sight (and photographs) of the Fish Eagle that has recently taken up residence in our valley, after days of feeling my heart catch at his stirring cries.







Seeing my boys heading into their first day of school for the year with smiles on their faces, despite my anxieties.

The release of weeping.

The noisy chatter of Hornbills.

Amazing friends.



Resisting Gratitude

As I sat down to write I thought, “I can capture some of what I’ve been grappling with recently in a gratitude list.” An instant later, I felt a strong rejection of this idea course through me – a very clear ‘No! I am NOT grateful for this week!” Which made me smile, because in this moment I am actually feeling grateful for much of what I learned, even if not yet for the experiences themselves.

I’m grateful for…

Staring some of my deepest fears and vulnerabilities in the face, taking a deep breath, and not running from them as I often have in the past.

Seeing so clearly that when I receive tough feedback from someone, I can’t see why they would want to stay in my life when they see such flaws in me (which I have, naturally, been trying to camouflage in the hopes that no one would ever see them and I would thus remain an acceptable part of society). However, instead of shutting them out and running away, I remembered in time that a) most of us feel that way when we feel exposed and b) I don’t feel that way when I see flaws in the people I care for.

Remembering to say “thank you” instead of “I’m sorry.”


(credit: Yao Xiao)

Feeling the strong pull for distraction and external validations, and choosing to turn inwards to my own resources instead.

Reminding myself that I can’t achieve growth without grappling with a few particularly tricky, sneaky shadows along the way. Continue reading

Ending 2015 with Gratitude

I decided to spend my final waking hours of 2015 reflecting on a few of my favourite memories, pictures and songs from the year:

Travelling to places old and new whilst establishing, re-establishing and maintaining connections with new friends and family, and those already long-loved.

IMG_3624Learning more about the complexities and joys of love with each passing year.

Stepping forward into new learning and growth with a full and open heart, despite a healthy dose of fear, and the occasional stumble.



Reading so many mind-expanding books this year, which have given me a multitude of new understanding, tools and practices.

Moments of wholeness and peace.

Laurel and Tess Strawberries


Feeling as connected as ever to my wonderful mother. Continue reading

All I Ask Of You

One of my mother’s sisters gave me some unexpected gifts this evening: a beautiful jacket, and two songs, one of which touched deep layers of sorrow and gratitude that needed tears tonight. She also gifted me loving arms to hold me.

Expressing the sense of relief these moments of falling softly, lightly, gently into the comfort of the pure loss still proves elusive to me. Moments when everything falls away and my chest feels tight with love for my mother – love and missing and appreciation and memories, and countless other elusive shifts and swirls of emotion far too subtle for me to translate or shrink into words. Emotions which feel best expressed with sound, colour and poetry.



My Gran’s Lebkuchen Recipe

Gran's Lebkucken

Each December when I bake lebkuchen from my maternal grandmother’s straightforward recipe, the scent of spices as I mix the dough transports me back to the wonderful family Christmases of my childhood. These are a variation of a German biscuit, and similar to gingerbread. It’s fun to ice the shapes different colours & decorate with silver balls.

(Makes 30)


60g butter                                   150ml golden syrup

450ml cake flour                       5ml bicarb

2ml ground ginger                    2ml ground cardamom

2ml ground cinnamon             2ml ground cloves

5ml cocoa                                      ±15ml milk

50ml mixed peel chopped fine


  1. Melt the butter over a low heat, then add the syrup and bring to a
    boil. Remove from the heat once boiling and rest for 10 minutes.
  2. Sift together the dry ingredientsIMG_4482 and add to the syrup. Add the milk & mixed peel and mix until smooth.
  3. Stand at room temperature for about 1 ½ hours.IMG_4489
  4. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Turn the dough onto a floured board,
    kneed lightly and roll out to about 5mm thick. Cut into shapes and place on greased baking sheets.
    Bake for 10-12 minutes until just golden. Cool.
  5. Ice with egg white & icing sugar (1 egg should do for 30 biscuits), colour with food colouring and decorate as desired, then allow to harden.
  6. Eat, share, gift, and enjoy – with much love and Christmas joy :-)



Gratitude: in the Christmas spirit

Today I’m grateful for…

Finally feeling the real joy and excitement of Christmas while baking Lebküchen from my Gran’s recipe, the boys helping out in their Christmas aprons, the smell of cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and cloves filling the air, with Christmas music drifting through the house.


Watching “The Little Prince” at the cinema, with my youngest son cuddling on my lap, feeling my chest tight with love.

imagesWrapping up a week of watching episodes 1 to 6 of Star Wars with the kids, with a huge amount of excited anticipation in the house as we wait to watch the latest release soon! And I must say, Princess Leia still kicks ass :-)

images-2Reading the copy of “The Little Prince” I’ve had since I was a child with the boys before bed.


Memories of Christmases past – and fondly remembering many loved ones now deceased.

Christmas SA 2007.jpg

December 2007

Christmas 2010