The British Library

Olivia’s Story

I am a born and raised South African. As inextricably linked to the red sand, thunder showers and wild grass as all ancestors before me. Born in Johannesburg Gauteng, I grew up in a small family unit with two sisters and my mother and father. Over the years, my family accumulated trauma the way people collect shells on the beach and we had a smorgasbord or robberies, divorce, addiction, poverty and family tragedy to deal with. This was tied in with political unrest and violence that peppered in everyday life along with poor service delivery and an undertone of hopelessness.
After being robbed for the 6th time, I made the decision to emigrate, and landed in the UK in 2020. Emigrating in a pandemic was always going to be difficult and the air was permeated with fear and uncertainty. But marked with my partner’s support and having him to lean on after he got accepted into university, I felt better able to absorb the UK as my home.
Now I always have an umbrella ready, have perfected my London walk and have been able to tone down my South Africanisms enough to communicate well. I do miss thundershowers, biltong and the diverse wildlife, but I am lucky enough to now have two homes.

- Olivia, Cambridge

© Yinka Shonibare, 2018 | Website by Hanna Sorrell