Returning to the Mother City


In three days, I will fly off to the Mother City in South Africa. Twelve years ago, I stood in the Waterfront in Cape Town
and took this picture. That day, Scott and I had just returned from a tour of Robben Island where Nelson Mandela spent most of his years in prison during the Apartheid era. 

Now, as I prepare to go back, this image of a Mother holding a child, is speaking to me again. I was the mama of 9-month-old Gabi at the time and barely pregnant with our Telah. I felt nauseous and raw and completely out of my skin. In so many ways.

In a week, I will be re-entering Robben Island to spend a week with African friends and leaders, theologians and practitioners, activisits, pray-ers and poets. We will be having conversations on faith and justice, reconciliation and restitution, peace and freedom. I know there will be hard and important conversations. And if the past is anything to go by, also the best kinds of laughter. 

I have done much healing, in conversation with many of these friends and many more in other parts of Africa. In Kenya. In Burundi. In Uganda. Now, after 12 years, I am going home to my Mother City to be where I am most tender. 

I don’t quite know how to prepare my heart. I do know this trip will be significant. 

It’s been 22 years since the first democratic elections in South Africa. It’s taken 22 years for me to bring my healing back here. I’ve visited South Africa a few times since 2004, but those visits have been visits in which I were an Afrikaner woman, visiting my Afrikaner life. This time, my worlds will finally be coming together. 

I have experienced forgiveness at the feet of some beautiful people and communion at the table with many of the most gracious friends. I have experienced the release and the blessing of my identity as an African woman and I’ve embarked on the long, slow journey towards my own freedom.

I am an Afrikaner woman and I am an African woman. Finally, thankfully, and by the grace of a beautiful, redeeming God, I get to be both. 

  • Sandy Hay

    Just put this photo as the home screen of my iPhone. Each time I open it, I will be reminded to pray for you, my Afrikaner/African friend. This trip, added to your word “write”, I can hardly wait to read all about it.

    • idelette

      Thank you so much, Sandy! I imagine these prayers will pave the way and carry me as I go.

  • Ivan Kalema

    Be wishes to you-great writer and inspirer. I like and cannot forget the sincerity of your spirit, the bigness of your heart and ofcourse your unfading smile. The world is definitely a better place with people like you.

    Best wishes as you travel to the Cape and reflect on how to bring sustainable transformation to South Africa, in particular, the African Continent and the entire globe, in general.

    • idelette

      I wish you could be there with us, Ivan. No doubt we’ll be missing our Amahoro friends. Thank you for your kind words … I think you know how much it means.

  • Kari Wilhite

    Praying for this amazing trip for you. Joy!

    • idelette

      Thank you, Kari! I really appreciate it …

  • Sarah Joslyn

    Idelette, I am so excited for you to get to go and do this kind of work. I’m excited in that nervous kind of way, because I know this also feels big and hard and because the writing you are going to do when you get home is going to be big and hard. ❤️

  • Bev Murrill

    Emmanuel, my friend.

  • Nicole A. Joshua

    I can’t wait to see you!

  • Michele Morin

    Upholding you in prayer during these momentous days.