Book inspires to keep history alive

Gregory Edwards with his self-published childrens book, The Table Mountain Story.

An Ocean View author is launching his self-published children’s book, The Table Mountain Story, on Heritage Day, Tuesday September 24.

Gregory Edwards, 57, lived an idyllic life until he was eight years old when apartheid’s Group Areas Act stole his childhood security and community. The army moved his family of fishermen from Simon’s Town, where they earned their living, to Ocean View, where fishing was limited and there was no cinema, no school friends nearby, nothing familiar.

The children had to take the bus to school and back every day.

“I had no idea I was a second-class citizen until that age when my parents began to teach us to give way to white people on the street,” he says.

But apartheid took more than his childhood,it crippled his future.

“My parents couldn’t afford to keep all the children in school, so I was told by my father I needed to leave school and work to help support the family.”

It was a huge blow for a boy who had dreamed of becoming a teacher. But it didn’t stop him from learning, and he now has several qualifications to his name, including a national diploma in marketing management, which he earned by studying at night.

Gregory says he is still working towards his dream of becoming an arts and music teacher, but, in the interim, while he pays the bills by being a debtors controller, he has self-published The Table Mountain Story, which focuses on Khoisan myth.

Gregory says the book came about several years ago after he was told that a story about pixies he had entered in a writing competition was too Eurocentric.

The comment left him despondent – not just because his story had been rejected but because it highlighted his own struggle between cultures: both his maternal and paternal family lines were European, Irish one side and German on the other.

He recalls a Sunday afternoon in Ocean View when he was a child. He was terrified to see three burly blonde white men march-
ing up to their door and he ran to wake his mother from her
nap.

“We were scared, thinking what had we done, but when my mother opened the door there were tears and laughter: these men were my cousins.”

With what he calls his mixed heritage, he began to research South Africa’s first-nation people, the Khoi.

“This became a passion, and I scouted the libraries for books. Only adult research material was available, here and there. One day, I looked at Table Mountain and said how awesome it was for the Khoi clans to live under the stars with Table Mountain as the backdrop. That is when I started writing again.”

Gregory wanted his book to enchant children and give them a sense of place and belonging. To give them a thread to follow, to find their ancestry and history and to keep alive a sense of magic in their lives. He designed the cover and illustrations.

He has moved to many places after leaving Ocean View, but he returned there this year and now calls home the neighbourhood he once rejected. He sings tenor in the church choir, plays the clarinet in the church orchestra, teaches Sunday school and Sunday School music, and has more children’s books waiting in the wings.

The book had a soft launch on Facebook in the first week of June, and the official launch will be on Tuesday September 24 at the Pop Up Place, 42 Trill Road, Observatory, at 11am.

WhatsApp Gregory at 082 785 1747 or visit www.ongonggong.co.za to find out more about his book.