Jul 12

Olive Schreiner: South Africa’s first “hippie”

Olive Schreiner

Olive Schreiner

Heather Parker Lewis

Friends of Kloof Library Forum

Heather Parker Lewis from Cape Town gave us a most interesting and fascinating talk  entitled
“Olive Schreiner: South Africa’s first hippie”,

Heather’s first book “Also God’s Children?... encounters with street kids” was published in 1998  and is based on her work with drug addicted youth in Cape Town. Books on South African prison conditions followed including “God’s Gangsters?” which explores the mythology of the Prison Number Gangs and is based on years of intense and difficult research in prisons.

Her novel “The Interloper” (2008)was Book of the Week for the Sunday Times.

Heather received a generous grant from the National Arts Council to write the informal biography  “Olive Schreiner: the other side of the moon” (2010) and was able to uncover new material about Olive the woman, as opposed to Olive the literary icon, the politician and feminist. In recent studies Olive Schreiner has been described as a defender of those sidelined by the forces of British Imperialism, such as the Afrikaners, and later other South African groups like Blacks, Jews and Indians - to name but a few.

Although she may be called a lifelong freethinker in terms of her Victorian background - as opposed to mainstream Christianity - she always remained true to the spirit of the Christian Bible and developed a secular version of the worldview of her missionary parents.

In his biography of Olive Schreiner Karl Schoeman writes “From a chronological viewpoint, Olive Schreiner's life shows an interesting pattern. After she spent the first twenty-five thereof in South Africa ... she was in England for more than seven years, and also lived during this time in Europe. After this she lived in South Africa for twenty-four years, the time of her friendship with Rhodes, the Anglo-Boer war and her growing involvement in issues like racism and the lot of women, after which another exile followed in England for seven years; it was only shortly before her death in 1920 that she returned to South Africa"

(Olive Schreiner: A Life in South Africa 1855-1881, Human & Rousseau, Cape Town, 1989).

Further reading:

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