The sea wind is still blowing: stories of a Chinese South African community in Port Elizabeth

Wang, Dan
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Chinese South Africans constitute an integral part of the South African society as one of the smallest and most identifiable minority groups. Throughout the past, they maintained a low profile so as not to draw troubles in the once arguably most racist country in the world, which, combined with the insignificant population, rendered them not only unknown to their homeland in China, but also invisible in the host country of South Africa and, gradually and unintentionally, neglected and even forgotten by the whole world. This thesis, therefore, points the pen to draw more attention to this minority but distinctive group. The work consists of two parts: a theoretical review and a narrative nonfiction long-form. The former part makes it clear who Chinese South Africans are and gives a brief outline of their history in South Africa. Meanwhile, the Apartheid policy especially the Group Area Act and the discriminations Chinese South Africans faced, along with the influences upon them, are particularly touched on while their identity transitions are also overviewed. It also concerns how Chinese South Africans are documented and portrayed in the limited existing works, including historical books, academic papers and nonfiction narratives. The narrative part focuses on a Chinese South African community in a suburb of Port Elizabeth called Kabega Park, which was the only Chinese Group Area established during Apartheid. This part itself also includes two sections. The first section tells from the third-person point of view a story of a Chinese South African family in the community, covering a time period from 1934 to 2000. The second section is written mainly in the first-person point of view, which mixes personal stories of the community members and my own experiences in the community, with some essential background information also woven in. Altogether, the narrative part draws an outline and portrays a telling life picture of a Chinese South African community which is still running today as well as how this small group changes as time goes by. As narrative nonfiction, the stories told are all real. Most of the content is first-hand collected and is exposed to the public for the first time, making it very valuable and can be used as historical material in future studies on related topics. Written for the first time by a mainland Chinese who does not belong to the community but shares certain characteristics in common with these people, a person who is both an “outsider” and an “insider”, this narrative tells the stories of this minority group from a perspective never been taken before and is hopefully to bring some insights into and reflections on this topic. I anticipate readers of this piece are people from both China and South Africa. Thus, some scenes detailed described may seem redundant to one group of readers, but are strange and of interest to the other and are necessary for them to better understand the characters, the history and the stories. As most of the people I write about are still alive, I do not touch much on political and racial issues in this narrative so as not to draw adverse effects to them. Excluding these issues from the writing is indeed a loss, fortunately however, it does not impair the articulation of the main theme of this long-form
A research report submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of the University of Witwatersrand’s Master of Arts by Coursework and Research Report in Journalism and Media Studies, 2020