Rod MacKenzie

Ashley Madison and the culture of shame and gossip

I confess I hadn’t even heard of Ashley Madison until the other day when the hack into their data base “went viral” as the saying goes. Oooh, how the human race loves to wallow in scandal. Oh to gossip and swim about in who is having an affair, or who has been caught out for…

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‘Kist’ – did you know it’s a uniquely South African word?

Recently I finished writing a novel titled Orphan Country, which is partly set in South Africa in the Seventies and Eighties. One of my main characters, Ruth, is half-Chinese and was adopted at birth. She has little clue as to who her parents really are and part of the storyline is her finding out more…

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Shouldn’t South Africa create a new flag?

The discussion here in New Zealand about Kiwis getting a new flag has made me wonder, as an expat South African, what South Africans see and feel when they look up at that rainbow bit of history rippling against an African horizon. Does the impulse rise to put hands on hearts while throats lump with…

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The problem with “Why I can’t ‘get over’ apartheid”

I had the privilege of teaching both “white” and “black” children during the apartheid era, during the transition, and thereafter. This was from about 1988 to 2004.* Xhosa teenagers in Langa High** (I taught there in 1989 and 1990) were highly politicised, talked about oppression and how to dismantle apartheid. Once the ANC was unbanned…

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What the trees and their friends try to tell us…

The sound of leaves in a wind is my earliest memory. When I was strolled in a pram, the branches above, bursting with leaves, were my first gift: consciousness. I emerged from this moment, long before recognising my mother or sister’s touch or my father’s voice. The moment was electric, a drawn-out hiss as gunpowder…

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Charlize Theron, Caitlyn Jenner – is ugly the new beautiful?

Is it possible to have one’s fill of beautiful women? They gaze at us from glossy magazines, billboards, social media channels and OMG, even in real life. Oh, their huge eyes, rounded bottoms and slowly parting lips. If their visual allure could be turned into sound, what noise would they make? The hum of hovering…

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Eduf**ktion: Out of the mouths of teens

“In high school, we should be learning about the real world, how to pay my (sic) taxes, apply for jobs, mortgage my house, buy a car, things that we will actually use in the future. So far, I’ve only learned that whatever I manage to get done in a short amount of time isn’t enough….

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Gardening, religion and the magic of sex

I shove my filthy hands into the soil and claw out roots and weeds, savouring the mess. A waft of mulch, half-dead weeds, decomposed worms and God knows what sweetens the air. Soon this muddle will be in order: scooped out flowerbeds surrounded by clipped squares of lawn which I will lay down on this…

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You say I’m not African – but that’s where I’m from?

… And my parents were also born and raised in South Africa? Those were the questions running through my mind during an encounter with a senior member of the English Department, Julia*, at a university here in Auckland where I was studying in 2014. We were pleasantly discussing possible PhD courses I could look at…

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South Africa and other orphaning nations (Jani Allan Part II)

Even now, a quarter of a century later, here in Auckland, New Zealand, I have mentioned to other South Africans Jani Allan’s newly released memoir Jani Confidential and they respond, “so what was she doing with that idiot ET (Eugene Terre’Blanche)?” “For God’s sake,” I reply, “give the woman a break”. As Jani Allan says…

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