"Mitchell's Plain - A place in the Sun" : a new, original book on the great township of the Cape Flats awaits you at Dibuka

Right from the beginning, the tone is set. "Mitchell's Plain – A place in the sun" is not a factual account of the history of Mitchell's Plain, explains the foreword. It's a narrative account of the lives of 24 people who experienced living there. Through their eyes, the history of a place that was the dumping ground of the so-called Coloured people takes shape as a place that produced ordinary people living extraordinary lives. Written by prominent figures of Mitchell's Plain's community, the text tells the multiple stories of the township on a personal level, favouring anecdotes and memories rather than scientific accuracy. Boasting rich illustrations enclosed in a contemporary graphic line, the book proves an highly enjoyable read for anyone curious about this place like no other.

A place of resilience

Little known by outsiders except for its problems of drugs and gangs, Mitchell's Plain has nonetheless become with years a cultural pole of the “Coloured” identity. Designed in the 70ies by the Apartheid government to move undesirable populations of Cape Town and other areas as far as possible, the township is situated on the Cape Flats – a region located on the False Bay coast that was literally at that time “in the middle of nowhere”. Far from succumbing to the oblivion they were thrown into, Mitchell's Plain's inhabitants thrived in spite of horrendous material conditions – MP's population is now estimated at around 1,8 million people, and the township is one of South Africa's largest.

As the book brilliantly shows, they also resisted all attempts at silencing their culture. “What I know for sure is that we are not just known for drugs and missing front teeth” a community builder explains with much humour. “Nobody controls Mitchell's Plain; Mitchell's Plain controls itself” he adds. Asking figures of Mitchell's Plain to tell their own narrative about the place rather than trying to build a factual one was indeed a bright idea. Thanks to the work of researcher Ludmilla Ommundsen Pessoa (who is also director of Cape Town and MP's Alliances françaises) and compiler Marlene le Roux, by turning the pages of “Mitchell's Plain – A place in the Sun” we get to see, smell and hear the township as if we really were there.

Hadrien Diez