Study Guide

Kaffir Boy Chapter 15

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Chapter 15

  • Because Papa is laid off from his job, he decides to go back to his tribal reserve (where the Venda lived) to see a traditional healer, who would lift the curse of witchcraft. Mark accompanies him.
  • They leave in a truck packed with goods from migrant workers sending things back to their wives and children in the reserves.
  • Mark finds the place too hot, and so dry nothing can grow there except near the lavatories. It's even more poverty-stricken than Alexandra, where he lives.
  • Mark learns that the Venda tribal reserve is soon to be granted independent status from the South African government. But Papa explains that there will still be a white man behind every tribal leader, dictating the terms of leadership.
  • Mark is shocked by the level of ignorance. The people who lived there had never been to the city and didn't know what it was like. Mark feels superior to them, and is even ashamed that he's related to them through his father.
  • Papa tells Mark he thinks it would be good for him to grow up there like a true Venda boy.
  • Mark starts to worry that his father intends to leave him behind.
  • They go to visit a "witch doctor." Mark is terrified of the place, and wonders if the witch doctor is a cannibal.
  • Papa asks for medicine to keep his job safe, to make their house invisible to the police during raids, and other things.
  • The diviner tells them that Papa's troubles are caused by one source. According to the diviner, Papa lost touch with his ancestors, and they were mad. He should sacrifice a white chicken twice a year and everything would be OK.
  • Papa is happy when they leave, but he frightens Mark once again by asking what Mark thinks about staying there and letting the witch doctor raise him.
  • Mark says he would run all the way home to Johannesburg, that he would rather die than live there.
  • Papa laughs.
  • On the day they leave, Mark asks a thirteen-year-old boy he meets where all the men are. The place is filled with women and children, but no men.
  • The boy replies that they go to the cities to work. They send money back to their families – it's the only way they can survive there in the tribal reserves. There is no work there.
  • The boy explains that some men come back at Christmas but others don't. His own father hasn't been back in seven years.
  • But his mother goes to visit his father twice a year and every time, she comes back and, soon after, she has another baby.

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