My favourite concept image (of the three concepts presented to me) for the front cover of my new book, A Taste of Bitter Almonds. Perdition and Promise in the New South Africa (BestRed, Cape Town, due November 2015). The woman with the apple is one of my ancestors, Bengali-French freed slave Anna de Koning, and the kids in the foreground are from the Gwiji family in the Eastern Cape, standing on the ruins of their former family farmhouse - bulldozed by apartheid in 1953 - at a ceremony at which their farm Blydefontein was returned to them in 2001. My draft back-cover blurb reads: "When Nelson Mandela took the oath as South Africa’s first democratically-elected president in 1994, it symbolised the triumphal defeat of almost three and a half centuries of racial separation since Dutch East India Company traders planted a bitter almond hedge to keep indigenous people out of ‘their’ Cape outpost in 1659. The Mandela moment had deep global resonance and for a few years thereafter the “Rainbow Nation” was the world’s darling – but in the world’s most unequal society, for the majority of its people, being excluded from a dignified life remained the rule over 1994 to 2015, and a taste of bitter almonds remained. In the year of South Africa’s troubled coming-of-age, veteran investigative journalist and anarchist activist Michael Schmidt brings to bear 21 years of his scribbled field notes to weave a tapestry of the view from below: here in the demi-monde of our transition from autocracy to democracy, in the half-light glow of the rusted rainbow, you will meet neo-Nazis and the newly dispossessed, Boers and Bushmen, black illegal coal miners and a bank robber, witches and wastrels, love children and land claimants. Yet, with their feet in the mud, still our Born Free youth have their eyes on the stars."
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