My father once came back home with an ancient grinding rock that he took from our grandparent’s house in Southern KwaZulu-Natal. I remember how me and my siblings looked at him when he took it out of the back of his car and placed it carefully in his garden. “Why did he bring it here?” my sister asked. No one knew but our father.
Our ignorant minds looked past the meaning of that grinding rock and only saw an ancient rock that served as a reminder of how people used to grind mealies in the villages. Our father would explain how his mother would grind the mealies until a 5kg bucket was filled. It must have taken hours to do that tiring labour, never mind your aching back or your arms. We definitely wouldn’t have survived.
To my father it is more than a grinding rock, it serves a purpose. The rock is symbolic of his late mother, my grandmother who was a hard working woman. My grandmother always managed to keep the family going even when they didn’t have enough. She was the family’s rock, the first woman my father trusted and relied on. The grinding rock therefore is a reminder of a mother who never left. It reminds my father of the unstable journey he has travelled to be where he is today.
Kalala Kris’s story is no different. Kris, who is the person I interviewed today for my in-depth project is from Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). He has lived in Yeoville for almost two years now. His only response to why he came to South Africa is “I like to travel.”
Kris has an African Cowrie shell choker necklace around his neck that he wears all day, every day. I ask him what’s so special about his necklace and he takes a pause for a few moments. “It reminds me of a particular journey I had back home when I walked to some village for two days”, he says. I sense a deeper connection with this necklace.
When I first met Kris inside a salon right next to Kin Malebo, he looked happy as he was laughing with his mates. His necklace was neatly tucked under his t-shirt. He says he doesn’t want everyone to see his necklace because they always ask him about it or want him to give it to them. “So I just put it under my t-shirt because I’m avoiding having to explain why I wear it every day.”
For Kris, his necklace is not just a necklace but a reminder of a home away from home. Even the way he clutches it when he speaks about it, shows a deeper connection that no one but him understands. He panics every time he forgets it in the shower because it’s one of the things that he holds close to his heart, literally.