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Part 2:University
Part 5:Fieldwork





My friend Elke Geising recently asked me how I was getting on with writing my autobiography. Hearing this, Namhla Siwendu, a bright young lawyer, enquired why I thought anybody would want to read my life story. This introduction is an attempt to answer her valid



I have tried to analyse how my four main identities affected my life and also how they have changed over time. The first two identities are ‘ascribed’, in that I was born with them – being a white South African, and being gay. The other two identities – being a Catholic, and being a social anthropologist – are ‘achieved’, in that I deliberately assumed them.


For nearly fifty of my eighty-four years I shared my life with Bernard Riley, whom I met in 1954 at the Tanga Yacht Club, in what was then Tanganyika . So this is a love story, as well as the story of our lives in three continents – Africa , North America and Europe . I have tried to indicate the changing background – how the world, and in particular South Africa and other African countries, altered dramatically during my lifetime and how this affected Bernard and me.


I grew up in South Africa in the 1920s and 1930s. Then World War 2 took five years, including three as a prisoner of war. Six years were taken up by study at universities in South Africa and England . This was followed by a period in the British Colonial Service in East Africa for five years, in urban African administration in Rhodesia for three years, then by teaching and research at the Universities of Ghana and of California for a quarter of a century, and several years of fieldwork in Kenya . We retired to Britain in the 1990s, and finally moved to the new South Africa – for me, after an absence of fifty-two years.


I consider here the many turning points I have faced, when I have been confronted with a choice. Looking back, I consider that I usually made the right choice, partly from good luck, and partly, I like to think, from good judgement. It was often Bernard who supplied the good judgement. At times I encountered serendipity, when I found myself in an unusual situation which turned out to be greatly to my advantage – or to both mine and Bernard’s.


Why Brokie’s Way? ‘Brokie’ – an affectionate nickname for many members of my family – was used frequently by Bernard, giving it a special significance for me. And ‘Way’ signifies both my physical journeys and my way of life.


So, Namhla, to find out if my answer is satisfactory, and whether I have achieved my aims, you will have to read the book.


David Brokensha

Fish Hoek

Cape Town

July 2007



* The content and layout of this website is based on the excellent book design by Jo-Anne Friedlander. Any small errors in formatting have occurred in the transition from book to web page and for these we ask your forgiveness. Please do not let them spoil your enjoyment of "Brokies Way".



ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I am deeply grateful to my editor, Biddy Greene, for her highly professional, good-humoured and effective massaging of my text, coping with many ambiguities and infelicities; and also to my book designer, Jo-Anne Friedlander, who not only designed the layout so well, and so patiently, but also removed many typographical and factual errors. Together they greatly improved my manuscript. And I thank Anne Westoby for her skilful preparation of the maps.

I am indebted to my old friends Peter Castro and Ted Scudder, who diligently read and criticised my manuscript, chapter by chapter, and also to David and Marie Philip, Hannes and Marie van Zyl, and Elisabeth Anderson, whose perceptive comments were of great help.

I also appreciate the encouragement – and occasional nagging – that I received from many friends, who were determined that I should complete this book. Published by Amani Press, Fish Hoek. © David Brokensha 2007 ISBN 978-0-620-39064-4

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher.

Maps by Anne Westoby Photographs not credited in the text: front cover Colin Ainley; page 394 The Smithsonian Institute; page 476 OMVS; all others DW Brokensha & BW Riley Design and DTP by User Friendly, Cape Town Printed and bound by Mills Litho, Nyman Street, Maitland, Cape Town

To my dear family and friends, of course including those I have not had space to mention.

~ continue to chapter 1: Youth

* Round the World * Bernard Riley memoir * E-mail David *