Why Steven Benjamin writes
I could start by telling you my name and its meaning, or to go into the history of the ancient tribe of Benjamin – the smallest one in Israel, once exiled and almost wiped out. Then again I could go into their subsequent sea voyages, the links to Spain and the Spanish Armada, or perhaps the routes across the Atlantic taking portions of the tribe’s descendants to places within Latin America or St Helena Island, and thence the African shores.
Of course I could just tell you tales of my extended family; including an unsolved murder, and then enforced divisions under apartheid. I could tell you how two tragic events over forty years ago resulted in my two grandmothers bumping into each other in a hospital corridor, an event that formed part of what brought two families together…
I could tell of the discreet and strange conversation my father had with my mother – before they got married – a conversation that largely defined their marriage. Then there were the two times I recall seeing my father cry – for two very different reasons.
I could tell you of how I, as a young boy along with my sisters, was insulated from many terrible things… it’s why I’m privileged to say I have no sad story to tell involving apartheid as the main villain. I do remember my country’s first democratic elections though, in 1994. My eldest sister was put in charge of us while my parents went to vote – they stood in line in the rain for a few hours, but came home smiling and laughing.
I remember the humped road, a favourite amongst my siblings and me. It’s one of the roads between my grandparent’s old houses. Many years ago, before my time, it was just a series of sand dunes, until they laid a stretch of tarmac over them; you know, encroaching suburbia.
All four of us crammed into the back seat, when we were all still small enough to fit. My dad would accelerate every time we hit each dip, and then cruise over the tops of the “humps”. We’d get that funny feeling in our tummy, “butterflies” – my mom used to call it; the first and the last humps were always the best … And that car: leather seats, digital dashboard interface, 2.8 Litre straight six, fuel injection, cruise control – my father’s dream car – and yes, it drove like a dream… that car, it was simply ahead of its time, a 1986 model… like me, except, I sometimes feel like I was born in the wrong era, well, sometimes…
I come from a storied past… so writing comes naturally and I’ve realized I won’t be able to live without it, no matter what other job I take on, in fact, everything else will merely feed my urge and inspiration. I tend to look at the world like that – what experience can be gained, what can be used as material… sometimes I need to remind myself: “Just relax. Live a little!” I’ll get time for that, later. Right now though, I’m in the phase of ‘sowing seeds’ …
photos by alancleaver and dhwright
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