Forbidden Friends: Living under Apartheid

Forbidden Friends: Living under Apartheid

by Elizabeth Ann Schneider


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Forbidden Friends chronicles the evolving friendship between the author, Elizabeth Schneider, a white American, and Elizabeth Mngadi, her black cleaning woman from Soweto. When the author moved to Johannesburg in 1975, during the apartheid period, such personal friendships were highly unusual-and strictly forbidden by the flat manager. Slowly the two Elizabeths became friends over secret tea breaks. The author, an anthropology graduate student at the time, kept a detailed diary about her field trips to rural tribal "homelands," their conversations about daily life in Soweto, and their terrifying encounters with the police. These true stories, many told with humor, reveal the dignity of people trying to rise above a dehumanizing system.


We got out of the flat safely and downstairs to the garage without the manager, Mrs. Wood, or Josiah, the building watchman, seeing us. There, inside the car, plump Elizabeth crouched on the back floor of my little BMW with difficulty as we drove out of the garage. A few blocks later, I let her out to get into the front seat with me, as we usually did.

Lt. Esteheuzen laid his gun on his desk. Jack and I sat opposite him, visibly shaken.... Then he slowly and deliberately removed the bullets one by one, set them on end, looked at them thoughtfully, then carefully reinserted them. After a long pause, he said, "Well, I won't need Mr. Schneider anymore, but you," he said, looking at me with another pause to let it sink in, "will return Monday morning to answer some questions."

"But I thought the 'X'...means no, not him. Like the bike signs," one man said to me, puzzled, as I was trying to help him understand the ballot.... "Should I put an 'X' in front of every name except Mandela's?" the cleaning woman asked.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780989930208
Publisher: Elizabeth A. Schneider
Publication date: 05/06/2014
Pages: 182
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.39(d)

About the Author

Elizabeth Schneider lived in South Africa for a total of fourteen years between 1975 and 1996. Concerned and curious about life for the black population living under apartheid, she determined to befriend her flat cleaner, Elizabeth Mngadi. Forbidden Friends is based on a detailed diary of their evolving relationship and their personal confrontations with apartheid.
A professional artist and photographer, the author earned her Ph.D. in African Art at the University of Witwatersrand for "Paint, Pride and Politics," a study of the distinctive wall paintings by Ndebele tribal women. The New York Public Library named her book, The Ndebele, "Best Book for the Teenage" in 1998.
Elizabeth Schneider currently lives in Northern California.

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