Letter from Hobeni

Donald Woods Foundation,Hobeni 005I have been busy since arriving here at Hobeni. The library now physically resembles a library. All the books are catalogued and classified, and are on the shelves. As with most libraries, I have divided the books into fiction and non-fiction. The fiction, as always, is shelved in alphabetical order of author’s surnames, and the non-fiction is ordered in a very simplified form of Dewey Decimal Classification. There are approximately 1,100 books in the library.
I have now begun to look at the paperwork. There are thousands of articles either by or about Donald Woods and his friendship with Steve Biko, who was murdered by the South African security police in a particularly brutal manner. I have just come to the press reports on the film “Cry Freedom” about the two men. I had forgotten that Sir Richard Attenborough was verbally abused by Margaret Thatcher at an event that they both attended, and that some right-wing Tories asked that he be stripped of his knighthood. It is finding material like that which makes me realise that what I am doing is worthwhile. It is a small detail, but it is a part of history.
Hobeni itself is on a hill overlooking the Indian Ocean, and it is very beautiful. We have a lemon tree in the garden, on which the fruit is currently ripening. One of the Australian volunteers, a doctor, generally gets a braai [a barbecue] going at night, and we sit there by the warmth of a fire in the middle of a South African winter. That has stopped over the last day or so, because there is a gale blowing in from the Antarctic, bringing the cold and the rain. It is a bit like being in Glasgow. Apart from the lemons, and I am sure the is not doing them any good. It is, however, the last throes of winter.
Hobeni is also in the middle of nowhere. The nearest shops are 40 kilometres away over dirt roads. That is a 50-60 mile round trip. There is a hotel on the Indian Ocean in Hobeni on the Wild Coast. The road makes getting there quite an adventure. There is also a school and a hospital/health clinic, but that is it.
There really is not anything else to tell you. I am enjoying myself enormously. It is a privilege to be working on the books and papers of a hero of the anti-apartheid struggle like Donald Woods.


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