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Large in life. Larger still in death. by Pierre D
 

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  • It was taboo, if not outright forbidden in apartheid-era South Africa, for a white man to enter a black area, but for my Dutch father, this was completely normal. Some of my earliest memories are of travelling with Pappa, to small African townships.

    What were you scheming this time? A community hall, a church, housing for orphans, a shop for selling nutritional foods, or maybe a school?

    In you inimitable style, you would call the builder, his cap in hand, and you would pace out giant strides on the red earth, indicating the dimensions of the new building. Sticks in the ground, a few rocks perhaps to indicate where things would stop and start, and before you knew it, the building would start.

    I notice a pile of enamel plates and bowls in the left corner of this photo, probably the remnants of a meal of celebration with the community. People way too poor to be able to afford generosity, but yet ready to give to the last.

    Pappa has returned to his final sleep in the African red earth, but communities across the Cape, Pretoria, and Zambia have buildings (that probably no-one knows the origin of anymore) serving community needs to this day.

    On my last trip to Zambia I visited two clinics he helped build. Women outside the maternity clinic were offended at my camera. The staff at the new antiretroviral clinic, Pappa's last building project before death, were too busy to chat with me. I wanted to say, "my dad built this clinic, and I helped build the gardens outside as a boy", but left happy and content in the simple knowledge the community needs were being met.

    And a small white boy was there when it happened soaking it all in like a sponge.
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