Human Displacement an Enduring Theme in Our Literature
BYLINE: Russell H Kaschula
Human settlement, more often than not, emanates from human displacement.
This displacement has for centuries been driven by political and religious upheavals; changes in weather patterns, colonisation and epidemics. These resulted and continue to result in wars, floods, fires, droughts, famine and death.
In many instances, one form of displacement leads to another. For example, war can lead to famine and the outbreak of epidemics, especially when people are held in confined spaces such as concentration camps and prisons.
In South Africa, there has hardly been a period of longer than 10 years without the major outbreak of a disease, leading to death and displacement. This began with the epidemic of smallpox which just about wiped out the local population when the Europeans arrived, through to Spanish influenza (which killed 300 000 South Africans in six weeks), polio and HIV-Aids These "big deaths" displaced entire families, sending survivors to seek sanctuary in different spaces and within various newly formed family configurations, including child-headed households.
Today one need only consider Syria and the Middle East, where people are being continually displaced by civil war. Floods have recently displaced hundreds of thousands of people in India, China, Mexico and New Zealand, while devastating fires in the US remain a constant threat. One can barely switch on the news without hearing the term "displaced" in relation to tsunamis, earthquakes and wars.
In the same way that the scramble for Africa displaced both Europeans and Africans, today Africans are on the move: From Somalia to Kenya, from the DRC to Rwanda, from Zimbabwe to South Africa and from Africa to the rest of the world. It is estimated that there are over 400 000 South Africans living in the UK alone and more than two million Zimbabweans living in South Africa. …