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Butterflies and healing memories

14 January 2014

I was on a radio programme this morning. It was on “Healing of Memories”, and was part of the build up for a workshop on that topic, to be led by Fr Michael Lapsley.

I was there because of butterflies.

On 11 January Gillian Godsell tweeted on Twitter about the annual butterfly migration arriving in Johannesburg. Someone retweeted it so that I saw it, and I remarked that the butterflies were late this year — they usually come between Christmas and New Year. Gillian Godsell, who hosts the Jozi Today programme on Radio Today, a local Johannesburg radio station, then invited me to join her on the programme, with a group of very interesting people. I don’t know if I was able to contribute much to the programme, but it was good to meet a group of such interestying and stimulating people.

Jozi Today programme, 14 January 2014. Back: Ishmael Mkhabela, Jurie Scheoman, Steve Hayes, T K. Front: Pat Barrable, Gillian Godsell

Jozi Today radio programme, 14 January 2014. Back: Ishmael Mkhabela, Jurie Scheoman, Steve Hayes. Front: Kathy Barrable, Gillian Godsell, Tirelo Lephoi.

Fr Michael Lapsley is an Anglican priest, originally from New Zealand, a member of a religious order, the Society of the Sacred Mission, which sent him to South Africa in the 1970s to be a student chaplain. The National Party government thought he was a bad influence on students, and deported him, and he became active in the struggle against apartheid in exile. Just before the end of apartheid someone sent him a parcel bomb, and he was badly injured, losing both hands, the sight in one eye, and also left him partly deaf. It was this that led him to make the main focus of his ministry the healing of memories, which he has written about in his book, Redeeming the past: a journey from freedom fighter to healer. You can read more about that in my review of the book, here.

He holds such workshops all over the world (he’s in Sri Lanka, as I write, which is just recovering from a long and bitter ncivil war), so his workhop in Johannesburg is a current topic there, hence the radio programme.


One of the things that the Healing of Memories workshops offer is an opportunity for people to tell their stories, to move from pain to healing. I haven’t been on one of them (the price is a bit steep for a pensioner), but I think telling stories is important, not just in a “get it off your chest” sense as part of a helaing process, but also for future generations, to know something of what the apartheid period was like for ordinary people. When such things are relegated to the history books, they tend to become abstract, and the suffering tends to disappear into statistics. People often tend to think it was both better and worse than it actually was. Telling stories helps to preserve something of what it was like, and the more stories that are told, the better. I’ve tried to tell a few on this blog, in the Tales from Dystopia series. So if you have stories to tell, blog about them! And if you don’t have a blog, perhaps it’s time to start one.

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