Thuli Nhlapo: Children were told, don't play with this one, this yellow thing

Author Thuli Nhlapo has written a heartfelt memoir of her life called Colour Me Yellow. It tells the story of how she suffered and was ostracized because of her light skin complexion.

The book has received much deserved literary success being shortlisted for the Alan Paton Awards for non-fiction.

Nhlapo sat down with Eusebius McKaiser to tell the painful story of her life that has turned her book into one of the literary successes of the past year.

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She says she didn't expect the kind of success that the book has received. She didn't even think that the book would even be published or be sold.

I was writing a story to myself and being a journalist talking too much. I mentioned it in the newsroom and the editor at the time said no ways, send it to me. Before I knew it, the story was in the Mail and Guardian.

Thuli Nhlapo, Author of Colour Me Yellow

An extract caught an eye of a publisher and before I could even say no or yes, they said they want the manuscript. It took ten full years full years for me to sit down and actually complete the book.

Thuli Nhlapo, Author of Colour Me Yellow

Because as I am saying, it was my story, I wanted to tell it to myself, make peace with it myself and when they said publish, I said who would want to read this?

Thuli Nhlapo, Author of Colour Me Yellow

She says she is surprised that people actually go to the shop to buy her book.

So you have to put it together when you meet people, they say where are you from?

Thuli Nhlapo, Author of Colour Me Yellow

I am not the kind of person who can answer that question, I can't say I am from Pretoria or I am from Mpumalanga. I am from everywhere.

Thuli Nhlapo, Author of Colour Me Yellow

It depends, you have got to say between these years where were you. I first told I was born in Pretoria which turned out to be a lie because I was born on a farm near Bethel.

Thuli Nhlapo, Author of Colour Me Yellow

It was Eastern Transvaal at the time and it is Mpumalanga now. I grew up in Pretoria, former Bophuthatswana and then I also grew up in Swaziland and I came to Pretoria so I have been everywhere.

Thuli Nhlapo, Author of Colour Me Yellow

She says she remembers how her childhood was not the same as other children as she lived with a lot of her cousins in the same yard.

They will be told, don't play with this one, this yellow thing, don't play with her. You will take the bad habits of her people. I still remember the one girl I played with, was a girl called Sibongile who was an albino and a few boys cause boys liked to experiment.

Thuli Nhlapo, Author of Colour Me Yellow

She says she had aunts who made sure that when they called all the children, she was never called hence she still loves sweets even today.

They kept me away from sweets, so to this day I always have a packet of sweets saying now I am allowed to have sweets.

Thuli Nhlapo, Author of Colour Me Yellow

Listen below to hear Nhlapo tell the painful story of her life...


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