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“It brought me closer to her,” says Shamim Meer on writing mother Fatima’s memoir

Hyde Park’s Exclusive Books recently played host to the launch of writer, academic and anti-apartheid activist Fatima Meer’s memoir, Memories of Love and Struggle.

Sisonke Msimang was in conversation with Meer’s daughter, Shamim Meer, who wrote her mother’s memoir.

Msimang lead the conversation by asking Shamim Meer about her mother’s feminist principles, adding how crucial it is for African woman writers to be heard nowadays.

Shamim Meer replied that “she [Fatima] would never have called herself a feminist, but her whole life has been a feminist life; she was a woman who couldn’t be controlled.

“She was a woman to be reckoned with.”

Msimang mentioned Meer’s founding of the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW) in 1954, the first inclusive women’s federation in South Africa, to which Shamim Meer asserted that her mother was “very conscious about racial unity,” even as a young child.

The subject of Meer’s youth was a recurring topic, as Shamim Meer regularly stated how much she learned about her mother’s childhood. The process of writing her mother’s memoir and discovering so much about her turbulent childhood was emotionally taxing, yet “it brought me closer to her.

“I saw the vulnerability of the child.”

Msimang remarked that, according to Memories of Love and Struggle, Meer couldn’t cook at all. This comment was met with laughter by the audience, yet prompted Meer’s youngest daughter, Shenahz Meer, who attended the launch, to stand up and proclaim:

“To us, as children, it appeared that there was nothing our mother couldn’t do. She could march, she could write, and she could cook!”

Meer’s statement was received with applause.

Msimang was curious to know what Meer’s stance would be on the current political climate of South Africa, especially in the light of nationwide anti-government protest marches which were to take place the following day (April 7).

“She would be in the frontline!” a relative laughed from the audience.

Shamim Meer replied that her mother would have said “let’s get up and continue, shouting, no matter how old or young you are.”

The audience made their agreement known by applauding, and interjecting with a few ‘whoops’.

Head of NB Publisher’s non-fiction department, Erika Oosthuysen, concluded the evening by thanking both Msimang and Meer, and declaring Memories of Love and Struggle an “amazing” book.

“Next time, we want to read your story,” Oosthuysen said to Shamim Meer.

To which we can only reply with a resounding ‘yes, please’.

Fatima Meer

Book details


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