Fatima Meer’s Love And Struggle Life Gives Insight About An Extraordinary Woman By Cheryl Roberts

7 Mar

Human rights campaigner, anti-apartheid activist, black woman writer/ independent publisher, one of South Africa’s first black women academics, Fatima Meer is not only South Africa’s national treasure,but she is forever respected with honour and saluted with admiration, respect and warrior status by all who knew and interacted with her throughout her life struggle of challenging oppression  and discrimination.

The much awaited and happily welcomed book  ‘Fatima Meer: Memories Of Love And Struggle’ has been published, seven years after the passing of extraordinary academic, writer, mother, wife, social justice and human rights activist and humble human, Fatima Meer, who lived in Durban and was an academic at the whites-only tertiary institution, University of Natal.

‘Fatima Meer: Memories Of Love And Struggle’ is an autobiography, finished and made print ready by her beloved daughter Shamim Meer, about one of South Africa’s humane, formidable, courageous, brave and fearless women who fearlessly challenged injustices in a country intent on oppressing people.

‘This book paints a picture of my mother’s life. It tells a coming- of-age story of a young girl and political activist in a significant time in our country’s history and makes an important contribution to the memory of our country’s collective past’, writes Shamim  Meer in the introduction to the book. Shamim Meer is one of South Africa’s pioneers of feminist media, having ben a founding member of the ‘Speak’ and ‘Agenda’ collectives in Durban.

Shamim Meer, eldest child of Fatima Meer’s three children personally undertook to bring the book into book stores nationwide and onto people’s private book shelves.

‘It was only four years after my mother’s passing that I could get back to the task of working on my mother’s autobiography.  It was an emotional time. Now, three years later it is done; published as a book,’ says Shamim Meer about her labour of love.

I was both fortunate and privileged to have had Fatima Meer as one of my academics at the University of Natal in the 1980’s. She was the only black academic I would encounter in both my undergraduate degrees at the then University of Natal. I knew very early on that she was no ordinary academic and was different from all other academics; that Fatima Meer, banned at the time by the apartheid regime that she challenged, represented an intersectional academic that was grounded in community, oppressed and women’s struggles in South Africa. Fatima Meer was writing and publishing when few black women got published in a white-dominated publishing industry. She founded Madiba Publishers to get relevant books and stories published and read. So its not only apt but also of critical importance for national memory, heritage and acknowledgement that the Fatima Meer narrative be told in written format and published.

It was a loaded life, that of Fatima Meer’s. It was a life about love, family, education, activism, struggles, revolution, university and courage. She would begin her autobiography alongside that of working on husband Ismail Meer’s autobiography, after the human rights lawyer had passed away.

‘While finalising my father’s autobiography my mother began to reflect on own her life, beginning with her earliest memories as a young child in Durban’s Grey Street, recollecting her early activism of collecting donations for flood victims and giving her first political speech as a 17 year old old teenage girl,’ says Shamim Meer.

The manuscript was handed over to the publishers and one of the happiest moments for Shamim Meer was seeing the book and holding it in her hands. The writings and editing shared in time because of a mother and her daughter’s love and respect had finally materialised in a book which those of us who know the worth of brave and humble Fatima Meer, have so keenly awaited and will undoubtedly appreciate.

fatima meer

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