A wise man I once knew told me something that I have never forgotten. Something that at the time I found too ridiculous to believe. Something that is now the reason I am here, so far away from home, from my family, from everything I know and have ever known. The wise man was my grandfather and he was the only person throughout my childhood who told me the truth. The truth was foul and dirty. The truth was sometimes harsh and my parents sought to shield me from it. They didn't want me to feel like them.
"We are sunflowers, Sauda. Sunflowers because we are expected to turn towards the light, always." He had told me.
"Sunflowers?" I had laughed.
"Yes, all blacks are expected to be sunflowers. Now you listen here, Sauda, because it's very important! There are some sunflowers who do not turn towards the light. They run away or try to shield themselves from it but the light always finds them, eventually. The light is everywhere and you cannot hide from it. You cannot escape." My grandfather said this firmly and at the time I did not understand it. Like I didn't understand why my father had disappeared or where my mother went each day, I did not grasp the concept my grandfather was trying to put across to me.
Now I understand and that message is what kept me going. Light mean white. White. Fair-skinned. Whites can take control of the world and we blacks are expected to look up towards them at all times. I am a sunflower, expected to look the right way and do what I'm told every moment of my life. It isn't hard to see why there are so many sunflowers who run from the light and not surprising that they nearly always wilt and die.
It was my grandfathers' words that kept me going throughout my terrifying and long journey. 'The light is everywhere and you cannot hide from it. You cannot escape'. That was the thing I remembered and probably the thing that has kept me alive for so long in this dreadful place. The first words spoken to me that meant something in a world where the awful truth was so often hushed up.