Crossroads: I Live Where I Like: A Graphic History
Author: Koni Benson • Illustrators: André Trantraal, Nathan Trantraal, and Ashley E. Marais • Foreword by Robin D.G. Kelley
Series: PM Press/Kairos
Subjects: Comics / History-Africa
Drawn by South African political cartoonists the Trantraal brothers and Ashley Marais, Crossroads: I Live Where I Like is a graphic nonfiction history of women-led movements at the forefront of the struggle for land, housing, water, education, and safety in Cape Town over half a century. Drawing on over sixty life narratives, it tells the story of women who built and defended Crossroads, the only informal settlement that successfully resisted the apartheid bulldozers in Cape Town. The story follows women’s organized resistance from the peak of apartheid in the 1970s to ongoing struggles for decent shelter today. Importantly, this account was workshopped with contemporary housing activists and women’s collectives who chose the most urgent and ongoing themes they felt spoke to and clarified challenges against segregation, racism, violence, and patriarchy standing between the legacy of the colonial and apartheid past and a future of freedom still being fought for.
Presenting dramatic visual representations of many personalities and moments in the daily life of this township, the book presents a thoughtful and thorough chronology, using archival newspapers, posters, photography, pamphlets, and newsletters to further illustrate the significance of the struggles at Crossroads for the rest of the city and beyond. This collaboration has produced a beautiful, captivating, accessible, forgotten, and in many ways uncomfortable history of Cape Town that has yet to be acknowledged.
Crossroads: I Live Where I Like raises questions critical to the reproduction of segregation and to gender and generational dynamics of collective organizing, to ongoing anticolonial struggles and struggles for the commons, and to new approaches to social history and creative approaches to activist archives.
“Crossroads is, quite simply, beautiful. It is intellectual and appealing and everything one could hope for from this kind of project. It is a meaningful engagement with a deeply troubling and enormously significant past. Not only does it weave text and images together to their best effect, but this is also one of the most insightful studies of urban history and social movements in any medium.”
—Trevor Getz, professor of African history, San Francisco State University; author of Abina and the Important Men: A Graphic History; and series editor of the Oxford University Press’s Uncovering History series
“Through the narratives of women’s struggles told in an honest and compelling way, Crossroads is an essential activist’s handbook. It is a long-awaited and important compilation that is fundamental in understanding how women rose up against oppression and dispossession.”
—Nomusa Makhubu, winner of the ABSA L’Atelier Gerard Sekoto Award and the Prix du Studio National des Arts Contemporains, Le Fresnoy
“Koni Benson and her colleagues have produced an excellent and colourful history of the people of Crossroads. Based on original scholarly research, the comic books bring to life the tribulations and resistance of poor black people, especially women, in the face of constant state violence. Their determination to organise and to struggle for the right to a decent life in Cape Town, whose authorities were determined to exclude them from the city, hold crucial lessons for contemporary movements of the poor and marginalised. The Crossroads comics are a fine example of popular history and should be compulsory reading in our schools and communities.”
—Noor Nieftagodien, author of The Soweto Uprising and Alexandra: A History
“Nuanced in its story-telling, Crossroads draws on the best that graphic traditions have to offer: iconic imagery, bold and effective compositional frames, thick colour patches that recall the vivid life that survived the bleak years of apartheid, and wonderful characters, who speak from but also beyond their specific historical and geographical locations. Crossroads is thus both African and not, speaking as all good books do, to a variety of human situations, across our planet. A book that crosses genres, it is at once memory, history and a feminist fable. Suitable for all that can read and hold ideas in their heads, and who love a good tale.”
—V. Geetha, feminist historian and editorial director of Tara Books, India
“I am aware of this work because of its international circulation and reputation for advancing quality scholarship in original forms and formats. I cannot speak too highly of this series, which dramatizes African women’s collective resistance to political oppression in a historically grounded yet accessible medium—what we have come to call the graphic history.”
—Antoinette Burton, author of The Trouble with Empire
About the Contributors:
Koni Benson is a historian, organizer, and educator. She is a lecturer in the Department of History at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, South Africa, where she is committed to creative approaches to history that link art, activism, and African history in her work with various student, activist, and cultural collectives in southern Africa.
André Trantraal is a writer, illustrator, and translator from Bishop Lavis, Cape Town. He is the writer of the comic books Coloureds and Stormkaap. His work has been exhibited in Amsterdam, Hamburg, and Cape Town and his political cartoons have appeared in a range of South African newspapers.
Nathan Trantraal is a poet, cartoonist, translator, playwright, screenwriter, short story author, and columnist. He was awarded the Ingrid Jonker Prize for poetry, and his work has been exhibited in Cape Town, Munich, and Amsterdam. His comics have been published in various South African newspapers. He is currently a lecturer at Rhodes University at the School of Languages, where he specializes in Kaapse Afrikaans and the graphic novel.
Ashley E. Marais is a comic book artist, designer, and painter. With the Trantraal Brothers, he was coauthor and illustrator on the graphic novel Stormkaap and the comic book Coloureds, both of which are in the Cape Afrikaans language. Also with the Trantraal Brothers, he is joint illustrator of Safety, Justice & People’s Power, a book about the Khayelitsha Commission, written by Richard Conyngham.”
Robin D.G. Kelley is an American historian and academic, who is the Gary B. Nash Professor of American History at UCLA. During the academic year 2009–10, Kelley held the Harmsworth Chair of American History at Oxford University, the first African American historian to do so since the chair was established in 1922. He was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship in 2014. Author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination; Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great Depression; Race Rebels: Culture, Politics, and the Black Working Class; Imagining Home: Class, Culture, and Nationalism in the African Diaspora; Into the Fire: African Americans Since 1970; Yo’ Mama’s DisFunktional!: Fighting the Culture Wars in Urban America; Three Strikes: The Fighting Spirit of Labor’s Last Century; and Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original.
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