12/05/2017 02:55 BST | Updated 12/05/2017 02:55 BST

Jonathan Jansen's "Song for Sarah" Is The Perfect Gift For A Cape Flats Mother

Jansen’s account of his mother’s life punctures the distorted image of motherhood on the Cape Flats

Nardus Engelbrecht / Gallo Images
Professor Jonathan Jansen

Known for his impressive collection of academic papers, books and his dynamic leadership skills, Professor Jonathan Jansen has written a beautiful memoir in honor of his mother that speaks right into the heart of the Cape Flats community.

"I cannot recall when I first tired of the much-peddled image of the Cape-Flats mother, except that it was a long time ago," he writes.

Song for Sarah is a collection of personal and intimate short stories, narrating the life of Jonathan Jansen's mother Sarah. The memoir traces back to her youth in Montagu, in the Western Cape, and the divisive consequences of the apartheid era, especially concerning 'coloured women'. Sarah's strength and perseverance resonates through the accounts given by her first born, Jonathan Jansen. The stories are deeply amplified by short excerpts from her daughter, Naomi, who contextualises Jonathan's accounts by bringing a fresh perspective of the Jansen family holistically. Naomi reminisces on her late grandparents, their influence and the lineage of courage that persevered through the wrath of Apartheid.

Throughout the memoir, Jansen describes his mother as a woman who knew the value of hard work and the importance of instilling it in the lives of her children. He pins her sheer determination and sense of purpose as a fundamental anchor in his life successes and that of his siblings.

Many may find that the personal accounts of Sarah, provides a window into the professor's own life. The memoir includes details about his wife, children and how his mother played a pivotal role in the couple's union.


Each chapter includes beautiful black and white photographs of Sarah Jansen, at various stages in her life, from her late teens in Montagu to her latter days with an old friend, outside a church building. Each photograph provides a richer insight and enhances the reader's experience. Even more interesting, is how these images are so well preserved after all these years.

Song for Sarah is the perfect Mother's Day gift for the coloured women raising children on the Cape Flats. The memoir challenges the stereotypes hanging over the heads of colored women, particularly in Cape Town. "In real life or fiction," Jansen writes, "the Cape Flats mother embodied the well-worn stereotype-foul- mouthed semi drunk, clownish, over-sexed and gap toothed, with artificially straightened hair".

Jansen's account of his mother's life resonates through the cape coloured culture. Particularly, concerning the distorted image of motherhood on the Cape Flats and for mothers everywhere who tenaciously pursue a life of purpose, and value for their families, in the most difficult situations.

Song for Sarah is an empowering reflection of Sarah Jansen, through the eyes of her 'First born'. The memoir serves as a "praise song to mothers everywhere who still raise families and build communities in difficult places". The professor, as always, has not disappointed with this one. His passion and humility can be felt throughout the book.

"It was under Sarah's roof that I learnt how to live and where she would teach us how to die. Under that roof I learnt the value of selfless giving and the importance of personal discipline. Sarah did not only tell she showed"...