Penney Ellis

Documentary photography


“We moved from our first plot in Princess after the police shot that black man on our door step. You kids were very little then. Your mother was frightened to live there after that. We bought that plot for R11,000 and sold it for R22,000.”

For years we moved from farm to farm, living in rented houses, nine I can remember.

I was seventeen years old when Mom and Dad were able to buy their own plot. A 23-acre piece of land with a house, an outbuilding and a squatter who lived with a pack of dogs in a caravan near the railway line.

The house was horrible. Neglected and squalid.

We camped in the sitting room, surrounded by our boxed and bagged possessions. Slowly we made the house habitable, burning clothing and discarded possessions left in cupboards and corners of rooms. Dad cleared the backyard, a mass of weeds and household rubbish.

Weekends were consumed with scrubbing, scraping, bleaching. One room at a time, we moved into the house. Holes in the ceiling and other damage would be repaired, broken windows and doors replaced when there was more money.

Mom planned for a house to be proud of. Dad cleared the outbuilding and collected wooden pallets to make an enclosure for a few cows and sheep.

On their triangular plot of land, Mom and Dad dared to start living their dream.