Paper Sons and Daughters
A stowaway hides for long weeks aboard a ship crossing the Indian Ocean. Leaving behind his village and his ancestors, he looks to the gold mountain in Johannesburg as an escape from his bleak life in devastated 1950s China.
In South Africa he will become a ‘paper son’, a literal translation of the phrase used to refer to the illegal immigrants who bought or borrowed new identities from more established Chinese families to avoid detection by the authorities.
He is full of quiet hope for what lies ahead as he sets foot in the Durban docks, but he will never lose the status of a second-class citizen. He is the geel gevaar, the yellow peril in apartheid South Africa, and he soon learns that the streets aren’t lined with gold. He can’t live where he chooses and won’t get the jobs reserved for whites. He becomes a fahfee man, the ‘ma-china’ of the black townships, running the illegal gambling game so perfectly suited to survival in the rot of South Africa’s policies of racial segregation.
He is always avoiding the police, always looking to maximise his winnings and always trying to ensure a better life for his wife and four children – until one night in April 1993 when tragedy strikes.