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Sophiatown Revisited

Historic picture tells a tale of kindness

Siblings revisit sites of their childhood

OW THE children have grown!

When they shot into prominence, siblings Edgar and his younger sister, Fanny Kgosi, were barely out of their nappies and were caught on camera holding on to the cassock of antiapartheid cleric Father Trevor Huddleston on a patch of dirt road outside the Sophiatown church headed by the man of the cloth.

According to the two, they were just on one of their routine walks with Huddleston, who babysat them until their mother, a nurse at a clinic in the vicinity of the church, finished work.

“We left crèche at two and between then and my mother’s knock-off time at five, we’d be left with Father Huddleston, who did not have any children of his own,’ Edgar recalls.

This was such a common sight in Kofifi that the two would soon come to be known as The Children of Father Huddleston.

They have hitherto largely remained nameless, just two tiny figures dwarfed by the giant of a man who immortalised the picture.

Up to this day none of the congregants at the Christ the King Anglican Church on Ray Street are likely to be bothered by the identity of the children holding on to the revered Huddleston. The picture proper is framed, and a few variations of it adorn the entrance to the church. A prominent artist’s

Himpression of the picture is daubed on the wall.

Also in the entrance is a framed shot of Father Huddleston with the late ANC stalwart OR Tambo.

In another photo, Huddleston is seen posing next to a picture of another ANC pioneer, Chief Albert Luthuli.

Christ the King is arguably the only church in the country where pictures of the struggle compete for space on the walls with images of the religious deity.

When the Kgosi duo entered the church, it was an emotional moment that opened the tear ducts. Although they live in Soweto, they last set foot on Ray Street – and the church – in the days leading up to the forced removals that reduced the fabled township to rubble, making way for a whites-only suburb, Triomf.

The Kgosis do not remember any of the conversations that could have passed between them and Huddleston. “Each time I saw him,” says Edgar, “I was in awe. Everybody wanted to speak to him. I saw someone close to God.”

What Edgar can recall with some degree of certainty is that Father Huddleston would bring warring gangs together, call a truce. Among those history records as having been touched by the reconciliatory spirit of Father Huddleston was the notorious Americans gangster, George “Kort Boy” Mpalweni, who went to seek guidance from the Anglican priest after he’d stabbed a school principal to death.

The church also ran a school, the famous St Peter’s – the Eton of South Africa, as it was proudly called.

Many graduates went on to become legends in their chosen fields of endeavour. When literary icon E’skia Mphahlele was kicked

out of his teaching post, he went to work at St Peter’s, where Huddleston paid him out of the school funds.

Huddleston is the same mfundisi who f amously bought musician Hugh Masekela a saxophone, as a gift.

The Kgosi children went for daily walkabouts with this great man.

They lost contact with him during the helter-skelter of the forced removals. He left Sophiatown in January 1956, returning to his native England which he no longer considered home. In his own words, he had become an African.

Fanny went into exile while Edgar got embroiled in student politics in the years of Onkgopotse Tiro. He had as contemporaries on campus such names as Cyril Ramaphosa and Tiyani Lybon Mabasa.

“We were brought up in the Anglican church and the ANC,” says Edgar, who goes by the street name Slick.

His late mother, he says, echoed by his sister, lived for the church and the liberation movement.

Today they can only watch from the sidelines, the siblings say, as others get ahead of them in the ANC.

After many interruptions, Slick got to finish his BA in Economics only after a five-year stint at Turf.

Fanny toured the world with Jonas Gwangwa and the Amandla Group as a singer and dancer.

They did not bury Huddleston, who died in England in 1998, aged 85. All they have is this historic picture with him, and the memories of a bygone era.


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