Fiela Se Kind Book 11: A Journey of Identity and Belonging
Fiela Se Kind (Fiela's Child) is a novel by Dalene Matthee, a South African author who wrote several books about the Knysna Forest and its people. Fiela Se Kind is the second book in the Bosboeke (Forest Books) series, and it tells the story of Benjamin, a white child who was raised by Fiela Komoetie, a brown woman, after he was found on her doorstep as a baby. When Benjamin is twelve years old, he is taken away by the census officials who claim that he is the long-lost son of Elias and Barta van Rooyen, a poor white family who live in the forest. Benjamin is forced to live with them and adopt their name, Lukas. He struggles to adjust to his new life and identity, while Fiela tries to find him and bring him back.
The novel explores themes of identity, belonging, race, class, family, and nature. It shows the contrast between Fiela's loving and prosperous household and the van Rooyens' abusive and miserable one. It also depicts the harsh realities of life in the forest, where the woodcutters are exploited by the government and the elephants are hunted to extinction. The novel also raises questions about who has the right to claim a child as their own, and how one's upbringing shapes one's sense of self.
Fiela Se Kind was first published in 1985 and has been translated into several languages. It has also been adapted into a film and a musical. It is widely regarded as one of Matthee's best works and a classic of South African literature.
The novel follows Benjamin's life as he grows up in two different worlds: the Long Kloof, where he is loved and cherished by Fiela and her family, and the Knysna Forest, where he is mistreated and neglected by Elias and Barta. Benjamin has a strong bond with Fiela, who teaches him to read, write, and work hard. He also gets along well with his siblings, especially Dawid, who is his best friend. Benjamin enjoys helping Fiela with the ostriches, which are their main source of income. He also likes to explore the mountains and the sea with Dawid.
In contrast, Benjamin suffers a lot in the forest, where he is renamed Lukas and forced to forget his past. He is constantly beaten by Elias, who resents him for being weak and different. He is also isolated from his siblings, who are afraid of their father. The only person who shows him some kindness is Nina, his sister, who is rebellious and spirited. Nina protects Lukas from Elias and tries to make him happy. She also teaches him about the forest and its animals, especially the elephants, which she loves. Lukas gradually develops feelings for Nina, which confuse and torment him.
The novel also depicts the social and political context of South Africa in the 19th century, where racial discrimination and oppression are rampant. Fiela and her family face prejudice and injustice because they are brown-skinned. They are often harassed by the census officials and the magistrate, who question their right to own land and property. They are also looked down upon by their white neighbors, who mock them for their lifestyle and religion. Fiela has to fight for her dignity and her son's rights against a system that favors the whites.
Meanwhile, Elias and his family are part of a poor and marginalized community of woodcutters in the forest. They live in poverty and squalor, dependent on the government for their livelihood. They are exploited by the forest officials, who pay them low wages and impose harsh regulations on them. They are also threatened by the elephant hunters, who kill the animals they depend on for food and fuel. Elias and his people have a deep connection with the forest and its creatures, but they also fear them. aa16f39245