Investigative journalist and editor Beauregard Tromp has a fascinating and important conversation with Tessa Dooms and Lynsey Chutel about their newly published book Coloured: how classification became culture – a reflection on and celebration of coloured identities as lived experiences in South Africa. Included in a broader discussion about the book, the panel looks at narrative journalism and how journalists can examine the underlying context of a particular incident, in this case the tragic killing of Nathaniel Julies in 2020, to explore a much bigger, more nuanced story.

“We were quite deliberate in how we told the story,” says Chutel. “We know there is no shortage of academic work on coloured identity and coloured politics, but we wanted to [write the book in such a way] so that people could see themselves. We approached it as a narrative journalism project taking individuals – every day people – and telling their stories. People spoke about these grand narratives, but in such a simple way. When we sat down with all the stories we had collected, we saw that there was an incredible sense of pain and loss. Some would go on a journey to find themselves, but others would simply accept this sense of social orphanhood – that this is just where they were in life. To be coloured was to not be enough.

“In a country that has turned ethnic symbols into national symbols and built itself around this Rainbow Nation narrative, one that is especially stark around Heritage Day, people start to ask, “Well where do I fit in?” And that was essentially the question we wanted to help answer in telling these individual stories,” says Chutel.

Watch the full webinar below.