Carol Campbell nee Graham (1968 - ) is a Durban-based author and journalist. In 1985 she matriculated from Randpark High School and completed a BA Drama (hons) degree at the University of the Witwatersrand. Campbell has worked in print media for over two decades. She covered South Africa’s transition to democracy in 1994 and went on to win a British Council award for education reporting the following year.
She has written two novels: My Children Have Faces (translated into Afrikaans as Karretjiemense) and Esther’s House (n Huis vir Ester). These books were inspired by the twelve years (2000-2012), Campbell and her family lived in Prince Albert and then Oudtshoorn in the Karoo. During this time Campbell interacted with the karretjiemense who lived for a time on the Campbell’s farm. It was through them she came to understand their frustrations and needs as they stepped from a primitive and nomadic existence into a modern, democratic South Africa. Campbell told the project:
I came across the story of the Karretjiemense and knew I wanted to tell it in a special way. Writing a newspaper article seemed too superficial to capture the essence of the people, the landscape and their story - so I started a novel.
When the Campbells moved to Oudtshoorn (2012) she was drawn into the lives of the community when she witnessed the illegal invasion of low cost government housing by “old” Oudtshoorn residents. Esther’s House was born from this travesty.
Her works have received a positive critical reaction. My Children Have Faces was mainly appreciated for the sensitive, thoughtful and unromanticised portrayal of the karretjiemense. Andrea Nagel (Sunday Times) commended the way Campbell “exquisitely captured … the nuances of expression” of each character. SLiP writer, lyrical, but never-romanticised, exploration of lives lived beyond the margins”. Elsabé du Toit found Esther’s House difficult to put down while Herman Lategan (Netwerk24) summed up the novel as “beautiful, but brutal and hard”. A review on Independent Online praised the “powerful writing” and commented on the potential of the novel to “change the way you look at your fellow South Africans”.
In light of her work, Campbell has been invited to a number of prestigious literary festivals within the country. In 2013 she promoted My Children Have Faces at the Midlands Literary Festival and the Prince Albert LeesFees. In 2015 she appeared at the Time of the Writer Festival and the Franschhoek Literary Festival to discuss Esther’s House. Following the attack on fellow Time of the Writer Festival participant, Zainub Priya Dala, she was one of several writers that condemned the attack and voiced their support for the writer. In 2015 she won the Main Category prize for Esther's House at the Inaugural Minara Aziz Hassim Literary Awards.
Campbell currently works as the assistant editor of the Sunday Tribune in Durban. Despite the challenges of raising a family and maintaining a full-time job, she is in the process of completing her next novel.
Excerpt from My Children Have Faces (2013:32):
When I am alone I talk to the animals in the veld and ask them to show themselves to me. I don’t tell them I want to eat them but I think they know that anyway because they always run when they see me. Early in the morning, when the sun is looking up over the veld, is the time the animals show themselves. Not the snakes and likkewans. They like the sun in the late afternoon. Nobody in my family likes the snakes and likkewans but I don’t mind them. They always get out of my way if I shout at them.
“Go snake, go. Voetsak!” If I meet a cobra by surprise he always stands up and looks cross. Then I stand still as a tree or a rock. His black tongue goes in and out and his black eyes watch to see if I move. If I can stay still then he just goes down and slides into a bush as fast as he can. Puff adders I don’t like. They are so fat and lazy and they don’t like waking up for anybody. If you stand on them then you are finished. I just go around them. Puff adders are windgat.
The snake that makes me most afraid is the rinkhals with its black shiny body and white collar. If that snake bites you, you will be dead. Straight away. When I got my dog Rinkhals he was black with a white stripe on his neck and I knew his name was going to be Rinkhals. He is so clever and always helps me catch food. Once he even took a lamb. Pappie was very cross when I brought it back, but he still ate it.
“It’s dead now, what must I do?” he said. “But pasop. If the Boere catch him killing their sheep they are going to shoot first and ask questions later.”
After Pappie said that I was a bit scared but, if I know the Boere aren’t in the veld and I am alone, I let Rinkhals catch a lamb. Then we make a fire and we eat it alone, just the two of us.
2013. My Children Have Faces. Cape Town: Umuzi.
Translated into Afrikaans by Kirby van der Merwe as “Karretjiemense”.
2014. Esther’s House. Cape Town: Umuzi.
Translated into Afrikaans by Kirby van der Merwe as “n Huis vir Ester”