Welcome to Our Hillbrow


Phaswane Mpe

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Welcome to Our Hillbrow Characters


Refentše is one of two main characters in Welcome to Our Hillbrow. The narrator addresses Refentše directly, even though Refentše is dead at the beginning of the story. Refentše was born in a small… read analysis of Refentše


Refilwe is the second protagonist of Welcome to Our Hillbrow. She, like her first love Refentše, comes from the rural village Tiragalong. Like Refentše, she also studies literature (Sepedi and English) at university… read analysis of Refilwe


Lerato is a student at the University of Witwatersrand studying literature, and she is the love of Refentše’s life. The two start dating after they’re both victims of a holdup in Johannesburg, and this… read analysis of Lerato


Sammy is Refentše’s best friend in Hillbrow. He’s known Refentše for years, and he used to help Refentše handle depressive bouts when they were younger. Sammy is dating Bohlale, whom he loves. However… read analysis of Sammy


Bohlale is Sammy’s girlfriend and Refentše and Lerato’s friend. She cheats on Sammy with Refentše once, during a low moment when Refentše is comforting her about Sammy’s habit of going out drinking. Bohlale… read analysis of Bohlale
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Refentše’s cousin is a police officer who lives in an apartment in Hillbrow, Johannesburg. Cousin houses Refentše when he gets into the University of Witwatersrand, and he takes Refentše to school on the first… read analysis of Cousin

Refentše’s Mother

Refentše’s mother lives in Tiragalong, where Refentše was born. She, like most of the people from the village, is fiercely prejudiced against “Makwerekwere” (a slur for immigrants from other African countries) and… read analysis of Refentše’s Mother


Piet is Lerato and Tshepo’s father. Piet died when Tshepo was very young and before Lerato was born, because he was murdered by a cousin. Piet was from Alexandra, a village very near Tiragalong… read analysis of Piet


Tshepo is the son of Piet and a woman from Tiragalong. He grows up in Tiragalong and is the first person to leave the village and go to university in Johannesburg. The people of Tiragalong… read analysis of Tshepo

The Nigerian Man

The young Nigerian man is a student at Oxford Brookes University and meets Refilwe at a bar while she is studying abroad. He looks just like Refentše, which is initially what attracts Refilwe to… read analysis of The Nigerian Man

Bone Throwers

In South Africa, bone throwers are mystics who operate mostly in rural villages. When things go wrong (someone gets ill, someone is struck by lightning), the people of Tiragalong often consult a bone thrower to… read analysis of Bone Throwers


Jackie is a white British girl a few years older than Refilwe. She meets Refilwe when her parents send her to do volunteer work at a high school in Tiragalong. The girls strike up… read analysis of Jackie

Refentše’s Protagonist (The Young Woman)

Before he dies, Refentše publishes a short story. The story’s protagonist—an unnamed young woman—is HIV-positive and faces the wrath and the insults of people from Tiragalong. She chooses not to die by suicide, even though… read analysis of Refentše’s Protagonist (The Young Woman)

Liz (Lerato’s Mother)

Liz is Lerato’s mother, who lived with Lerato’s father, Piet, until he was killed. She and Piet lived in a white suburb as a housekeeper and groundskeeper, but after Piet was murdered (while… read analysis of Liz (Lerato’s Mother)


Molori is Piet’s cousin. Molori is from Tiragalong, and was very close to his cousin until, one day, Molori’s mother fell ill. Molori called on a dishonest bone thrower to tell him what was… read analysis of Molori


Terror is a man from Tiragalong who knew Refentše when they were younger. Terror has a schoolboy hatred towards Refentše, blaming him for getting in trouble in school one day. Terror always used to try… read analysis of Terror

The Beggar

The beggar is a native South African who is houseless and lives by the University of Witwatersrand. He used to call out to “Aibo!” to Refentše as Refentše went to school. Cousin told Refentše not… read analysis of The Beggar