Welcome to Our Hillbrow

by

Phaswane Mpe

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Refentše’s Mother Character Analysis

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 against South Africans who live in the city. She’s never set foot in Johannesburg herself. She is disgusted that her son is living with a “Hillbrow woman” and she considers Lerato a “Lekwerekwere,” even though Lerato having a Nigerian father is just a rumor. Refentše ’s mother is convinced that Lerato poisoned Refentše’s food to make him fall in love with her. She essentially disowns her son for being with Lerato, which is why Refentše feels like he can’t go to her for comfort after he finds Lerato and Sammy together. However, after Refentše ’s death, Refentše’s mother stumbles during his funeral and falls into his grave. The other villagers of Tiragalong take this as a sign that she is a witch and had cursed her son, and they murder her by placing tires around her neck and setting them on fire (an act called “necklacing”). When Refentše, Lerato, and Refentše’s mother all meet in heaven, Refentše’s mother changes her tune and smiles at Lerato, telling her that she looks like her true father, Piet.

Refentše’s Mother Quotes in Welcome to Our Hillbrow

The Welcome to Our Hillbrow quotes below are all either spoken by Refentše’s Mother or refer to Refentše’s Mother. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
).
Chapter 2  Quotes

Your mother had never been to Hillbrow, nor any part of Johannesburg. But your mother was not interested in such details. She hated the Hillbrow women with unmatchable venom—a human venom so fatal it would have put the black mamba’s to shame.

Related Characters: Refentše , Refentše’s Mother, Lerato
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:

Refilwe rewrote large chunks of the story that Tiragalong had constructed about you, which was that you committed suicide because your mother had bewitched you. In an attempt to drive your heart from the Johannesburg woman, Tiragalong had said, your mother had used medicines that were too strong. They destroyed your brain.

[…]

Refilwe […] rewrote the version of your suicide. In this version of things, you had been bewitched indeed—but not by your mother; by a loose-thighed Hillbrowan called Lerato.

Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:
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Refentše’s Mother Character Timeline in Welcome to Our Hillbrow

The timeline below shows where the character Refentše’s Mother appears in Welcome to Our Hillbrow. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2 
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
Prejudice and Ignorance  Theme Icon
The narrator reminds Refentše of his weakened relationship with is mother and suggests that this was also a factor in Refentše’s suicide. Refentše and his mother... (full context)
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
Prejudice and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Because of her convictions about Hillbrowans, Refentše couldn’t turn to his mother for comfort when he found out about Lerato and Sammy’s betrayal. He also couldn’t go... (full context)
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
...said cruel things about Refentše after his suicide—like that he didn’t care about his own mother—Refilwe defended him. However, Refilwe’s love for Refentše clouded her judgement and caused her to “retell”... (full context)
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
The people of Tiragalong came up with their own reason for Refentše’s death—they blamed his mother. They said she gave him medicines to break the love potion Lerato had given him,... (full context)
Prejudice and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
...and he may not have decided to die by suicide. This would have prevented his mother’s death and Lerato’s suicide. He might have told Sammy the truth about him and Bohlale.... (full context)
Chapter 3
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
...from Terror. Terror, a cruel villager from Tiragalong, called Lerato and threatened to tell her mother that Refentše killed himself because Lerato had an affair. Terror had an old schoolboy grudge... (full context)
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
...long time talking about their days as students at the university. Refentše admits that his mother’s disapproval for their relationship made him depressed. Lerato says “coward!” and tells him he could... (full context)
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
Prejudice and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Refentše then takes Lerato to go meet his mother. Refentše’s mother slowly eyes Lerato from head to toe. Then, she gently smiles. She says... (full context)