Welcome to Our Hillbrow


Phaswane Mpe

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The Refrain “Welcome to our…” Symbol Analysis

The Refrain “Welcome to our…”  Symbol Icon

The prominent refrain “welcome to our…” symbolizes life’s inherent difficulty and complexity, which exists regardless of where one lives. At the beginning of the novel, saying “welcome to our Hillbrow” is a way to express frustration and helplessness over some of the more brutal aspects of living in the Hillbrow neighborhood of Johannesburg, South Africa (like the death of a young girl during a hit-and-run). However, as the novel continues, the refrain expands, sometimes finishing with “welcome to our Alexandra,” “…our Oxford,” and even, finally, “…our Heaven.” The constant use of this refrain underscores that there will always be good and bad aspects of places (just like people). In other words, characters can’t outrun their problems simply by moving to another location, because everywhere—even heaven—can be a complicated place to live. The repetition of this refrain also softens the book’s earlier critique of Hillbrow specifically, since it suggests that all places have the potential to be welcoming or hostile. Thus, “welcome to our…” works as a rhetorical symbol for the human experience in all places on Earth and beyond.

The Refrain “Welcome to our…” Quotes in Welcome to Our Hillbrow

The Welcome to Our Hillbrow quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Refrain “Welcome to our…” . 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 1 Quotes

You would recall the child, possibly seven years old or so, who got hit by a car. Her mid-air screams still ring in your memory. When she hit the concrete pavements of Hillbrow, her screams died with her. A young man just behind you shouted:

Kill the bastard!

But the driver was already gone. The traffic cops, arriving a few minutes later, found that the seasons of arrest had already passed. Most people, after the momentary stunned silence of witnessing the sour fruits of soccer victory, resumed their singing. Shosholoza […] drowned the choking sobs of the deceased child’s mother.

Welcome to our Hillbrow! you heard one man say to his female companion, who was a seeming newcomer to this place of bustling activity.

Related Characters: Refentše
Page Number: 2
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

Your skull threatened to collapse at any moment, causing you the worst headache known to humanity. Your head spun at untold speed and you became intensely dizzy in these hot, whirling webs of sensory input, your memory picking out choice words here, scenes there…the infinite fragments combining and recombing in the containing frame of your head. Until the roaring pressure of your skull finally exploded:

Welcome to our Hillbrow…Welcome to our Alexandra…Welcome to our Tiragalong in Johannesburg…

Related Characters: Refentše , Piet
Page Number: 79
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

Heaven is the world of our continuing existence, located in the memory and consciousness of those who live with us and after us. It is the archive that those we left behind keep visiting and revisiting; digging this out, suppressing or burying that. Continually reconfiguring the stories of our lives, as if they alone hold the real and true version. Just as you, Refilwe, tried to reconfigure the story of Refentše; just as Tiragalong now is going to do the same with you. Heaven can also be Hell, depending on the nature of our continuing existence in the memories and consciousness of the living.

Like Refentše, the first real Bone of your Heart, you too have had your fair taste of the sweet and bitter juices of life, that ooze through the bones of our Tiragalong and Alexandra, Hillbrow and Oxford.

Refilwe, Child of our World and other Worlds…

Welcome to our Heaven…

Related Characters: Refilwe, Refentše
Page Number: 124
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Welcome to Our Hillbrow LitChart as a printable PDF.
Welcome to Our Hillbrow PDF

The Refrain “Welcome to our…” Symbol Timeline in Welcome to Our Hillbrow

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Refrain “Welcome to our…” appears in Welcome to Our Hillbrow. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Storytelling Theme Icon
...When tragic or difficult things like this happen, the people of Hillbrow just say, “ Welcome to our Hillbrow!” (full context)
Storytelling Theme Icon
...of robberies, rape, drug dealing, or murder in the city. People from Hillbrow say “ Welcome to our Hillbrow…” when they hear these stories, and the people of Tiragalong consider these crimes... (full context)
Chapter 2 
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
Prejudice and Ignorance  Theme Icon
...ended up dying by suicide after jumping from his 20-story balcony. The narrator says, “Refentše, welcome to our Hillbrow…” (full context)
Chapter 3
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
...wait at the gates of heaven for Lerato. When she arrives, Refentše will say, “ Welcome to our new Hillbrow…” (full context)
Chapter 5
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
Prejudice and Ignorance  Theme Icon
...the world—from Oxford to Heathrow to Lagos to Tiragalong. Addressing Refilwe, the narrator says, “ Welcome to the World of our Humanity…” (full context)
Chapter 6
Storytelling Theme Icon
...die quicker because she’s surrounded by such “gloomy” faces. The narrator addresses Refilwe, saying “ welcome back to our Hillbrow…” (full context)
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
...can be hell, too, depending on the way people remember you. The narrator addresses Refilwe, welcoming her to “our Heaven.” (full context)