Welcome to Our Hillbrow


Phaswane Mpe

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Themes and Colors
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
Apartheid and Colonialism  Theme Icon
Prejudice and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Welcome to Our Hillbrow, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Regret and Redemption

Welcome to Our Hillbrow is set in South Africa—in a section of Johannesburg called Hillbrow—shortly after the end of apartheid. The book follows Refentše and Refilwe—young, intelligent people born in the rural village of Tiragalong, north of Johannesburg. Throughout the novel, characters make cruel decisions that hurt one another, creating a tragic chain of events. After Refentše cheats on the love of his life, Lerato, with his friend’s girlfriend and never comes…

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Apartheid and Colonialism

In Welcome to Our Hillbrow, the aftereffects of colonization and apartheid (a long-running system of racial segregation and discrimination) are still observable in South Africa, even though the novel takes place after the end of apartheid. The city of Johannesburg, for instance, is divided into wealthy and poor areas, and white citizens hold the majority of the country’s wealth. Indeed, the remnants of colonialism and apartheid are all around Refentše and Refilwe (who are Black…

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Prejudice and Ignorance

Although Welcome to Our Hillbrow explores the lingering effects of apartheid, the racial divide in South Africa is not the narrative’s main focus. Instead, the novel primarily looks at other forms of prejudice, mainly examining the arbitrary biases that people often form about those whom they see as different from themselves. For example, people who live in a rural village called Tiragalong (where Refentše and Refilwe are from) are very judgmental about anyone who…

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Storytelling is central to Welcome to Our Hillbrow, as the two protagonists, Refilwe and Refentše, are professionally invested in stories (the former works in publishing, the latter is a writer). But, really, all of the characters in the book use stories in their lives. The South African village that Refilwe and Refentše come from, Tiragalong, is home to people who feed off rumors, making ordinary people into either heroes or villains. In response…

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