Colleen van Niekerk
A Conspiracy of Mothers
The year is 1994, and South Africa is in political turmoil as its first democratic election looms. Against a backdrop of apartheid and racial violence, traumatized artist Yolanda Petersen returns from the Appalachian foothills to the land of her youth at the behest of her mother. Yolanda longs to reconnect with her estranged daughter Ingrid, the product of an illegal mixed-race affair with a white man.
But Ingrid is missing, and as Yolanda quickly discovers, she isn’t the only woman in Cape Town desperate to protect her own. Ingrid’s very existence is proof of a white man’s crime, and that man’s mother will do anything—even kill—to ensure the truth remains buried.
An evocative debut set during a defining period in South Africa’s history, A Conspiracy of Mothers tells a gripping story of love and betrayal from multiple perspectives while deftly balancing the painful legacy of apartheid with the trials of motherhood.
1 October 2021 Release
Available online and at independent bookstores
Praise & Reviews
“Reading Colleen van Niekerk’s A Conspiracy of Mothers was a gut-wrenching emotional roller coaster experience with many lines resonating with my own belief that for South Africans to attain restorative justice, we first need to experience restorative memory. Colleen captures all this so well in cameos of captured time which closely touched many a raw nerve of yet un-healed wounds that are part of many of our lives. The world of lies and secrets, and the pain that goes with it is so vividly brought to life. This is a welcome book which I can certainly recommend as an exploration of pain, damage, and healing.”
Patric Tariq Mellet,
author of The Lie of 1652: a de-colonized history of land
“Deeply-affecting and beautifully rendered, A Conspiracy of Mothers is a tapestry woven with sacrifice, suffering, and loss but also with a love between generations of women so deep it convokes ancestral magic that defies the laws of space and time. This story of pilgrimage and reckoning amidst the unraveling of apartheid should resonate with anyone interested in breaking down systems of racism and oppression wherever they exist. A brilliant novel to be read alongside Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime and Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste.”
author of Winter Loon
About Colleen van Niekerk
Growing up in South Africa as a person of colour in the eighties and nineties, meant being surrounded by stories, not literature. It meant being surrounded by art as an extension of the vital act of expression that inevitably takes root under systems of oppression, and not as museum material.
As with all novels, A Conspiracy of Mothers is about a particular place and time as much as it is about characters contending with truth and history. Cape Town, the peninsula that juts out into the ocean at the very foot of Africa, is woven like a thick root into the story. While it's visual splendour is worth beholding, it is, as with the rest of South Africa, also a city coming to terms with the fullness of its own history.