Home Institution

Colgate University

Publication Date

Spring 2017

Program Name

South Africa: Multiculturalism and Human Rights


This study will discuss conceptions of motherhood and lessons of racial identity through the lens of four women from Cape Town, South Africa. Utilizing both semi-structured interviews and photovoice, stories of motherhood are told as a journey from childhood to adulthood, in which one’s experience of being mothered influences decisions in current motherhood. In interviews, mothers pinpoint conceptions of good motherhood that encompass both financial support for one’s children and attentiveness, informed mostly by one’s race and class background. Additionally, experiences surrounding discrimination and silencing in childhood differ between races, later informing the way that mothers chose to share lessons of race to their children. There is overall a difference in mothering not only between the races of the mother but also by the race of the child. Finally, experiences of photographing motherhood allowed mothers to focus on the day-to-day interactions that define their relationship with their children and the emotional work of mothering, as well as allowing them to reflect on often painful moments of racial socialization. This study is significant as it highlights mothering as the primary source of racial socialization, which is relevant as we begin thinking about raising the next generation in South Africa’s recent democracy.


African Languages and Societies | African Studies | Early Childhood Education | Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Ethnicity in Communication | Graphic Communications | Photography | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies


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