|In 1963, the year in which Barker was born, the National Party's apartheid policy was beginning to reveal the ruthless expediency of its ideological core. Prime Minister H.F. Verwoerd governed from Pretoria when the Rivonia Trialists - a core group of African National Congress leaders including Nelson Mandela - were run to ground, tried, and incarcerated on Robben Island.|
Valhalla, the outlying suburb of Pretoria where Barker spent his first ten years, was not what it seemed. Growing up there, he recalls healthy stretches of "fruit trees and koppies", a "kind of innocence" that concealed its less benign status as home to a military air base and the families of Defence Force employees. These were apartheid's most villainous years - of total onslaughts in the townships and categorical denials about South Africa's military presence in neighbouring Angola and Mozambique.
"We were absolutely part of a system where you were taught to hate black people," says Barker today. "It was entrenched in virtually every conversation at home."
Yet he also recalls family gatherings as "quite real and warm, like there was a sort of gemutlich vibe. You had drunk uncles playing match boxes and singing Sarie Marais and all that stuff."
Barker found "unconditional love" at a Jewish nursery school and bonded with his older, adopted sister Linda, who introduced Bob Marley and hotpants to the neighbourhood. He witnessed two black men he knew from the corner shop being severely beaten by police for not carrying Pass books; he was rattled by the sight of street kids downtown while travelling home from a swimming gala one night, loaded with sweets he had won.
Wayne Barker: Artist's Monograph