Everyone has a story. But not everyone has the means to be heard.
From a bereft mother who buried her young son as a gang war raged in Hanover Park, to the innocent children of a Melkbosstrand creche terrorised by a suspected paedophile – who tells their stories?
Specialist Writer Tammy Petersen seeks out the stories that would have otherwise gone untold and speaks up against injustice.
“The type of specialist writing I do zones in and focuses on real-life. It’s on the ground, walking the streets type of journalism. Which I think historically mainstream publications didn't really tap into. It goes beyond the breaking news and essentially, I think, breaks it down into ‘why this matters’.
“People’s stories matter. Each story matters. It's just that some voices get muffled out and others get amplified because of the exposure that they get,” she says.
Petersen goes on to say: "Let's say we are in Hanover Park. And unfortunately, as is often the case, there is a gang war breaking out. How do these people live with it? How do the children deal when they are studying for exams and somebody's shooting outside?"
Petersen recounts stories of the children on the Cape Flats who have to duck and dive under desks when gang warfare erupts near their school, and they're instructed to lay down on the ground and cover their heads until "everything stops."
Away from her keyboard, it’s Petersen’s close-knit family who keeps her motivated and inspires her to tell her community’s stories with empathy and compassion.
She says: “My family is everything. I have a very supportive husband. He's my biggest fan. He is my biggest critic, and my impromptu news editor all rolled into one. The people who really inspired me to do this and encouraged me as an eight-year-old [are my parents]. I have to mention this, I was eight years old, and I could read a newspaper. That's my dad's favourite story to tell people. My parents motivated me to do what it is that I dreamed of doing since I was a child.”
Often being exposed to highly emotionally-charged situations at work, Petersen finds peace of mind and calm in her home, and enjoys cooking and walking her dogs to decompress.
Although Petersen’s mother didn’t teach her to cook, she did, however, emphasize that cooking with love isn’t always enough – you can’t forget to add the leaf masala and crushed chilli. (Cook along with Petersen and follow her lamb curry recipe below.)
Throughout her career, Petersen has used her words to stand up for the rights of all people, not just those in positions of power.
“Everybody shouldn't always like you, because if they do, you're probably doing something wrong. I'm not a people pleaser. I bring you the reality. If you don't like that reality, I hope it makes you uncomfortable enough to try and change something about it. That's what I do.”
Watch the full interview:
Tammy's Lamb Curry (Serves 4-5)
- 1 kg lamb pieces
- A dash of oil
- 2 finely chopped onions
- A lot of garlic (don't ask me how much 'a lot' is)
- 1 tsp ginger
- cardamom pods
- cinnamon sticks
- curry leaves
- 2 chillies (gooi it in whole!)
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 2 TB roasted masala
- 2 TB leaf masala
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 stock cubes
- As many potatoes as you would like (there is no such thing as too many potatoes)
- About 150ml of cream (if the people you are feeding can't handle too much heat)
- Heat the oil and fry the onions, cardamom, cinnamon and curry leaves in your favourite pot (the older the pot, the better). As the colour of your onions starts to change, toss in the chillies (whole, because then you can remove them once the curry is done).
- When the onions are brown, add the garlic and ginger and give it a good stir. Add your lamb and allow it to brown - I usually take about 20 minutes to do this.
- Dissolve one of the stock cubes in a cup of hot water and add to the pot. Allow it to cook for about half an hour. Give it a lekker stir - my favourite pot sticks after a while, so I stir it about three times during this period.
- Add all the spices and allow it to cook through -about five minutes will do. Stir it often as it could stick.
- Add your umpteen potatoes (I usually cut mine into 8). Add another dissolved stock cube in a cup of hot water to the pot, and a cup of normal hot water. Cook until the potatoes are soft.
- If the curry is too hot for your liking, add the cream. And don't forget to remove the chillies or you'll get a nasty surprise later.
- Serve with rice (I only learnt how to cook that after I was married) and don't be ashamed to lick the plate after you've eaten.
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