Denese Palm is a successful South African entrepreneur who has assisted the OBC in training many of our crafters. Her life story is an example of how pre-1994 apartheid policy in South Africa created not only social schisms, but played a large role in robbing many people of a cultural and ethnical identity.
Denese was born in 1961 in to what was classified a ‘colored’ (mixed race) family by the racist National Party Government. When the government introduced legislation that reserved more skilled jobs for whites only, her parents were offered the option of either giving up the jobs they held, or applying to be re-classified as ‘whites’. Her parents, unwilling to give up their livelihood, chose to deny their roots (and family) and became ‘pretend-whites’.
Denese making bracelets
Although their forced decision gave Denese access to a quality education and living environment, it effectively ripped her away from her own people and left her with a cultural identity crisis. Too dark for the whites she came into contact with, and too English for the colored community, she felt isolated and had to create an identity which bridged the divide in a racially segregated society. As an adult, Denese worked in the Human Rights field, acquiring skills as a rural production coordinator and later in marketing traditional and contemporary South African crafts.
Denese has five children, four of them living at home and dependent on her. Her children are aged from 4 to 18 years old. She lives in Grahamstown and through her work with the OBC hopes to heal some of the rifts of the past that so deeply affected her.