Home at last
Fairlady|May 2020
With her 70th birthday on the horizon, Bafta award-winning screenwriter Shawn Slovo decided it was time to come home to SA – after 56 years in Britain. She called on architect Carl Jacobsz to help create a unique eco-home under the African sky she had so longed for.
ASHLEIGH ROMAN

Shawn Slovo remembers her early years as turbulent. ‘My mom [Ruth First] and my dad [Joe Slovo] were very involved in the anti-apartheid struggle,’ she says. ‘My mother was arrested and detained under the 90-day detention law, and when they released her, she was banned and prevented from leaving the house. They took away our passports, so we applied for an exit permit.’

In 1964, the family arrived in the UK as political refugees. Then just 14, Shawn had to adapt to a new life and unfamiliar circumstances. ‘Although we had to leave our lives and friends behind, I can speak only to my own experience, and I’m very grateful. Others had it a lot worse, particularly black South Africans. I had a very good education in the UK, it was a tolerant society and it was a safe place to be, which was a positive transition, having grown up surrounded by danger.’

After spending most of her life in the UK working as a screenwriter, Shawn’s South African citizenship was eventually restored and she began to seriously consider coming back. ‘It was something of a now-or-never moment,’ she says. ‘As I approached the big 7-0, I thought how wonderful it would be to spend whatever is left of my life in South Africa. I’ve never lost the deep connection I have with this country, despite our complex history.’

While she had initially decided on the Cape, Shawn found herself captivated by Monaghan Farm in Lanseria, which ticked all her boxes. ‘It’s beautiful and serene, but more importantly, it’s eco-conscious. With no street lighting, strict building regulations and lots of safety, it was perfect for me.’

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