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Sophie Okonedo in Skin

Sophie Okonedo leads a powerful cast in the real life story of Sandra Laing, a black child born to white parents in apartheid South Africa in the new movie, Skin.

Sandra Laing’s genetics came into full focus as soon as she is born.  Sandra Laing’s parents Abraham and Sannie Laing where both white people living in South Africa when the apartheid was strong. Abraham and Sannie were both a part of the National Party which strongly supported the apartheid system.

Abraham and Sannie had two sons. Yet, when there daughter was born in 1955 there was something noticeably different about her. Through the power of genetics and recessive traits gave birth to a little “black” baby. Her skin was dark brown in color and her hair was black and frizzy.

Obviously, this created tons of classification problems. Was she white or was she black? Obviously her parents wanted her to be a part of white society, but others had a problem with their children associating with Sandra. Her white parents enrolled her in a white school (all schools were segregated) and they hoped that she would get lighter in color as she grew older. Instead her skin grew darker in color.

When Sandra was ten the school were she was enrolled expelled her and she was escorted off the school property. Her parents fought the legal system so that Sandra could be classified as white and be allowed to be enrolled in a white school. Abraham Laing even went through paternity testing to prove that he was indeed Sandra’s father. The legal battles were unsuccessful.

In addition to not being accepted by the Afrikaner community, Sandra also was not accepted by white children, and was friends with the black children of her parents employees.

Much to her parents disapproval, Sandra eloped with a black man when she was 15 and moved to Swaziland. Her father threatened to kill her, and so Sandra broke off all contact with her parents and lived her own independent life with her husband.

Sandra Laing finally re-established contact with her mother in 2000 when her mother was in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s. Her mother did not remember Sandra.

Sophie Okonedo brings Sandra’s life to life on the big screen in Skin which is now playing.  The movie was adapted from Sandra’s book, When She Was White.

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Editor In Chief of PalavaHut the Online African Village

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