Lupus Non Mordet Lupum

A portrait of identity, mental health and parenthood

Featured by World Press Photo

My mother was born in the Overberg town of Caledon, South Africa in 1953. She was the only girl in her last year of high school where her nickname was 'White Rat'. At 19, she married my father, giving up her teacher training at Stellenbosch University, the bastion of Calvinist Afrikanerdom. Once a talented potter and equestrian, a debilitating concussion pushed my mother's health firmly to the brink.

Today, at 68, she battles the physical and psychological effects of Lupus, an autoimmune disease causing the body to attack its own organs. When first encountered in the 13th century, it was thought the accompanying facial lesions, spread across the cheeks like the wings of a Lepidoptera [butterfly or moth], resembled the bite marks of a wolf. Difficult to treat, its exact cause remains unknown.

As the father of two daughters, who refer to me as 'Wolf', I am only now beginning to comprehend her sacrifice, dependence, bitterness, doubt, regeneration, and relentless spiritual pursuit as a partner, mother, grandparent, and most ultimately, a woman.