I was born in Pretoria on May 30th, 1983. My parents had been married 13 months, and my mother was only 19-years-old. She was studying to become a nurse. My father was an electrical engineer. Two years later my little brother arrived. My mother worked 12 hours shifts in a big hospital, and we went to nursery school there. It was an afrikaans school, and we spoke english, so we simply had to learn. I remember feeling very lonely at first, and constantly seeking out my brother, who was the only person I could really talk to. Later on I appreciated this trial-by-fire in afrikaans, as it ensured that I aced the subject in school from then on.

On my 8th birthday we moved to Johannesburg, (which is about an hour away) where my parents had bought their first home in the northern suburbs of the city. My father and some colleagues had started a market research company dealing with IT and telecommunications, and their offices were in Rivonia. At that time the area was still pretty far outlying, with a lot of plots and small-holdings etc. As I grew older the city spread out further and further, and our once quiet suburb became a busy commercial area.

Our three bedroom house had a long driveway and was surrounded by fairly high walls, as most houses in Johannesburg are. After a couple of break-ins (one while we were asleep in our rooms) my parents had electric fencing put up around the property, and installed panic buttons that call a private security company (also very common in the suburbs of Johannesburg). When we arrived there were no trees in the garden, so we planted some, and watched them grow tall as we grew older. My mother is into all sorts of arts and crafts, and turned our home into a colorful and vibrant place that everyone loved to be in.

I lived a very sheltered life. Both my father and my mother come from staunch christian families, and I was brought up in the church. Sunday morning meant Sunday School (although I have memories of wishing I could stay home and watch cartoons). On Wednesday nights we went to home group, which was basically a smaller church meeting in peoples' homes. My parents were also pretty strict. We were allowed to watch only an hour of television a day. Certain programs were not allowed, for example cartoons like He-Man or the Ninja Turtles, and age-restricted programs were definitely out of bounds. We were disciplined if we were disobedient, and this always involved a level-headed discussion about what we had done wrong. I was a very strong-willed child and probably got a hiding just about every day until I reached the age of 5. As I grew older I became the kind of kid who always did what she was told, and did well in school. I was neither a popular kid nor a flat-out nerd. I had my handful of close friends, and was otherwise friendly with everyone. We were encouraged to share all our feelings with our parents, and had an open and close relationship with each other.

My mother suffered from anxiety, and constantly feared that we would come in harm's way. Activities like swimming or riding bikes were only allowed under adult supervision. I have memories of dangling my feet in the pool while my friends had fun swimming, or hanging out on the drive-way while they rode their bikes in the street. I couldn't take part because these activities were forbidden for me without an adult present.

There is no real public transport to speak of in Johannesburg, so everywhere we wanted to go my parents needed to take us. Friday nights were spent at the church's youth club. Free time was spent hanging out at friends' houses, or at the mall, where we could watch a movie or play mini-golf or just hang around.

I took classical piano lessons from the age of eight, and music always played a big role in my family life. My mom plays jazz piano, my father classical guitar, my brother the saxophone, gran played the organ in church and my aunt leads the choir at the school where she teaches. At family gatherings we often all sing together in harmony. Music was of course also a big part of church life, and as a teenager I began to lead the worship in church as well. This was also the time when I started to write my own songs.

At the age of 16 I became even more serious about my religion/spirituality, and it consumed all my thoughts and time. I planned to become a missionary. At this point I was fanatical in a way that teenagers do best, and my parents wished that I would be slightly more temperate in my approach, although they never broached the subject with me at the time.

Politics was not something my parents discussed with me. We were children, and certain topics were not for our ears. However, my parents always taught us that all people are equal. There weren't many black children in my school when I was younger, only a handful. But one of the girls was a close friend of mine, and we would sleep-over at each other's houses etc.

On the day of the 1994 elections, I remember going along with my parents, who joined a very long queue on a green field. We waited for hours, and us kids just played all day in the sun. I didn't understand the significance of the day. Later on, in school, we learnt our new national anthem, and were shown our country's new flag. But beyond these things I do not remember anybody explaining to me what was happening in our country. Everything was a haze. It was only much later, when I did one year of a BA at university, and studied politics, that I understood what had happened in South Africa, and it was only after I had moved to Berlin, that I began to really wrestle with this history in a personal way.

This article was written by Dear Reader's Cherilyn MacNeil. Their latest album, Rivonia, is out now. Head to dearreadermusic.com for more information and their forthcoming tour dates.