Sitting on a hill of candlelight-beige pillows, her walls covered with political posters of the struggle in southern Africa, Mpho Tutu, the youngest child of Bishop Desmond Tutu, ponders the impact of her father winning the Nobel Peace Prize.
"The responsibility the prize brings is the responsibility we have always had," she says softly, swirling water in a drinking glass. "I feel excited by the attention it is bringing on the country and the struggle. That I feel very good about. I am delighted by the enthusiasm I sensed at home, that the people were really feeling a courage. Just the fact of my father getting the prize wouldn't do anything, unless it meant something to the people. If the people hadn't recognized it as their prize, then it would be just 'Tutu gets another award.' "
The People of the Prize: no outsider, no matter how sympathetic, can understand what it means to have lived in South Africa as one of 21 million blacks, 2.7 million Coloreds and 800,000 Indians ruled by 4.5 million whites. That is what her expression -- a long question mark on a narrow face framed by a pale violet scarf -- seems to say. How can a medal and the $192,000 Nobel award, headed for a scholarship fund, match that bravery? And how can one of the world's highest honors help hold back the anger aroused by the beatings, the raids, the legal segregation, the passbooks, the banishment?
Fear was all she felt for her homeland three weeks ago as she sat in Washington, where she studies engineering at Howard University. Now the award has given her a thimbleful of hope.
"South Africa has always been close to the edge as far as a violent conflict goes. But being a peace-loving people, we have struggled not to push it over the edge. The events in the past two months seemed to be pushing us much closer to that precipice. Watching the deaths of the children, the police backlash against the rioting, watching all that, I feel the tension in myself. I know that the country is very tense. I have felt a horror for what might happen.
"I don't know that the Nobel Prize is going to change that. I don't know that the Nobel Prize hasn't taken away the anger. But it has at least said, 'We recognize you have been struggling peacefully to bring about a peaceful change for so long.' That recognition says, 'We are with you, couldn't you try just a little bit longer.' I really hope for our people that we can try for that much longer that it will take to bring about peaceful change. We are very close to an ugly eruption of violence."
Besides the collective jubilation of her father's supporters, the prize has brought attention to his four children. Mpho Tutu is 20, small-boned, thin, radiant, intense and unreserved. Her hands move constantly, mahogany blades cutting through the air of an overheated apartment. Her voice crackles when she talks about nonpolitical subjects but fades to a whisper when she talks about the people and politics of home. She really should be studying for an electromagnetic theory examination. But the phone is ringing, as it has since the prize was announced Oct. 16.
She just returned from a joyous and exhausting four-day homecoming. At times she cried -- at the traditional ceremony when the ox was eaten to give thanks; when the Khotso (Peace) House Trio sang "How Long"; but especially at her father's church in the black township of Soweto, outside Johannesburg.
"Generally what happens at St. Augustine's . . . is people leave a couple of inches higher. Here they came in already 10 inches off the ground," she says, her voice still shrill with leftover excitement. She choked, she says, when her father said the prize was for the people. Then C.F. Beyers Naude, an Afrikaner (white South African) who was recently freed from a seven-year restriction order, spoke. "He hugged my father and he said, 'I just want to say that I hope that one day even my people will hear what it is you are saying.' His voice broke there. I started to cry. I was trying to hide the fact that I was crying, trying to be cool about it. And I turned around and there were tissues flying all over the place. Everybody else was crying as well."
But this celebration was just a respite. Since August, nearly 80 people have died in a series of bloody protests and riots. In Sharpeville, another black township, political frustration along with new rent increases and utility taxes led to a large part of the violence. A black deputy mayor was hacked to death by blacks on his veranda. In September the first legal strike by black gold miners was marked by seven deaths. Last month the government inaugurated a new constitution that gives separate parliamentary representation to the Colored and Indian minorities but not the black majority.
And, on her way home to celebrate, the proof that the people of the prize were not immune from further repression appeared again. The morning she returned, newspapers reported "the biggest crackdown on political dissent ever mounted in this country," when 7,000 police and soldiers raided black townships. "It just seems to get more and more a nightmare," she says.
The 53-year-old Nobel laureate and the general secretary of the South African Council of Churches is called "Daddy" by his daughter. He calls her "Popsie," a nickname for someone whose name means "gifted" and is pronounced like the tuba sound of hum-paw. And his essence, she says, is "joy, being able to laugh at some of the times I have seen him laugh."
When Bishop Tutu, who was born in a gold-mining town west of Johannesburg, was 25 he gave up a teaching career to be a minister. During his studies in London at King's College, Mpho was born. Her father's appointments and rise through the ranks of the Anglican church have given her 14 years outside South Africa.
But she knows what she calls "the monster," of apartheid. Its biggest evil, her father once said, was that "it makes children of God not to believe they are children of God."
The daughter says, "You don't realize you are kowtowing until you stand up straight. You make concessions and allow the government to do things to you without really realizing what is being done. You are spoon-fed with that garbage, the poison is in your breast milk. You are taught not to expect a place in the sun."
Her own spirit and self-confidence, she says, come from her family and her life. She has been exposed to world opinion about South Africa, and the theological and academic environments in South Africa and outside were generally integrated. She would play with white children on the school grounds but couldn't swim in the pool or play on the swings outside the campus. Her parents have been the main role models for her philosophy along with the people of the prize. Of her mother, Leah Tutu, who has organized domestic workers in South Africa, she says, "Watching her has given me a feeling of inner strength -- yes, I can handle it."
Though Mpho Tutu has lived outside South Africa often, she really never has left.
When she was in boarding school in Swaziland in 1976, the riots in Soweto erupted and left more than 600 dead. "Peter Magubane's son, Winnie Mandela's two daughters, myself and my sister all went to the same high school. When the riots started, the staff was saying , 'Oh, my goodness, what is going to happen?' The only ones who weren't worried were us. We were joyous. If this is where the change is coming, go ahead and do it. We have been waiting for this a long time. We were happy," she recalls. "It was movement, more than we had seen in a long time. It was an uprising. Maybe this was the time when black people would say we have finally had enough. Yes, it was ghastly that those children got killed but at the same time the feeling from all of us was: 'Just as long as they don't die in vain.' That sounds cold and it is not. It's, if they must die, don't let them die in vain, if they must die, they must die to push the struggle forward."
This is her father's daughter but not exactly his sentiment. He has said he would not pick up a gun, would never tell anyone to pick up a gun, but would pray for the man who did. "He would agree with 'if they must die,' but he would not think they should die in the first place," she says, and she parts with his enormous optimism that the solution to South Africa's race problems does not have to be violent.
"I pray it doesn't. If I didn't think there was a chance for peaceful change, there would be no point in my praying. So there is an inch left on the fuse."
As she looks back on her special childhood, she feels she may have missed building some coping mechanisms, but she has not escaped the brutality.
At a commemoration of the beginning of the Soweto uprisings in 1982, she attended a church service with members of her family. When she came outside, the police had surrounded the church.
"I am not sure which way it went first. Whether the tear gas was thrown first or the stones thrown first. The crowd had come out of the church singing and there was an air of defiance because of the presence of the police. Then the police started running toward the church yard. We ran inside the yard where my father's car was parked. We got inside the car but my sister and her husband went around the front. We opened the doors for them but people moved in the car. So it was about 15 people in the car," she recalls.
She looked out the windshield, bewildered at the scene. Her sister, her brother-in-law and the parish priest were outside being beaten. "There was nothing I could do. The police were beating with these leather whips, sjamboks. The police lunged into the priest, who grabbed the sjambok, and the police pulled out a gun. And when he gave it back, all four of them beat him. It was so ugly. I was just sitting there with my mouth open. I was feeling so angry and scared."
She believes that options for peaceful change are limited.
"We tried marching and that didn't work and we tried this and that didn't work. Maybe this way, this one last way. You always hope this time it will work, what we are saying will get through to you. Faith and the knowledge that the cause you are fighting for is just and whether or not you claim to believe in God, most people believe in a God or a higher force. Maybe part of it is saying, 'Look, God, I am trying.' That is part of it. Part of it is that we are astounding people, we are amazing people."