(Hermanus is a small sea-side town near Stanford in the Western Cape, South Africa)
(This week’s Photo Challenge Reward)
Tip for people who like my pictures: you might like follow the mentioned/linked WordPress blogs as well 😉
Last month I was ‘awarded’ two social media accounts (annual contracts) of restaurants in the village. This local acknowledgement felt for me as a reward. The profile picture of YUM Eat Cafe with owners and staff framed went viral (yesterday evening over 100 retweets plus quite a few shares on FB) and that on its own is also a reward. But look into the picture. It tells many things; one is that of the croissants. These are made from scratch by the two chefs and baked into perfection with modern kitchen technology (timing, temperatures and moisture/humidity in oven pre-programmed) and the reward is a perfect delicious tasteful croissant.
The second picture (shot yesterday) is of Stanford Harvest. Stanford Harvest is part of the Elandsvalley Farm just outside the village and their food is fresh from the land. This farm restaurant promotes itself also by attending markets in the region. But yesterday was unexpected. Every year there is this Bird Fair in the village that attracts bird lovers from around the globe. There are a wide variety of presentations and lectures and the organisation is usually perfect. This time however the organisation forgot seemingly that all the participants also have to eat. Vivienne McOnie (co-owner of Elandsvalley Farm/Stanford Harvest) discovered this omission and within no time kitchen staff was mobilised and within one hour the food stall was up and running. The reward: Hundreds of meals and plenty of fresh produce (including honey of the own bees) sold!!!
Within some months a Meadery will open its doors in our village Stanford, South Africa. That’s where one can drink the Drink of the Gods. Mead is known from ancient mythology but also authors as J.R.R. Tolkien describe the use of this millenniums old ‘beverage’. Nigel Borrington is an Irish photographer who like to add Irish poems to his blog postings. Scottish people are not always happy with that, so it seems, although they have to admit that the Irish can write poems. However the Irish spelling of the word ‘Whisky’ is subject to heated discussions as the quality of the drink the Irish call ‘Whiskey’ is also a hot item between the Scotch and the Irish. But maybe they can make it up with Mead. Since the owner of the new Meadery is of Scottish descent herewith a poem from the Scott Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894).
From the bonny bells of heather
They brewed a drink long-syne,
Was sweeter far than honey,
Was stronger far than wine.
They brewed it and they drank it,
And lay in a blessed swound
For days and days together
In their dwellings underground.
A fell man to his foes,
He smote the Picts in battle,
He hunted them like roes.
Over miles of the red mountain
He hunted as they fled,
And strewed the dwarfish bodies
Of the dying and the dead.
Summer came in the country,
Red was the heather bell;
But the manner of the brewing
Was none alive to tell.
In graves that were like children’s
On many a mountain head,
The Brewsters of the Heather
Lay numbered with the dead.
The king in the red moorland
Rode on a summer’s day;
And the bees hummed, and the curlews
Cried beside the way.
The king rode, and was angry,
Black was his brow and pale,
To rule in a land of heather
And lack the Heather Ale.
It fortuned that his vassals,
Riding free on the heath,
Came on a stone that was fallen
And vermin hid beneath.
Rudely plucked from their hiding,
Never a word they spoke:
A son and his aged father –
Last of the dwarfish folk.
The king sat high on his charger,
He looked on the little men;
And the dwarfish and swarthy couple
Looked at the king again.
Down by the shore he had them;
And there on the giddy brink –
“I will give you life, ye vermin,
For the secret of the drink.”
There stood the son and father
And they looked high and low;
The heather was red around them,
The sea rumbled below.
And up and spoke the father,
Shrill was his voice to hear:
“I have a word in private,
A word for the royal ear.
“Life is dear to the aged,
And honour a little thing;
I would gladly sell the secret,”
Quoth the Pict to the King.
His voice was small as a sparrow’s,
And shrill and wonderful clear:
“I would gladly sell my secret,
Only my son I fear.
“For life is a little matter,
And death is nought to the young;
And I dare not sell my honour
Under the eye of my son.
Take HIM, O king, and bind him,
And cast him far in the deep;
And it’s I will tell the secret
That I have sworn to keep.”
They took the son and bound him,
Neck and heels in a thong,
And a lad took him and swung him,
And flung him far and strong,
And the sea swallowed his body,
Like that of a child of ten; –
And there on the cliff stood the father,
Last of the dwarfish men.
“True was the word I told you:
Only my son I feared;
For I doubt the sapling courage
That goes without the beard.
But now in vain is the torture,
Fire shall never avail:
Here dies in my bosom
The secret of Heather Ale.”
A few days ago I published my first online book review for the blog of bookshop Hemingways of Hermanus (a literary ‘attraction’ in Hermanus, South Africa). You will see it below the photo gallery. The same review on the FB-page Read any good books lately experienced an overwhelming number of responses.
Although this blog is first and foremost dedicated to photography of the world around me (wherever I am) I now make an exception in writing about the personal background that made me write this review.
Many things have changed in South Africa, for the good and the bad. But changing the mindset of people ….. ? When we emigrated from The Netherlands to South Africa in April 2000 one of our new neighbours (German born) in the Klaas Voogds Valley near Robertson said to us: “I’ve been living here for 30 years now and nothing has changed”. This turned out to be an essential truth. On the surface of the society we experienced in the past 15 years that many houses have been build for the “previously disadvantaged” part of the society; tourist influx increased significantly and so on. Still there is segregation, with whites, coloured and black Living Apart Together in different urban areas; a kind of LAT-relation thus with the majority of white still needing cheap labour for gardening and other domestic work and coloured and black people still depending on some income. With many good exceptions within the farming community we also experienced and saw farmworkers pulled on a rope behind a ‘bakkie’ (pick-up truck); beaten up by their employers and paid in ‘dop’ (alcoholic drinks). These problems are not solved overnight and we are not here to change the world but for tourists to South Africa it would be good to be aware of this underlying unrest. We do not blame ‘apartheid’ or ‘Afrikaners’ for this; history proofs different (one should for example know that the British introduced segregation of cultures and races and during the Boer War over 40,000 people -black, coloured and white- died in British concentration camps); although ‘Apartheid’ was based on religious fanaticism of some powerful Afrikaners. What we stand for is mutual respect and equality and that is, looking back, not easy with the majority of people being humiliated for centuries. In Robertson (a wine producing area with, according to a social worker, 70% of the ‘thoroughbred’ Robertsonners of all walks of life born with a Phetal Alcohol Syndrome) it took us 2 years before the first staff member could look us straight in the eye and dared to take own initiative. I must add to this that after our move to Stanford we also discovered another more open minded South African approach between cultures. But still; Cape Town is a wonderful city but one with most of the population living in shacks …. and as everywhere in South Africa; these neighbourhoods are ignored by the ‘Happy Few’.
It’s a grim picture I sketch here but let’s face reality. It’s real but who sees it? Or wants to see it? This week the president held his annual State of the Nation. It was like a soap opera with almost one third of the parliament leaving (some forcefully removed by armed security) after disruption by one of the parties. Real democracy is far to seek in this country (even people who say they are democrats don’t know how to practice this) and yet, with all this turbulence, we love this country with its stunning vistas and many wonderful and colourful people; great story-tellers, poets, artisans and artists, etc..
I might sound idealistic but sometimes I wonder how people of different backgrounds can achieve a better mutual understanding. Oh … I can tell you what a learning curve one undergoes by living in a shack for some days without electricity and sanitation in the bushes plus one tap cold water for a few hundred people. And than all those privileged people (me included 😉 ) complaining about load shedding. For many (virtually all) ‘lucky’ people it would be an eye-opener to undergo the ‘shack experience’ in an informal settlement without much or no money in the pocket. I could be a good first step to a better mutual understanding within this fascinating multi-cultural country. And it’s far cheaper than meditating in a decorated and candle-lighted pig stable at a so called ‘retreat centre’ in McGregor … (really; some do believe in that.. 😀 ).
Why am I writing this? When I wrote the brief review of ‘The Long Journey of Poppie Nongena’ these thoughts crossed my mind.
First a few pictures of ‘township life’: (early morning teeth brushing at the communal tap; spaza shop, and overview informal settlement ‘Hopland’ in Stanford with Simba still brushing his teeth 😉 )
The Long Journey of Poppie Nongena
I guess that most people have never heard or even read, The Long Journey of Poppie Nongena of South African author Elsa Joubert. And yet ‘Poppie’ was voted one of the Top 100 Best Books of the 20th Century. The book was also awarded with the Winifred Holtby Prize by the British Royal Society of Literature.
What’s a special about this book? Or, even better; what is so special about the ‘Afrikaner’ South African author?
The first book of Joubert that came under my eyes was Isobelle’s Journey which is an unique account of the lives of an ordinary South African (Afrikaans) family against the backdrop of a century of national and international upheaval. Reading this book I noticed that Joubert does not only have the ability to creep into the skin of her characters but also let the readers experience the personages from deep within. What an achievement, I thought and truly enjoyed my first encounter with the work of Elsa Joubert. I read books of many known and lesser known South African writers such as Brink, Van Heerden, Niekerk and Leipold but never underwent such an engagement with the personages. I bet that Joubert must have been photographing with the same early 20th century cameras as Frikkie, one of the personages; just to get the feeling.
But than ‘Poppie’ (English translation from Afrikaans published in 1980 by Jonathan Ball Publishers; ISBN 0340 25047 x). It took Joubert several years after her first meeting with Poppie (fictional name). Poppie a ‘black’ IsiXhosa woman went to Joubert for help and advise after the Cape Town riots had broken into the heart of her family. From listening to Poppie and years of research and questioning, the novel slowly got shape.
The Long Journey of Poppie Nongena is a story of a family over three generations and of one woman’s struggle to keep it together during the turbulent years of separation and Apartheid.
Joubert keeps politics as much as possible outside this story but wrote a story celebrating the human capacity to survive a repressive system. For a writer with a deep Afrikaner background, grown up under ‘Afrikanerdom’ and Dutch Reformed Church dogmas, it is remarkable how Joubert’s ability to become one with her characters also involved people from other South African cultures that were regarded as ‘lesser humans’ and, by a minority of Afrikaners, still are. With ‘Poppie’ Joubert succeeded, during apartheid years, in writing a story about true humanity, about a woman with one foot in modern Western life and the other still deeply rooted in tribal cultures.
In our town there are many eateries, coffee shops and restaurants (even the only one in South Africa with a Michelin Star!!!) that we sometimes doubt if they can all survive. Lucky for these establishments there is a steady growing influx of visitors. And yes; another one recently opened its doors: Stanford Harvest; an eatery combined with a gallery of a resident artist. We wish this newcomer all the best.
For a true Stanford Harvest we just look from our verandah to the neighbour’s landmark tree every morning. See for yourself.