The Arts Not Always Recognised In The Way It Should Be Counts at Aardklop 2019

Aardklop 2019 made great inroads under difficult economic and social circumstances with women stealing the show on many of the stages writes DIANE DE BEER;

 

One of the problems that Afrikaans festivals battle with is inclusivity. It is less problematic in the Cape (Woordfees and Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees) because Afrikaans is a language spoken by different groups.

Less so in a place like Potchefstroom where English would be the spoken language common to most of the people. But that doesn’t mean trying to embrace the different communities should not be attempted.

You want a whole town to celebrate and share in the advantages of any arts festival. The arts have often been used as inspiration in this country – good times and bad – and can be used as a common language.

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Organsier and jewellery maker Seitebaleng Legoale with poet Tlholeho Lekena celebrating their award

This year inroads were made with an art tour (for the second year in succession) to the local township Ikageng. Catching a specially designated shuttle, the Maboneng Township Experience, is the start of an inspired journey.

Founding director Siphiwe Ngwenya who instigated these art tours in Alex, Langa and Joburg previously, was also instrumental in the Ikageng initiative now being run by Seitebaleng Constance Legoale who has started specifically in one designated street where sometimes it is the house of the artist, other times, art is exhibited in specific homes. She believes this is just the beginning.

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Poet Tlholeho Lekena in action.

With Carien Brits from the ATKV’s language department as part of the experience, she kickstarts the tour on the shuttle with a talk on language, that spoken most widely in Ikageng (Sesotho) and the culture those making the journey will experience in the township where we are greeted by a local poet Tlholeho Lekena. He does a great introductory poem titled Grey, promoting the absence of white and black while rather focussing on a combination of the two – in essence an absence of colour.

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An anguished rape lament

From the different kinds of art, photographs, live poetry and writing put up on the wall raging about rape to the colourful grandmothers who are often the backbone of their self-made families, it is yet another small step to change township into town with none of the often-self-imposed barriers.

They were rewarded with an Aardklop award for ground-breaking work and hopefully the venture will go from strength to strength.

On the stages, it was the time of especially three women: Sandra Prinsloo, Antoinette Kellermann and Cintaine Schutte. Naturally there was more, but festivals always produce something extraordinary that stands out for different reasons.

Here it was about performance in three very different productions, yet each one with its own challenges and each one very specific to the production.

Sandra Prinsloo
Sandra Prinsloo Picture: Eye Poetry Photography

Prinsloo stars as Susan Nell in Kamphoer (on at The Baxter in Cape Town until October 26) , a piece that on paper looks tough to transpose to stage. But with the phenomenal Prinsloo working for the first time with insightful director Lara Foot (the production is currently playing at The Baxter in Cape Town), they workshopped the text with scriptwriter Cecilia du Toit, and produced something powerful for especially this time.

It’s a story of violent abuse during a time of war, someone whose rape earned her the damning title of camp whore, a woman left for dead at the side of the road, and finally, after many detours and gentle helping hands from concerned strangers, a chance at retribution.

For Prinsloo and Foot, the X factor was bringing this extraordinary woman to life. It’s not just about what happened to her, but how she experienced her life, something she had no control over. It is the way Nell (Prinsloo) takes you through her life, removes her skin layer for layer as she is violated and tries to rebuild and find a way to regain a measure of what could become a life once again.

It is the way she shares her story, the fragility of what becomes her existence, reaching a hand to help others but never escaping the trauma of her past that has such emotional impact even when she has lost that part of herself – she believes, forever.

If anyone wonders about rape, the lasting effects and the different ways it impacts individual victims, Nell’s story unleashes the horror in a way that removes any questions as it takes you to the core of what this defenceless woman had to endure.

None of this would have come across without the unique text, the choice staging and direction and Prinsloo’s towering presence as Nell.

She gives a performance of such devastating delicacy that the aftershock is shattering.

Cintaine Schutte
Cintaine Schutte

In the translated Tien Duisend Ton (which I originally saw in English), and here directed by Nico Scheepers with Cintaine Schutte and Albert Pretorius, the two lovers trying to make sense of their lives, Schutte’s desire for a child with Pretorius slightly dubious, what really matters is the performances.

And while Pretorius does what needs to be done, it is a blossoming Schutte’s performance that has you holding your breath throughout.

It happens at breakneck speed, almost in manic monologue fashion with Schutte’s inflection, her body language, the speed with which she reacts and charges her performance with emotional heft, that has you gasping.

Keep up and don’t lose her as she races off at a speed that’s sometimes exhausting yet always exhilarating. It’s contemporary, young and dealing with issues that many – young and older – struggle with on a daily basis, if they’re blessed to have that kind of luxury which this couple obviously have.

Schutte has been someone to watch from the start but this past year has obviously been her time and perhaps a new confidence is starting to emerge and colour her performances. No longer the new kid on the block and with a series of roles in her repertoire, the range, which is expansive for someone so young, she seems to have a newfound fire which is mesmerising.

And there’s so much more to come.

Koningin Lear in storm
Antoinette Kellermann     Picture: Hans van der Veen

 

Then there’s also the grand dame of classical theatre Antoinette Kellermann as Elizabeth Lear in charge and in command of the luminous translation of Tom Lanoye’s Koningin Lear by Antjie Krog (on at The Baxter in Cape Town from November 7 to 16) . With the support of a tremendous, choice cast, she inhabits a woman whose power is waning on a business and personal level.

As the story goes, she decides to pass her wealth on to her heirs, but they have to declare undying love before the inheritance can be owned. And that’s when the fun begins.

It’s also the arc she is expected to play, the transformation from start to finish as she first emerges as the powerful matriarch at the top of her game. And yet, from the beginning, there are some unnerving hitches which Kellermann exposes with subtlety because of the crescendo she is aiming for at the end.

With this performance of extremes, she has the mammoth task of getting to grips with a text which drives all of her actions. But Kellerman, being the artist she is, takes on the challenge and triumphs magnificently.

Because of the ambition of the playwright, all the elements had to work together sweetly – and they do. That’s what makes this such a majestic experience.

And these are but a few of the elements and people that made the 2019 Aardklop swing – under difficult economic circumstances – proving once again that the arts do so much more than simply entertain – even as it pulls that off too.

The Fabulous Flavours of French Food are Celebrated by #SoChef! in SA

French flagFrench flag

French chefs and their cuisine will always catch the shine internationally. DIANE DE BEER explains the magic:

Vincent Lucas
Chef Vincent Lucas

Michelin-star chef Vincent Lucas is someone who expects diners at his Sainte-Sabine-Born (in Dordogne) restaurant to make a culinary leap and eat what he prepares on the night.

Chef-patron of Etinecelles (sparks), a restaurant that only seats 20 diners, he wants them to take a risk with his “adventures in the land of flavours”.

“That’s where I am King, and I decide for them.” Makes perfect sense to me because I have always thought when visiting a specific restaurant that one should defer to the chef. Especially when visiting Michelin-starred restaurants, it’s a time to experiment and play.

For Lucas it’s a case of challenging diners and not allowing them to become too comfortable. Currently in South Africa as part of So Chef! (A Taste of France in South Africa), this is your chance to meet four talented French chefs who will be travelling the country.

Showing off his skills at an informal lunch at the French Embassy in Pretoria courtesy of the relatively new French Ambassador to South Africa, Aurélien Lechevallier, Lucas talked a little about his food preferences. In South Africa, it starts with local produce.

In preparation for the lunch, he first talked to the resident chefs to find out what they had available. When he heard there was Cape lobster and fresh fish, he could start to play.

As a starter he used bouillon (one of his favourites) as an inspiration. “I love serving a bouillon, but it is very different to the traditional meat or fish-based varieties,” he explains.

Flavours and textures are a big part of his cooking and at home, he uses a wild apple in his garden which is too small to do anything else with. It’s about a fresh explosion and with this type of light, floral based bouillon it combined well with the lobster, onion, hazelnuts for flavour and crunch and mushrooms. Everything is very lightly cooked to keep the it all fresh.

This was followed by the mains; a fish I wasn’t familiar with, sourced from the Cape, called Denti. This was presented with deceptive simplicity with crisp greens including celery, peas and asparagus which was cooked in water used to prepare the fresh maize which pops up the in the dessert. All of this was lightly doused with a beurre blanc.

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Strawberries/Avocado lime green/unbaked meringue/almond crumble/Fennel flavoured fresh maize/Thyme

For many around the table, the highlight was the dessert combining contrasting ingredients such as strawberries in olive oil, lightly sauteéd fresh maize, sweet avo with lime and something he is very fond of, drops of raw meringue. Fresh sage added another texure and taste as we were told to eat the dessert with every ingredient on the plate on the spoon. It’s perhaps the one that most visibly captures his food philosophy which is creating an explosion of contrasting tastes. Sweet, sour and salty is something he’s very comfortable with.

Some of his other favourites include a peach studded with anchovies as an appetizer or a foie gras seared with coconut for dessert. He is also fond of rolling it in biltong powder for an extra meaty kick.

It was the perfect meal on a Friday afternoon and a thrill to get a taste of contemporary French cuisine. None of the stodginess of cuisine or chef that one might stereotypically expect in these circumstances and the ambassador cheekily suggested that the conversation was as charming as the cuisine and perhaps we should just linger at the table until dinner.

But the four chefs are much too busy for that. They are touring the country and Lesotho with So Chef! Offerings still available include eat-alongs which is an immersive food experience where the audience eat along with the participants in a chosen film. (October 16 in Cape Town; October 17 in Johannesburg); disco soupe which is a collective and open cooking session of scrapped or unsold vegetables and fruit to sensitise people to food waste but also to eat healthy and tasty food and to heighten the awareness of the fun of cooking together. (October 19 in Soweto , a brief that fits chef Lucas perfectly as he loves using everything – from the husk to the pulp): workshops to be held at schools through the partnership with the Department of Basic Education and their National Nutrition week; as well as for the general public more specifically at the Alliance Francaise network in South Africa and Lesotho; 4-handed gastronomic dinners to eat at partner restaurants to eat food that a French chef and the restaurant’s chef cook together. (October 18 in Durban at the Sugar Club Restaurant in Umhlanga);

The other three French chefs participating include Joey Atchama, one of the most promising chefs on Reunion islands having won this year’s Best Chef Reunion Island award. His focus is traditional cooking skills and mixing them with rigour and culinary techniques; Frédéric Jaunault who has cooked all over the world, has won the Meilleur Ouvrier de France in the “Fruitier Primeur” category, is French and European champion of sculpture art using fruit and vegetables. He now teaches at the Academy of Fruits and Vegetables and promotes France and its cuisine all over the world; Florion Py completes the quartet with a background of pastry and as head chef working in several 3-star Michelin restaurants. Currently he is teaching at his alma mater Lycée Hyancinthe Friant in the Jura wine-growing region. He is passionate about the history of gastronomy and eager to share his discoveries and his knowledge.

All of this is brought to the South African public and scholars by: The French Institute of South Africa (IFAS), The Alliance Francaise network in Southern Africa; Atout France; The Reunion Island Tourism Board; The Bourgogne-Comté Province; The Lycée Hyancinthe Friant and in partnership with the South African Department of Basic Education.

For general information on So Chef! contact mylene.loubiere@ifas.org.za; for more on specific events, thomas.vassort@ifas.org.za.

 

 

Nataniël Makes the Earth Move in When Giants Waltz – 12 Monumental Concerts

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The stars from When Giants Waltz

DIANE DE BEER

WHEN GIANTS WALTZ – 12 MONUMENTAL CONCERTS  

Artist/writer/composer: Nataniël 

Musicians: Charl du Plessis (keyboards), Juan Oosthuizen (guitar), Brendan Ross (keyboards, saxophone and vocals), Werner Spies (bass), Peter Auret (drums)

Vocals: Dihan Slabbert and Nicolaas Swart

Costumes: Floris Louw

Venue: Theatre of Marcellus, Emperors Palace

Dates: Until October 27; Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 3pm12 concerts only; 90 minutes long; no interval; no cellphones, sandals or shorts; no children under 15

 

No matter how little or how well you know this artist’s work, he surprises you.

How does he do it? I watched in wonderment and awe while experiencing the thrill of a performance that epitomises the excitement of live theatre – and it happens year after year.

It’s like a surprise party. Before the time he has much to say about what won’t be part of the concert, for example, the absence of a set, no more choreography, music that’s not accessible, no overarching story – he doesn’t speak much about what will be part of the show.

That’s Nataniël, someone who works imaginatively and creatively to catch his audience off guard, to always bring something new, not only with message as he moves with the times, but also with his evocative stage craft.

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Creative costumes are part of the storytelling.

Following a hiatus last year after more than a decade of annual shows at this theatre, he’s back with a vengeance in a way specifically structured to catch you unawares. The costumes are bigger and even grander in conception than before with many gigantic garments filling the giant-themed landscape.

They are heart stopping, from a different era, in royal fabric and often bright colours, with the result that many are clamouring for an exhibition of his stage couture. The finer detail is difficult to catch from an auditorium.

There’s a costume in front of a backdrop which mirrors the fabric, lamps drop from the sky and moonscapes create a lunar atmosphere, a brilliant blast of red with a sign dropping from the heavens with the word blue – in fact colour plays a huge part as his storytelling both tickles and tortures as he is wont to do. There’s always a sting in many of his tales.

Then the performance and the show, the substance and the visuals, the stories and the songs with musicians of stature who all contribute to the overall artistry, take over.

From the entrance with Nataniël tripping onto stage draped in creature couture which immediately puts you in an imaginary place, this genius storyteller takes you a-wandering in his world of merriment intertwined with melancholy.

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Nataniël in full flow

The language, the images he conjures up with his characters and the lives they lead, the way everything unfolds and the music which drifts between blues, jazz and a few pop classics – some original, others re-arranged – all come together sweetly.

Backed by three sassy vocalists or sometimes performing with only the sounds of a lone guitar as accompaniment, Nataniël has through the years found the music that works best for his voice and which accommodate and remark and elaborate on his stories. Sometimes he might google the saddest jazz song in the world (for example), which he then sings and when he can’t find anything for a particular story, he simply writes one.

He has never had a hit, he says only half-forlornly, but he shines when performing live, relaxed in his own skin, crooning with musos who know his style and get into the swing and rhythm (as well as a constant change of costumes for the band too) of his particular vibe. Everyone shines.

The show is presented in a series of montages, almost like paging through an album. The costumes and props do the visual fantasy and the stories fill in the details. These leave you giggling and gasping in turn as as he dips into the often hysterical lives of a woman who has arranged her life to accommodate the elephant in the room, another with blue ribbons whose knitting finds no conclusion and yet another whose names are constantly switched until she owns her identity.

He bookends the show with the history of giants and their place in the world and in conclusion, confronts those who feel larger than life with unchecked power, who believe they are mightier than the law and trample those they regard as lesser human beings and easy to destroy.

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Nataniël in song

In each tale, once the laughter dies down, and just before the next song, the sadness of all the hilarity at what is sometimes the horrors we all encounter in normal living, hits you full on. But, with perfect timing, just before you succumb, a stunning new costume, or a song fills the empty space and we move on.

This is an artist who has perfected his craft. None of the normal rules applies. He has used a director on occasion but not for the last decade. He writes all his own scripts, guides his designer in the costumes he hopes to see, plans the lighting which sometimes only show the costumes in full light as the last note rises and designs the stage and anything he needs to accomplish a mood for a story and a song.

It’s transcendent what he achieves and in-between, he tours the platteland with shows and speaking dates, does cooking shows and TV series, and has just published his first book that didn’t first play on stage – in both Afrikaans and English.

It’s his imagination – unchecked – that never lets him down as he draws a world with his visually rich stories (in both English and Afrikaans) while entertaining in a manner few can achieve year in and year out.

When giants waltz, Nataniël says, the earth moves, which may be true. He doesn’t have to rely on size or stature, he gets everything moving with his gigantic creativity and imagination.

That’s the artist he is and it’s joyous to experience this kind of quality.

 

 

 

Make a Move on the Wild Side with Ben Voss’s Benny Bushwacker: Human Nature

Pictures: Val Adamson.

Ben Voss is Benny Bushwhacker. Photo credit_Val Adamson - Photo 6
Preaching to the converted

 DIANE DE BEER 

            BENNY BUSHWACKER: Human Nature

Starring BEN VOSS
Written by John van de Ruit
Directed by Janice Honeyman

The Studio Theatre @ Montecasino until October 20

 For many there might be much counting against venturing out for a theatre experience titled Benny Bushwacker: Human Nature.

It might appeal to the nature crowd, but depending on the seriousness of your calling, this might just sound too silly rather than wacky which might appeal.

What does catch the attention are the names Ben Voss and John van de Ruit. These two stage chums first made their mark with a series of Mamba two-handers before Voss stepped into another persona with the solo shows Bend it Like Beauty and Beauty and the BEE.

Van de Ruit in the meantime hit the headlines with his series of popular Spud books. The two again team up for this latest incarnation with Voss starring as Benny Bushwacker, a man who is desperately passionate about the environment.

While he tries to impart a serious message (which he does), he is also desperately funny – and the specific use of desperately becomes clear when you hysterically hear his version of natural disasters, sound effects and meltdown included.

And it is the memory of Voss pushing the envelope and his excellence on stage that might pull you into this one – and you would be following the right instincts.

Ben Voss is Benny Bushwhacker. Photo credit_Val Adamson - Photo 2
Ben Voss is Benny Bushwhacker

He is an extraordinary performer and just watching him perform, his skills, his detail to attention, his bravado and determination to hold everyone in that intimate theatre close while telling Bushwacker’s story, is something to behold.

Not only is Bushwacker, a nature man with a mission, in full flight, he also calls on a series of commentators, including his frail yet feisty gran and his spud-deficient nature buddy with the soprano voice as a result, for example. The acting is a tour de force.

As director Honeyman says: “He’s a good actor, and a thinking actor.” That shows and adds to the weight of the wackiness. She also admires the “less didactic, preachy context” of the text, which is what Van de Ruit explores so brilliantly.

They make a good pair because they obviously understand each other, which is the true strength of their collaboration.

But in the end, it is Voss’s performance perfection that turns this into mindful entertainment, not that anything stands between you and the laughter which takes over as Benny gets on a roll.

In these harsh times when we’re overwhelmed by a world at war with itself and its people on many different levels, escapism is worth striving for. And laughter is the best way to do that with Voss a master puppeteer to get this particular show on the road.

He has all the attributes to pull it off – and he does.

While touring South Africa, Benny Bushwhacker is raising awareness and moola for the Lebombo Leopard – Human Conflict Survey which all becomes clear when seeing the show.

Mathews and Associates Activates Bridge Between Javett-UP’s Art and Architecture

Javett at night
Different angles of the Javett-UP

Today, October 7, is World Architecture Day. Tshwane’s latest art centre opened on Heritage Day. Featuring a clutch of galleries as well as offering a brand-new architectural feature on the edges of the University of Pretoria’s Hatfield and South campuses, DIANE DE BEER gets the lowdown from architect Pieter Mathews whose firm Mathews and Associates designed the Javett Art Centre (Javett-UP):

 

It’s been a long haul for Mathews and Associates with the first concept design penned in 2012, but finally the time has come for the magnificent building and the art to be revealed and to determine that their initial goal to create a space that will activate the connection between art and architecture has been achieved. Time will tell but everything seems to point in that direction.

For lead architect Pieter Mathews (helped by project architect Liam Purnell and assisted by project dedicated architects Carla Spies and Jannes Hattingh) the specific site (one of three options) was selected because of its proximity to the Boukunde Building and the Visual Arts Building which flank the Art Centre. “They should all be in conversation,” he says, which is what influenced certain aspects of the design and the materials used.

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The building seen through the Eduardo Villa artwork.

It also contributes to the easy nestling of what is an enormous group of structures into the established landscape.

Mathews describes the style as Neo Brutalism. “Brutalism is part of the architecture history of South Africa (and worldwide) and was especially popular in the 60s and early 70s. What it means is to use the material in an honest way. Concrete which has a soul of its own is simply cast and left like that. Aesthetics are determined by the building method and the way the materials are used in its most brutal form.”

American architect Louis Isadore Kahn, known as the world leader in brutalism, most famously captured the concept with the following quote: “Even a brick wants to be something.”

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In that spirit Mathews describes the abstract and brutal “mountain” of concrete (created by a local concrete shuttering firm) and representing the Mapungubwe Gallery – which is home to the world-famous Mapungubwe Gold Collection with the golden rhino – as honouring the honesty of the construction methods of brutalism with the natural elements of concrete coming alive as it will show signs of ageing throughout its life. Natural light casts patterns changing throughout the day. It’s the standout feature of the centre.

Perhaps one of brutalism’s strongest features is what captured his imagination specifically when designing the Javett-UP. “Buildings appear as if they have been there forever,” he explains, which is important in especially this university set-up.

Linked to the Mapungubwe Gallery by Museum Square (with a restaurant to the side and an outside exhibition space) are a selection of public galleries (nine in total, together with the two student galleries below Art Square). The public art galleries will display the best from the collections of the Javett Foundation (lead donor on the project) and the University of Pretoria, as well as various temporary exhibitions with arguably a more contemporary slant.

The Centre also includes a 117-seat auditorium, administrative offices, storage, art conservation and quarantine areas.

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Another view of Javett-UP

 

The Javett-UP was designed to embrace both the space and the surrounding buildings, and while it might achieve iconic status, it shouldn’t stand in isolation. He was also intent on linking the Art Centre with the campus from every possible angle which makes access easy from different vantage points. This was a Centre that had to function for both public and educational purposes.

The gallery space extends across Lynnwood Road via a bridge (Bridge Gallery) which brings together the Hatfield and South Campus. As another outstanding feature, the most visually accessible, it has been turned into an eye-catching attribute wrapped in lightweight concrete panels that reaches across the exterior and interior based on the much-loved “shweshwe” fabric. It displays different patterns and designs depending on the time of day as shadow and light come into play, turning it into a spectacular showcase when it is lit at night.

For the architect it seems as if a bank of fairy lights is sparkling in the middle of the road through this dashing design which symbolises strong, embracing South African connections across a wide spectrum.

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An outside view of the bridge

If you haven’t noticed the new building yet, it’s fast becoming a landmark as you travel up and down Lynnwood Road. The bridge spills out onto University Square with the student galleries positioned below and then extends into the historic Tukkie Laan linking the Art Centre with the main campus. The squares are specifically placed to gather people. “People attract people,” says Mathews with the one easily accessible to the public and the other gathering the students from the campus.

Mathews wanted a building with no bling or shine, something he has achieved with his design and building materials.

They had to find a method of linking the various elements like the bridge patterned panels, the faceted concrete shell structure of the Mapungubwe “mountain”, galvanised steel pergolas which again repeats the “shweshwe” design and all the other building elements. Colour was the most obvious solution. As the structure is dominated by the hue of  concrete – a natural light grey emerged as the leitmotif. When they wanted to separate various elements, they used charcoal as the shadow colour.

Mathews is the instigator of Cool Capitol, the world’s first uncurated, DIY guerrilla biennale that is a place for citizens of the Capital City to collectively contemplate and express their love for their city – and how to improve it. He and his Cool Capital team also hosted and designed the 2017 South African Pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

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An inside view.

 

He has declared himself an ambassador for the visual environment and it is this blend of art and architecture, part of his DNA, which made him and his team, the perfect match for the Javett Art Centre – UP.

Even though they had to survive many hills and valleys with the building of this monumental project, he declared from the start: “I am very confident in the collective brain at work here.”

Now we’re simply waiting for the art to come alive on this spectacular stage.

 

 

 

  • Go to https://javettup.art for more information. Open times are daily from 10am to 5pm and apart from the exquisite building also shows collections of  spectacular African art.

Journalist Tanya Farber Explores the Lives of SA’s Notorious Female Killers

Pictures: JEREMY DANIEL

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The statistics speak for themselves: 95 per cent of people who commit murder are male writes journalist/author Tanya Farber about her choice of subject for her book – Blood on her Hands – South Africa’s Most Notorious Female Killers (Jonathan Ball Publishers). DIANE DE BEER gets the lowdown on the book, why she wrote it and why it is so compelling:

It is precisely the percentage of female killers that  makes the stories of the murderers in Blood on her Hands – South Africa’s Most Notorious Female Killers unusual: they come from the small 5 per cent of killers who are female. And this is what intrigued author Tanya Farber – that and covering one of the court cases, which drew her in.

While that already makes them more interesting, especially when coupled with the fact that they are seldom impulsive acts of violence, it also intrigued her to delve into the plotting and planning that went into each murder.

“Dina Rodrigues is a case in point – she had several opportunities to rethink her decision to murder a baby, and yet she stuck to it like glue. Daisy de Melker’s serial killing took place over several years, so what was going on in that mind of hers? I find it fascinating that the wiring could be so wrong inside the human brain.”

As a journalist, her interest was sparked when she was tasked to write court stories. “I am actually a science reporter, but as newsrooms have shrunk, one often writes stories outside of one’s own beat. That said, I have been utterly spellbound by the trials that I have covered, and I am particularly interested in forensics. This, of course, includes forensic psychology: I am particularly interested in the mind of a deviant person, and how that plays out in the courtroom.

“I begin the Najwa Petersen chapter in the actual court room because her public facade in the courtroom, and her interior world, were so very different.”

With the writing, her goal was to imagine a ‘day in the life of this particular woman’. “In some cases, I began with the day of the murder, so we see, for example, Celiwe Mbokazi on the phone om the day of her husband’s murder and we get a sense that she is speaking to her accomplices, knowing full well that this murder might take place in front of the children.

“In other cases, I described a day that would give the reader insight into the murderer’s background. Like in the Phoenix Racing Cloud Theron chapter, it starts off with her as a toddler living in a caravan with her often-absent mother, so I tried to imagine the world through her little-girl eyes,” she explained.

And when it came to choosing the women she would write about, she firstly excluded any woman who one could feel was justified in committing murder.

“Ellen Pakkies, for example, killed her son who was a tik addict and was literally tormenting the family, so she has no place in this book.”

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She wanted to study women who in her opinion could not be absolved of their crime due to circumstances. “Even Charmaine Phillips – one can recognize the wretched and violent childhood she had but does that give her the right to take part in the cold-blooded murder of four men by shooting them at point blank range?” So, she made the cut.

And while she doesn’t think society is softer on women killers, they certainly illicit more interest than do their male counterparts. “As I discuss in the analytical chapter at the end, female killers in the past were often seen as being mad (as in seriously deranged and out of touch with reality) or else what would explain their deviance from being a nurturer?

“The point I make in the book, however, is that female killers can also just kill because they are murderous and bloody-minded just like any male killer who goes about plotting and planning someone else’s demise.”

Marlene Lehnberg, she argues, was just a teenager when she began plotting the murder of her boss’s wife because she was having a red-hot affair with him. “Her ultra conservative upbringing might explain how her brain was shaped, but then consider that there are thousands of others in our country who grew up in conservative households but didn’t go about killing people!”

The chapter dealing with Joey Haarhoof gave her nightmares – literally.

“Even more so than the Chane van Heerden chapter, even though she mutilated and decapitated her victim, and skinned his face.” Haarhoff had this impact for two reasons: Farber was not much older than the victims and remembers clearly the sheer terror of what was going on and the warning issued by her parents. She is also now a mother with two daughters who both fall within the age range of Joey’s victims and so, imagining the pain of the parents, is much more real for her now.

“In short: back then, I could relate to the victims. Now I can relate to the parents.”

It’s fascinating stuff and reading it, because of the way the topic has been approached has you turning the pages – even when in some instances you believe you know the stories. It is the psychological angle, the way this hard-nosed journalist tackles her subjects and then the softer approach, an almost a gentle voice, telling the story, which makes it so insightful.

It’s also telling which of the stories got greater play in the newspapers and media while some, perhaps just in my case, slipped completely under the radar. Even though each one is a story of horror, Van Heerden, Mbokazi and Theron were unknown to me. Why?

That’s probably also part of the greater story. And as a newspaper journalist at the Sunday Times, Farber has special insight into a world of stories that catch the attention and play out in specific ways. And she makes a strong case in a world of fake news and populism.

“Despite all the ‘noise’ of social media, and the power of citizen journalism, it is still crucial to have reliable reporters who can deliver the facts. My approach always with court reporting is to blend the facts of the case with observations in the court room – the silent power of body language, the fascinating way in which the English language is used and abused to paint a picture depending on which side you’re coming from … all of that.

“The media, be it newspapers or reliable digital sites, still have a crucial role to play in conveying this to a readership.”

In conclusion, for those considering telling their own stories or perhaps venturing into the world of  writing, she issues a warning and sound advice: “Writing a book is HARD work and if anyone is considering doing it, make sure it is a topic that absolutely draws you in as a writer or else you will find yourself hating the process.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Filmmaker Adam Heyns tells a Personal Story in Short Film; Exorcist of Apartheid

adam's posterWhat does a young man do when he loses his grandfather at the age of five and more than two decades later, still doesn’t know who this man, who has one of the main arteries in the capital city named after him, was. DIANE DE BEER speaks to filmmaker Adam Heyns about the short film tribute to his grandfather, moderator of the Dutch Reformed Church, Dr Johan Heyns:

 

Adam Heyns was five years old and living in Germany with his parents when they heard about his grandfather’s assassination. “I can’t remember much,” he says, but he does recall a sombre atmosphere in the car (they were on a road trip for the weekend) because his father Prof Christof Heyns, had heard about his father’s death on German radio.

The young filmmaker remembers a friendly black man at his aunt’s home when they returned home for the funeral, called Nelson Mandela. He also remembers realising, as he stood at the grave, the permanence of death. “I understood that I would never see him again.”

Adam Heyns at his grandfather's grave
Adam Heyns at his grandfather’s grave.

When he started with filmmaking it was a desire to tackle something more authentic than fiction and adverts, which started him enquiring about his family history. “I knew my grandfather was a well-known man, but I didn’t know much else about him,” he explains.

When his grandmother (one of the producers on the doccie) gave him a box of VHS cassettes, it was like meeting him for the first time. Here was someone who could take a moral point of view during very troubled times in our country’s history, he learnt. “Today I battle to establish a moral compass for myself and I often think he could have advised me. Fortunately, I got to know him better with the making of the film.”

Once you watch the doccie, you’re struck by the approach, the brevity as well as the story that emerges – a homage from a young man to his grandfather as he, together with us, gets to know what must have been a remarkable man in a difficult time and place.

“At one stage I almost stopped with production because there were so many directions and options. It just felt overwhelming,” says Heyns Jr. A speech his grandfather made on December 16 1988 at the Voortrekker Monument on what was then known as Geloftedag (Day of the Covenance – a holy day for Afrikaners) became the backbone of the film.

Adam's grandfather Dr Johan Heyns
Adam’s grandfather Dr Johan Heyns

On the day, his sermon from the Book of Amos deals with God’s harsh words to the Israelites about their immoral lifestyle. He compares this with that of the Afrikaners in the late ‘80s. “I was struck by his use of the Bible to encourage Afrikaners to rethink their mythology,” says his grandson.

But he was still worried about the edit until a filmmaker friend, Willem van den Heever, had a look and brought a new perspective.

Adam's opening and concluding clip

It starts with Adam walking into a room and putting a VHS cassette into a TV – and then watching with his audience his personal take on his grandfather’s life – yet another of those remarkable South African stories.

This was a man, the leader/moderator at that time of the main Afrikaans church, the Dutch Reformed Church, who had a complete change of heart about the political system in his country established by his people. He understood as he grappled with what he was experiencing that what would have to be reconciled were white fear and black aspiration. A wise man then , he would have had the same impact today, which is why this is such an important moment in time.

Titled Dr. John Heyns: Exorcist of Apartheid, the poster tagline reads: A young white filmmaker in South Africa asks what his grandfather did during apartheid. His grandmother gives him a box of family videos.

It is beautifully crafted weaving between family reels with the grandfather and his grandchildren at play, the momentous sermon at the Voortrekker Monument, television interviews with Dr Heyns about his beliefs and his change of heart and that fatal day and his assassination in front of some of his grandchildren and his wife as well as the shockwaves experienced in the country in the face of the brutality of this dastardly deed.

Adam Heyns on setSharing his grandfather’s names, and honouring the man he has discovered in the making of this very personal film, Heyns Jr used his full names in the final credit as homage: Johan Adam Heyns (JR) (left).

It will be screened on October 6 at The Bioscope Independent Cinema in Maboneng starting at 12.30pm.

It is part of the Jozi Film Festival which began in 2012 and was initially created to provide a platform for local filmmakers and reach audiences under serviced by traditional cinemas. The festival began accepting entries from around the world in 2014 and is now firmly established as one of the sub-continent’s leading film festivals. They are proudly independent, and a supporter of independent films. They also support and showcase both upcoming talent and veteran filmmakers.

For more info check https://www.jozifilmfestival.com/schedule.html for the festival which runs from October 3 to 6 in Jozi.

Nataniël, Master Storyteller of his Life, in Look At  Me: Recollections of a Childhood

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”
― Cicero

 

DIANE DE BEER

When starting to write what was going to become a memoir, Nataniël first googled the meaning of the word and liked what appeared.

A memoir, he gleaned, is a book based on what you remember and what you feel. He doesn’t have ANY memories from before he was five – and that had me thinking too.

So memoir it would be, rather than an autobiography. For him it is all about making sense of his young world. “I didn’t write this book because of a need to share my life or about being famous,” he notes. “It’s about how I tried to figure out my life.”

That’s how it started…

“It’s a story of a young boy’s absolute fear of the ordinary,” he elaborates. “I needed to discover how it worked – families, friends, schools, towns, countries … everything.”

To him it felt as if everything was already in place when he arrived on this planet and only now, after a lifetime of research, does he feel more equipped … to live.

“The ‘70s was one of the worst times to land on the planet,” he concedes. To him it seemed as if the world was trending with bad fashion and zealotry.

“For those who know me, it will read like a memoir and for those who don’t, I hope it will be an incredible story.”

That’s also the reason the book will be published simultaneously in both Afrikaans and English. “It’s aimed at those readers who understand how big the inner life of a child is. It’s much bigger than the universe,” he notes. And that was really what fast-tracked him to tell this story.

It was the first time he was putting pen to paper not to be funny. Most of his other books were first written as sketches for the stage, which inevitably had to be funny. “It’s freeing,” he says of his memoir-writing experience. And nice to be old enough not to be intimidated by the whole gig, the process.

Nataniël has been writing all his life. From his stage scripts to magazine columns, which arguably should have made this another caper. But that’s not how this works, most authors will tell you. Even Nataniël, a man for whom creativity seems to come easily, found it hard going. Next time, he says, he will escape somewhere just to write, not try to do it in-between the rest of his life.

But he doesn’t feel he is asking for any literary feedback or judgement. The only thing he didn’t stick to are the real names in all instances. “I changed some,” he says and according to his explanation, he changed the names of people he didn’t want to glorify. “I have always been very specific with selecting names when writing anyway,” he says.

That’s true. Think of his shows. There’s Sabella, Romany Dippenaar, Mr Fazakas, Hildatjie … go to any  of his stage stories, open any page.

Once you start reading this one, you will realise that in his young life, he gave titles to everything – from streets to houses to trees and more. “The show has always been in my head,” he notes. People who knew him as a child will get that. “The book is about me functioning in the world.”

And if one goes by his shows, which have been thinly disguised life stories, his was never an easy fit. Ordinary is how he would describe it, while others might point to his non-conformity which has always been a problem, even in today’s world.

Please just don’t stick out was his solitary desire. “Ordinary,” underlines Nataniël, is what he was looking for. Creativity has always been second nature to him which immediately obliterated his longing to disappear in the crowd – at that young age.

This is not about him and his neighbours though, he says. It’s not about his life, it’s about how he navigated that life.

nataniel-.jpgTalking about the Afrikaans and English version, he wrote the Afrikaans and his translator, Iolandi Pool, did the English version. But, says Nataniël, it is not strictly speaking a translation. “She understood how I would have written it in English,” is how he best explains it.

“English is much more poetic and musical,” he explains. “Afrikaans is staccato and rhythmic.” If he had written the English version, it would have resulted in a very distant cousin of Jane Austen, is how he tells it. But he needed someone who got his distinct voice. They needed to capture that – and Pool certainly did that.

Reading it first in Nataniël’s own words and then the translation, the differences are fascinating. It’s exactly the same story but to get the voice strong enough in both versions took some vision – and the two worked very closely together with much toing and froing between them. The English almost has an old-fashioned feel, comes from this country but without moving into strictly speaking South Africanisms, which would have been the easier option. There’s a certain elegance in the telling.

“I live in Afrikaans and I read in English,” he says. “My Afrikaans is vocal and my English is written.” The challenge for him and Pool was not to become Herman Charles Bosman. For example, rather than use stoep they used porch. But writing in both languages was important.

“I wanted this to be a universal story and I wanted something of my own to give to foreign friends.”

“Those who want insight will get that, for others it will be entertaining and intriguing,” he believes. “It’s about someone who refuses to follow any rules.”

It’s memories of a childhood more than anything else, which he describes as “50% horror and 50 % complete fantasy amongst his paper dolls and rugby balls. It is the best shape on which to practise make-up,” he vows. “It’s the same shape as my face!”

“My childhood was the perfect storm of fear and fearlessness,” with the horror beginning as soon as  he stepped into the world. Back home he could create his own fantasy world. “I couldn’t understand what was wrong with the rest of the world. How could or should we obey, if it wasn’t deserved?

What I really loved about the book was that, like anything Nataniël does, he isn’t following a recipe. He tells his story as only he would. Through the years I have watched many talented artists trying to copy his successful “recipe”. You can’t. It’s about his identity, who he is, how he operates in the world and how he likes to show and tell. All of that is quite unique and what gives him his cachet in whatever he wants to do.

And it could almost be anything, because he has such a determined and decisive attitude about who he is, what he wants and what he won’t do.

That’s the right time to write your memoir and to share your life with the world. And thank goodness it could be done in English too so that his magical stories could spread wider than an Afrikaans only audience.

His wisdom is witty and wacky and takes you into a world that is weird and wonderful. I have watched him on stage for almost his whole career and was still surprised by how he chose to tell us about his young life.

I should know by now that Nataniël always does it his unique way – and his success relies on that individuality.

As with his stage stories, it is his voice and language that captures your heart, that makes you listen and laugh and perhaps in what was the saddest moment in the book, have you screaming in laughter and pain.

If you understand the language, read it in Afrikaans. Yet, for English readers, the experience will be as rich and intense as they follow one young boy’s determination to find his way. I loved having the choice of reading both.

Look At  Me – recollections of a childhood/Kyk Na My – herhinneringe aan ‘n kindertyd (Human&Rousseau) should be read widely as we pay attention to the world as seen through the eyes of a child.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Japan’s Visionary And Versatile Food

 

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Bento boxes at train stations for long journeys

Pictures: Diane de Beer and Kanae Omote

On two recent trips to Japan, the first a holiday, followed by work, DIANE DE BEER experienced the visionary and versatile food of Japan and hopes any South Africans visiting during the 2019 Rugby World this month, next year’s Olympics or simply holiday, will be intrigued and inspired:

When the Japanese take you out to lunch, it is stepping up your cuisine kudos and when it’s dinner, it moves up yet another notch.

A furniture representative from the Philippines, Nicolaas de Lange from Designs Ligna who was visiting on a training exercise to acquire furniture from Asahikawa’s Conde House, questioned the uniqueness of Japanese craftmanship in comparison with the rest of the world and determined that it was their search for perfection that was so impressive. “They don’t do anything without reason, a sense of purpose,” he said.

In his latest gardening series on Japan, garden guru Monty Don has similar sentiments: “The Japanese have a unique culture. I’m struck by how deliberate everything is. Nothing is done by accident and everything has relevant points that you have to know about to fully appreciate. The meticulous attention to detail is as evident in their gardens as their sushi.”

“True,” said Japanese-born South African television presenter and entrepreneur Lalla Hirayama, when talking about food. “Nothing is done without purpose,” she explains as she points to the finely shredded daikon served with the sashimi. “It works against any bacteria that might be present in raw fish.”

That of course is also true in the presentation often linked to colour and precision. Everything is delicate and detailed never detracting from the textures or the flavours. Visually the presentation is as detailed as the preparation.

And like with so many Asian cuisines, the diversity is extraordinary. Whether you are going for everyday meals or something smarter, the approach is similar.

On my most recent press trip to explore Hokkaido, three meals specifically impressed and were very different to what we had enjoyed and savoured while on an earlier holiday.

The first two were restaurants in Asahikawa. Tenkin was our lunch option and the meal was dominated by raw fish and a hotpot with a steaming broth and rice on the side. Shabu-shabu (as hotpot dining is known) is a traditional Japanese way of eating and most often they have thin slices of raw beef which is dipped in a sesame-paste or soy-sauce with citrus. Tenkin’s hotpot however is uni-shabu, which is the more unique sea urchin shabu which is rare and thus more expensive.

We were also told, once we were finished with the raw fish, dipping it into the hotpot, we should take the leftover rice and add it to the broth. This was apparently a specialty of the restaurant. It’s comfort food deluxe because it tastes like the best chowder ever. With Japanese rice always of such superb quality, one could just wallow in the deliciousness when combined with the sea-urchin broth.

But so was the rest of the meal. Because the sashimi was simply dipped – once, twice and a third time – to give it a hot edge and because of the freshness and quality, it was melt-in-the-mouth.

Thu dinner
A fine dining extravaganza

The dinner at Koizushi’s was described as a traditional tasting menu. Some dishes, it was explained, were western in style, to make it easier for guests but naturally, it was the Japanese cuisine that we all found most intriguing.

The appetizer included a cigar kelp roll, a pretty yet peculiar persimmon and butter square and some edible salted sea cabbage; followed by a crab and tofu combo; sashimi comprising the best sweet shrimp, salmon, scallop and tuna; tasty grilled red rockfish; roast duck with orange sauce which I suspect is what they thought would please the visitors, but beautifully prepared; tempura (shrimp, Japonica and shishito green pepper) which is in a different class with the batter light as air; soba (buckwheat) noodles with  herring; and finally sushi with medium fatty tuna, yellowtail and salmon roe.

Japanese food at this level is incredible because of the freshness and quality of the fish and the overall superiority of the produce. Hokkaido produces much of its own food, market themselves as a food island and it shows. The meal was overwhelming in quantity and quality and a fabulous treat.

Seafood delicious
Seafood delicious

The following day we were off on another food adventure in the coastal town Otaru at the Canal Restaurant. They view this as quite a Western-type meal and when a group of Japanese girlfriends go out for a celebratory meal, they will often pick one of these companionable BBQ restaurants.

The picture perhaps tells the story best. When we arrived at the communal-type tables, there were trays packed with fresh fish next to what looked something like a hotplate on which the seafood could be cooked. Plenty of cooked sweet snow crab legs were also invitingly displayed with scissors handy for you to get going immediately.

As if that wasn’t enough, many food stations were included in the large dining space and here you could help yourself to anything from noodles in all shapes and sizes, salad ingredients, vegetables like the moreish edamame beans and meat including lamb which is very popular in a Hokkaido barbeque. It is referred to as Genghis Kahn and as the story goes, it is because of a belief that Mongolian people often eat lamb/mutton.

thu lunch
A fish, crustacean and meat bonanza Picture: Kanae Omote

How anyone could turn away from the spectacular seafood available and done to order as you are in charge, is a mystery, the rest could simply be ignored. Usually though you will have to choose between either the seafood or the Mongolian BBQ. We had a choice of both.

All these meals mentioned above fall in a price range from R400 to a R1000 and most of these were special menus designed for the group. Setting out on your own cuisine adventure, can be a much cheaper and no less delicious affair as we did on our earlier visit.

We wanted to eat with the Japanese people and that’s not a tough ask because of their many different meal options; from ramen, the popular broth and noodle dish which has many different variations including a rich, burnt version, to okonomiyaki, the savoury pancakes cooked on a flat grill and described as a meal of left-overs as vegetables make up the bulk of the batter. All together it is then cooked to your taste at the table.

Dumplings very similar to what we get here, known as gyoza, are most often filled with ground meat and veg. It is wrapped in a thin dough and ingredients most commonly consist of ground pork, chives, green onion, cabbage, ginger and garlic with soya and sesame oil. But again, there are many different variations as chefs and diners experiment.

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Yakitori, a selection of mini skewers

Feel like some meat? Yakitori is a good choice as these mini skewers which in earlier days would have been made exclusively from chicken, now include pork, beef and fish and then dipped in a teriyaki sauce. It is viewed as fast food and most often served with beer or sake and in a bar-type setup.

Similarly, tempura, something the rest of the world is familiar with, is a fast-fried snack, but in Japan, the batter is something else. The popular ingredients are seafood or vegetables served with soy and ginger sauce.

Yummy!

You can’t visit Japan without eating sushi and sashimi often, as they are the undisputed masters. It’s the quality of the fish, the availability of tuna and yellowtail for example, but also the precision and the presentation of their sushi. All masterfully made by specialists in front of your eyes. Nothing like Japanese theatre!

And if sushi ain’t your thing, try Japan’s most popular snack, onigiri, more familiar to us as rice balls. “Sushi isn’t my favourite, but I can easily live on rice balls,” was a familiar refrain from one of our party.

The perfect Japanese snack, onigiri or rice balls
The perfect Japanese snack, onigiri or rice balls

Sushi aside, the thing with rice balls is that it is cheap, easily available at every convenience store or at every station, and painless to eat. It can be seen as the poor man’s sushi as it uses similar ingredients: the filling is chicken, vegetables, fish or pork, and then wrapped in seaweed with a few other flavours tossed in. It’s easy to get hold of, freshly made each day, and like everything in Japan, the quality is excellent, while you hardly notice the price.

Most of these meals would cost you little more than R100 a shot and the rice ball less than R20 each.

You will always bump into the latest trend when traveling. The first time it was matcha (green tea) and we discovered these in Kit Kats, ice cream, both commercial and artisanal, as well as the best of all, one of those old-fashioned ice lollies.

As all new things in Japan, hotter than hot, were commercial packet chips combined with chocolate and while that might not sound appealing, think of the combo of salted caramel for example. Another sweet deluxe item is mochi, made of a short grain japonica glutinous rice.

With all this cuisine swirling around, we have hardly scratched the surface, and that’s the real adventure.

If you want to do some browsing:

Tenkin: https://www.tenkin.info/

Otaru Canal Restaurant: http://www.comsen.jp/otaru/otaru_menu.html

*Following an earlier holiday in that country last October, Diane de Beer was the guest of  JETRO, (the Japan External Trade Organization, a non-profit parastatal under the Ministry of Economy, Trade & Industry of Japan), for a brief spell at the beginning of February to their northernmost main island Hokkaido.

A shorter version of this story was first published in the Sunday Times Lifestyle (food section) on September 15.

https://bit.ly/2mdKGoc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Artists Lara Foot and Sandra Prinsloo Create the Perfect Storm for Kamphoer

Sandra Prinsloo
Sandra Prinsloo as Susan Nell in Kamphoer Pictures: Eye Poetry Photography

 

Sandra Prinsloo has established herself as the queen of solo shows. She knows how to pick them and with whom to collaborate. She tells DIANE DE BEER about her latest venture, Kamphoer – die verhaal van Susan Nell, with Lara Foot, CEO/artistic director of The Baxter, as director:

 

It’s the coming together of two talented artists who haven’t worked together before that can create fireworks on stage.

That’s exactly what has happened with leading actress Sandra Prinsloo and dynamic director Lara Foot. When they bumped into one another and Prinsloo said that Kamphoer was her next project, Foot acknowledged interest – and they made it happen.

That was probably the only simple element in their coming together. They were handed the initial script by their producers and with scriptwriter Cecilia du Toit in tow, they knew they still had a long way to go.

Kamphoer – die verhaal van Susan Nell (based on the best-selling and debut novel Kamphoer by Francois Smit and the non-fiction publication The Boer Whore by Nico Moolman and produced by Theatrerocket Productions) is the amazing true story set against the backdrop of the Anglo Boer War. A prisoner in the Winburg Concentration Camp, Nell is brutally raped by two British soldiers and a joiner and left for dead. She is confronted by one of her rapists many decades later when she tends war victims in a British hospital – where she starts reliving the old trauma.

“It was a process,” says Prinsloo, but as Foot is also a writer, it was also a huge but fascinating learning curve for Prinsloo. Because of the way the books are written, the main character, the one Prinsloo portrays, doesn’t emerge strongly.

What she does is more prominent than who she is. But the breadth of her experiences also presented them with many obstacles. “She manages to go through so much in a relatively short period of time,” explains the actress.

But being the experienced theatre makers they are, they found the solutions and from all accounts and early reviews, there’s a brilliant buzz about this one. There’s already talk of an English translation and travel to the Edinburgh Festival which both director and actress have experienced before.

Once they got talking, the women knew they had to discover who this woman was and how to present her. Who was she talking to? And what part of her journey do they cover and which parts do they leave out?

Foot made a construction graph, signposting the different features important in a text – to begin with. “It was very technical but taught me a great deal,” notes Prinsloo.

The presentation they decided should almost play in a kind of Truth and Reconciliation format. It also starts with the words, “Ek is Susan Nell…”(I am Susan Nell…)

But there were many dilemmas, such as the eventual confrontation between Nell and one of her rapists and the solution, a brainwave by Foot, is the perfect one.

Sandra Prinsloo1

This is a dramatic and traumatic story of one woman’s life and in present times, particularly relevant as the more things change, the more they stay the same. The dignity she fought for in her own life is exactly what so many women are still fighting for. Few will not identify with some of her life and that is the truly sad thing.

When she finds herself in the same room as her rapist, as a therapist she has sworn a medical oath to save lives – even if the only thing she wants to do is to kill this man who had so damaged her life.

What Prinsloo loves about the piece is how they are telling the story. “I play the character at different ages, but there are no huge shifts, even when I switch into different characters,” she says. It flows seamlessly.

She also embraces the staging, adores the set and has lost her heart to the music and the fact that composer Simon Kohler attended rehearsals and did quite a measured yet magical soundtrack to what was being said on stage. That can only benefit the final result.

Prinsloo has become a master of the solo show and while she enjoys huge ensemble casts and does many of those too, this journey has been a joyous if tough one. She loved the encouragement from her director, the choices Foot made, the consultation – in fact the full process.

Kamphoer is an epic tale but Foot managed the timelines and flew across continents and back to honour the Susan Nell story. “It was amazing to rehearse in a theatre space and to have everything we needed on hand,” says an actress who has gone through many phases of the South African theatre landscape. The last few decades have often been rough on individual players with very little support from outside.

Prinsloo is one of the lucky ones. From her early days she has been a force in the profession which she has served magnificently – and still does. She is one of the few names who still draw full auditoriums and once word is out, there’s no stopping her.

She works hard as she flies between provinces to play in different solo productions. A few weekends back she played what she believes might be the last performances of Moedertaal (her last solo outing) and she feels blessed (if slightly perplexed) that she only has Kamphoer at Aardklop. As an aside she mentions that she has also directed Hannes van Wyk in Sê Groete Vir Ma.

She will soon be seen in a new movie Racheltjie de Beer and there’s more on the horizon. She feels rejuvenated by the young guns like Christiaan Olwagen and Nico Scheepers who have opened new vistas on stage and screen but with advance notice about this latest solo season being so favourable, it will probably keep her touring for quite a few years and if an English season is added – longer.

For Prinsloo the positives are accumulating. She is excited not only about the performance but also about the timing.  It’s the right time for women to tell stories about strong women who overcome extreme adversity. “Healing can only start if you touch the scar,” she says referring to the play – but also valid in a much wider context.

So much time has passed, so many battles fought and still the issues for women remain the same. It’s time those with the voices start raising them – loudly. And if you can do it with Prinsloo’s power, it really counts.

 

Kamphoer – die verhaal van Susan Nell is at Aardklop in Potchefstroom from September 24 tot 27; and at Cape Town’s Baxter Theatre from October 9 to 26.