HANSARD IS A GLORIOUS SALUTE TO LIVE THEATRE WITH FIONA RAMSAY AND GRAHAM HOPKINS IN SPECTACULAR FORM

Hansard with Graham Hopkins and Fiona Ramsay as Robin and Diana Hesketh.

Theatre on the Square, Sandton is presenting a joyous celebration of brilliant theatre with two of our star actors. DIANE DE BEER reviews:

HANSARD BY SIMON WOODS

PRESENTED BY TROUPE THEATRE COMPANY IN ASSOCIATION WITH DAPHNE KUHN

VENUE: THEATRE ON THE SQUARE, SANDTON

CAST; FIONA RAMSAY AND GRAHAM HOPKINS

DIRECTOR: ROBERT WHITEHEAD

DATES: UNTIL AUGUST 28 with two matinee shows added to the evening shows
on the 21st and 28th August at 3pm

PICTURES: Philip Kuhn

What a thrill to witness powerhouse acting duo Fiona Ramsay and Gerald Hopkins on stage again  ̶ . together.

From the moment they step on stage, you’re immediately in their cottage in the Cotswolds in the English countryside with a carefully manicured lawn destroyed by English perhaps French foxes just beyond our gaze.

Not exactly completing each others thoughts…

It’s huge fun as the script draws you immediately into the action and you’d better have your wits about you if you want to catch all the references. We might be in the middle of Margaret Thatcher madness, but you’re never without the backdrop of not only British politics as we’re experiencing it now, but also the American disaster unfolding on the other side of the pond.

The text is the first play by Simon Woods, who started as an actor but became disillusioned and turned to writing. It was his own same-sex marriage and the arrival of two children that had him meditating on the state of the world he is sending them into.

He hangs Hansard, as the title suggests, on legislation  – very specifically Section 28 of 1988, the local government act that prohibited the teaching “in any mainland school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.”

Now, where have we heard that before? Do I hear Florida, 2022? The play might be set in the restrictive Margaret Thatcher era and the act might have been scrapped in 2003 after much protesting, but to name just a few, think Ron DeSantis and his “Don’t Say Gay” laws aimed at Florida schools and Clarence Thomas’s ramblings following the scrapping of Roe vs Wade about same-sex marriage and contraception that should be reviewed by the US Supreme Court.

The Hesketh couple in all sincerity

But let the fun begin, as this married couple is the perfect combo: Robin Hesketh is a proudly right-wing Tory politician with abominable attitudes on identity politics while his left-wing wife Diana is enthusiastically critical of Tory politics (especially out of touch white male dominated rules) and extremely unhappy with the governing party’s shameful performance in most areas.

It is an explosive torrent of toxic yet hysterically hilarious verbiage that flies between them. It is immediately clear that this is their battleground and has been in the making for decades. It is reminiscent of the sparring in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, now celebrating its 60th anniversary, but here we’re dealing in the politics of morals and mores, which is very much what dominates the rapidly changing political scenario we are experiencing in Britain and the US today.

It’s delicious from every angle  ̶  the pithy and speed-driven script, Whitehead’s concise direction and the glorious acting gymnastics delivered with artistic aplomb by these two theatre aristocrats. With all three having grown up in the theatre together, there’s an understanding between them that serves the play magnificently.

Hansard with Robin and Diane Hesketh, proof that opposites attract.

With all of us deprived of live theatre for so long, seeing these two revelling in the text, the characters and the way they can play off one another, was just delightful. They know when to turn up the volume, to glance meaningfully or arch an eyebrow, to add to the sassiness of the text. And as they shamelessly speed through their lines, we tune in and become part of this political brawl, which touches all of our lives no matter where we live.

These aren’t easy times for theatre and producer Daphne Kuhn has a tough ask keeping the lights on without any funding. She loves sneaking in these brilliant plays that don’t always find their audience, but if you have a theatrical bone in your body, go and see this spectacular brilliance on stage.

From start to (almost) finish (would have liked a tougher finalé), it’s sheer pleasure and overwhelming joy to wallow in everything on that stage. I didn’t expect anything less from these two astonishing actors and yet, I was still caught off guard by their deliciously delicate performances and a story that might be scary but is a helluva rollercoaster ride!

HOW THE HANDS OF THE MAPULA WOMEN OF THE WINTERVELD BECOME VOICES FOR OUR PLANET

PICTURES OF PANELS: PAUL MILLS

A group of South African embroidery artists recently turned their hearts and hands to the rapidly rising urgency of climate change with an embroidered artwork of 11 panels which is being displayed in Tshwane’s Javett Art Centre at the University of Pretoria until the end of the month. DIANE DE BEER gives the details:

Puleng Plessie, curator at the Javett Art Centre promotes the educational aspects at the Javett Art Centre.

“The world’s women are the key to sustainable development, peace and security,” said UN Sec-General Ban Ki-moon. (2010)

Acknowledging the truth of this statement, the Mapula Embroidery artists – who are rural women completely dependent on available natural resources for food, fuel and shelter for themselves, their families and community and, thus, extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change and environmental threats –  conceptualised and created a significant textile work: Women of the Winterveld: Hands Become Voices for our Planet.

The Mapula Embroidery Panels

The women of the project have demonstrated their resilience over many years and, through this work, aimed to show their agency regarding the global issue of our time. 

They depict in their embroidery their local environment and climate change impacts, as well as their vision of what successful activism can achieve in bringing about changed behaviours to promote adaption and mitigation in order to ensure a healthy, sustainable planet for future generations.

This puts them at the centre of climate change awareness-raising, activism and the promotion of an urgent response in their own community and far beyond. 

(Left) WATER: The story of drought and floods, wastage, water-borne disease and contamination.

(Centre ) EARTH: The images depict a dry earth which is infertile and polluted, threatening all forms of life.

(Right) AIR: Illustrations of the major contributors to a polluted atmosphere with CO2 emissions  –  the major cause of global warming  –   out of control.

Since research shows that gender inequalities, which result in the increased vulnerability of women, will be aggravated by climate change, it is fitting that the first showing of this piece is happening in South Africa’s Women’s Month. Mapula’s hope is that by engaging with this work the public will engage seriously with the issues of climate crisis, climate action, vulnerability of women in gender-unequal societies and their intersectionalities. 

The Mapula women’s lives have been transformed through their embroidery work. They have reached a stage where they are ready to become agents of change themselves as they advocate – using their own personal experiences and creative expression – on the climate emergency in the hope of not only changing their immediate environment but also bringing climate justice to the wider world.

(Left) FIRE: The story of death and destruction by spontaneous and uncontrolled fires caused by the extreme heat, dry vegetation easily catching fire and severe electric storms which accompany global warming.

(Centre) CLIMATE WARRIORS: The world’s most recognised climate and environmental activists as well as other prominent activists and active citizens  –  notably women dominate this space  –  are seen with placards broadcasting messages which show the urgency for changing targeted human activity.

(Right) WATER: A contrasting story of water where human activity is modified to preserve the health of our planet. Clean water, good water management, efficient water supply systems and humans taking care in using this precious resource without wastage.

As they have a large following, their voices will be heard locally and globally. The artists are already recognised for their story cloths, which they have designed and embroidered over the past 30 years, and their work hangs in museums and private collections worldwide, appears in many publications and is sought-after by textile collectors.

Future exhibition opportunities for this artwork will present chances for awareness-raising amongst an even broader public.

Importantly, such a large project ensures that the artists develop further and have work and income – all of which are central to vulnerable women and their families, as is a possibility with many of these participants.

Income from the sale of this collectable textile piece will contribute towards the future of Mapula Embroideries.

(Left) EARTH: The earth can be healthy, fertile and abundant if human activity is modified to care for the environment and global warming is not left unchecked.

(Centre) AIR: With good quality air plants, animals, humans thrive.

(Right) FIRE: Plants grow, people and animals thrive and are safe when global temperatures are kept at healthy levels and fire is not unpredictable, widespread and out of control.

The artwork Women from the Winterveld: Hands become Voices for our Planet is a piece of 11 panels hanging in sequence and measuring approximately 10 metres across and 2 metres in height.

Nine panels are held together by the first and last panels, which depict global temperatures, reminding the viewer of our collective global responsibility to keep the rise to a maximum of 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels.

The 1m x 2m panels are separated by a central panel paying respect to the climate warriors who are dedicated to climate activism and action urging the global population to modify their behaviours in order to save our planet. The first four 1m x 2m panels depict our planet suffering the impacts of global warming and the next four 1m x 2m panels show our planet recovering and restored with global temperatures being kept below critical levels.

Essentially the sequence shows an extremely endangered planet followed by a healthy, sustainable planet achieved through changed human activity. The four elements of water, earth, air and fire – their symbols headlining each panel – organise the thinking and images in the work.

A previous MAPULA EMBROIDERIES’ 2021 MAJOR WORK: 2020 Through the Eye of a Needle was well received and has been sold into the collection of the University of the Witwatersrand’s Art Museum (WAM).

To see the catalogue of the work go to the Mapula website www.mapulaembroideries.org and find the flipbook under the ABOUT tab.

NATANIЁL, STEF BOS AND KAREN ZOID DELIVER TRIPPLE DELIGHT WITH AFRIKAANS IN STYL

Stef Bos, Karen Zoid and Nataniël bring their individual worlds together in two unique performances  ̶  AFRIKAANS IN STYL . Familiar or unfamiliar, established  or experimental, almost classical or brand new, the furthest poles are explored. As honest as possible, impossibly rare personal moments, sparkling surprises, gigantic notes and the longest stories. DIANE DE BEER discovers the bare essentials:

Take three diverse artists like Nataniël, Stef Bos and Karen Zoid, put them in a huge arena and anything can happen.

Especially with these three performers completely in control of the show. “It’s about three artists with links,” explains Nataniël, and by now we all know that he will give us the broad strokes, but not the intimate details of this particular show.

Surprises are a big thing because that’s what makes a show, he believes. “We will all be singing our own music,” he elaborates. And then adds that he will be performing one cover, “because both Stef and Karen have had hit songs, I haven’t. I want the audience to at least recognise one song!”

Stripped is how they want to present this arena spectacle. “I see Adele’s show as an example,” he says. They won’t fly any space ships or other gimmicks. “It’s not a musical. We’ll have one black backdrop with the lighting creating the magic.”

It’s the time of the artists, with 80 years of experience accumulated among them. “We all have our own strengths and that’s what we will be showcasing. No dancers, no frills, this isn’t a rugby match!”

Nataniël

He and Stef know one another’s music and Karen, whom he has dubbed the Queen of Social Media, has performed for him on her phone. And in that instance, she went the full extravaganza with musicians and lights, he says approvingly.

Even though  ̶  or because  ̶  they’re complete opposites, they work well together. She loves chaos and he thrives on lists. “I’m the head girl and she’s the rebel!” They even approach song writing and their music differently. She has a memory while Nataniël learns his self-written songs as though someone else has penned them.

Luckily, they’re also talking marketing because they want this one to fly. Stef and Karen are used to singing in large stadiums, Nataniël not so much. But he loves the challenge, also putting together a 35-minute set that fits into a whole. “I’ve never done that before,” he says. He compares it to three mini-concerts within a concert.

Messing with their heads, it’s all about three artists rather than one. So one artist’s closing number will lead into the opening number of the next performer. “We have to think differently,” but then they always do.

They will also be doing some things together. This is where things get interesting. “I’m in Pretoria, Karen is in New York and Stef is in Belgium,” notes Nataniël. That’s how they’re preparing the show.

Karen Zoid.

Referring to the name Afrikaans in Styl, it has nothing to do with the look -̶   but he can’t resist interjecting that even in that department, he won’t disappoint. Well, we knew that!

He identifies style as original music, theatre on grand scale, acoustic, artists with personal choice, no interval, no walk-abouts, no flashlights, short pants forbidden  ̶   and an extravagant pop-up shop in the foyer.

Two unusual choirs will also be performing, with Akustika conducted by Christo Burger in Pretoria and the brand-new Voces Cordis conducted by André van der Merwe in Cape Town.

Focussing on the show, there are two factors that excite him hugely. “We all perform in theatres,” he says, which means that they can draw on that theatrical background, the intimacy of a smaller theatre recreated in a larger space, a connection with the audience.

They will also be establishing theatre rules. “There’s no walking in and out to buy drinks. In fact there’s no drink allowed inside the arena. If someone walks out, I will throw them with my mic!” Those of us familiar with his shows know he’s not joking!

He also loves that no producer is telling them what will work, and what won’t. “There’s no one shouting from the wings while we rehearse,” he adds. (Or telling them that something won’t sell.)

What worries him though is that Pretoria as a city doesn’t easily take to new beginnings. “You have to build everything from scratch,” he  says. “I don’t know where our serious audiences have gone. Everything we try to do seems harder. It’s like pulling teeth.”

And as all three have proved in their stellar careers, they do shows that work for them – and then it translates to their audience.

That’s the other thing that will be fascinating – the audience. It will be my first time in this huge arena and I know quite a few fans for whom this will be the first time too. Still, Nataniël, with all his experience and knowledge of his fan base, is nervous. He describes it as the stress of uncertainty. “The five people who like me won’t come because they’re scared of a draft!”

Stef Bos.

The stage will reference what the show is about – the music. It will be filled with musicians and the solo singers. The musicians will be under the guidance of Charl du Plessis (keyboards), Juan Oosthuizen (guitar), Henry Steel (guitar), Brendan Ross (keyboards and voice), Werner Spies (bass), Rixi Roman (bass), Peter Auret (drums), Marlon Green (drums), and a string orchestra with singers Nicolaas Swart and Dihan Slabbert – as well as a few unexpected performers to complete the extravaganza.

Don’t be fooled by the word Afrikaans in the title either. Already Nataniël has written songs in four different languages – but he has made one concession; his first Afrikaans song in 10 years.

And he remembers, there’s something else that excites him  ̶  no master of ceremonies. With those three personalities, who needs that anyway.

They’re also not filming the show. So the singers don’t have to worry about a camera up their nose while singing their most difficult note. “It doesn’t really work when something is staged for theatre, to put it on film.”

If you want to be part of this exciting experiment, you will have to see it live.

And if you’re a fan of any of these artists, you would be mad not to go.

Saterday 27 August:

Sunbet Arena, Time Square, Pretoria

19:00

Bookings www.seatme.co.za

Saterday 3 September:

Grand Arena, GrandWest, Cape Town

19:00

Bookings www.seatme.co.za

 

GLASS SCULPTOR MARTLI JANSEN VAN RENSBURG PLAYS WITH FIRE

DIANE DE BEER

In troubled times like the world seems to be experiencing at the moment, the art world is a wonderful place to turn to if you’re hoping to find solace. Perhaps a solo glass exhibition isn’t exactly what you might be looking for, but that’s the magic of art  ̶  you never know what you’re going to find. And that’s why this introduction to the conceptual artist, glass blower Martli Jansen van Rensburg:

Artist Martli Jansen van Rensburg at work.

In recent years we have been introduced to the world of glass blowing on a wider scale by reality series on TV, and if there’s anything these seasons brought home to me, it was that this wasn’t an easy route to follow.

Martli Jansen van Rensburg has been working as conceptual artist and glass designer for the past 20 years and this latest exhibition, Ruach, is her first solo exhibition in 10 years … and she’s excited.

It might seem a long time in-between exhibitions but with the amount of work that has to go into especially a solo exhibition, the prohibitive cost as well as establishing her brand with her own studio, a furnace where there’s also access to the wider world as well as her lecture and teaching responsibilities, it’s a big ask.

But she knew the time was right and she got cracking. In-between came covid, all of which gave her a chance to breathe, to take stock of her life and her art, and to explore her possibilities. She was also approached by a friend who offered her the perfect space to exhibit her work as the inaugural artist – and the deal was done.

Vibrant shapes and colours.

She describes the show as a conclusion of things in her heart, a spiritual journey which explored why she did what she did. She started her artistic career by studying sculpture with no idea that glass sculpting would become her endgame.

She finished her degree in Fine Arts at TUT in 2000, received a scholarship to study glass design in Sweden in 2007 and had extensive training as glass blower in the UK, Germany and Scotland. Currently she is director at Smelt Glass studio together with Michael Hyam where she designs work and produces art. She also lectures at TUT.

She sees herself more than anything as a conceptual artist exploring the realm of abstract forms and then as a glass blower who practises a craft or a skill. In the past 12 years she has been part of many group exhibitions locally and abroad and has worked on many different projects including Afrika for Coca-Cola Lab, Light for Randlords Bar, an installation for the Graskop Hotel and Squaring the Circle 2 for the Michelangelo Hotel. She has also featured as a finalist in many competitions, including Absa Atelier, Brett Keble Artist Award, Ekurhuleni Fine Arts Award and FNB Crafts Award.

In 2003 she established a glass design company called Molten. The products include everyday articles, limited edition vases, bowls and custom-made lights. She also works with many architects and interior designers producing custom made lights and commissions. In 2009, Molten won the Elle Decorations – Edida Awards for best tableware in South Africa.

A play with glass and colour.

She has always had a passion for teaching and sharing her skills while developing glass in South Africa. She taught at TUT between 2004 and 2008 and from 2008, until 2011 she trained young up-end-coming artists and rural glass blowers from KwaZulu-Natal at Smelt glass studio. She has also hosted a student project for the National Arts Council and was part of the Ekurhuleni mentorship programme in 2009. Currently she lectures part time at TUT’s fine arts department.

But with this current exhibition she wants to showcase her work, specifically as a sculptor who works in glass. And to get to this point has been a slow process with the accent on process, which has been a tough one, but when you see the work, it has been hugely rewarding.

The reason there are relatively few (or perhaps unseen) artists who work in glass is because it is such a difficult art form.

With the title of her exhibition RUACH, a Hebrew word translated in three ways  ̶  breath, spirit and wind  ̶  she offers the following quote by American sculptor Janet Echelman to encapsulate the exhibition:

Breath is a strange thing, it is both tangible and intangible. You can sense it and feel it. It touches you, but you can’t grab it. You cannot completely control it, but it can completely control you. There is a power connected to wind and breath. A strong wind can tear down a city, a breath taken away always ends a human life.

It is how she feels about her work, the blowing of the glass naturally emphasising everything she feels, while the lack of control and never knowing what the final result will be following the process in the furnace, presents a specific challenge.

“Glass is a slow liquid and with the breathing and the blowing, as an artist, I am completely involved,” explains Martli. And part of the creative process is to push rather than fight  the uncontrollable, because part of the process is to let the glass happen.

As clear as glass.

She describes her colourful glass sculptures as floating objects and that’s also the way the exhibition will  be displayed. It’s all about movement, whether visible or not. It’s there in the sculptured pieces. Some of her work she titles landscapes, but the thing that struck me most was the individuality of her work and her electric colour combinations.

“If you engage and see it,” she notes, “you will be moved.” And I agree. With her guidance especially, the work invites you to enter this world and to learn to see – again.

“It’s about that moment just before the sun goes down,” she says. It’s brief but brilliant and if you catch it, it’s magical.

“You can choose to dwell on all the darkness in life,” but not this artist. She is intent on sharing the love. “My work is happy and features the brightest colours.” And all of this contributes to the emotional impact of the work.

She works intuitively and feels that there are specific keys that unlock the meaning of the work. She is doing a few walkabouts, which I would encourage art lovers to attend because it certainly adds to the depth and understanding of what she hopes to achieve.

But if you are fired up by your own narrative, that will also make her smile. She is intent on sharing the love and the light.

POET JOHAN MYBURG, A MAN OF WISE, WONDROUS AND WITTY WORDS

A book launch is exciting especially when something as rare as an Afrikaans poetry book is being introduced. Narreskip (Protea Boeke) by Johan Myburg was the collection being celebrated. DIANE DE BEER wants to invite poetry patrons to share her enchantment:

 

One of my favourite writers, Johan Myburg, recently launched his 4th poetry book titled Narreskip (loosely translated as Ship of Fools) and, without spoiling the fun, it is the life around him that he observes and spotlights.

Poetry is something I have always loved and checked from the side lines. More than anything, I love other people reading and talking about poetry – making sense of my own reading experience.

And then, Johan writes in Afrikaans, and while it is my mother tongue, I write in English and am perhaps not as familiar with my first language as I should be.

He was surprised when I told him there were many words I didn’t understand. It’s not that the language is that highbrow, it’s simply that he has a phenomenal vocabulary and makes use of words that few people still use. But that also gets your attention. It’s not just what he is writing about but the way he engages with the language.

Even his references send you scuttling to google and you do, because it is intriguing enough to get your curiosity salivating.

But I digress. In spite of all my qualms, Johan’s writing is especially interesting because, even if poetry might seem scary to some, and he is quite the intellectual, he has a way of writing that is embracing and accessible. And that more than anything is what makes it so fascinating.

Poetry can be alienating to many people and when you start talking about Herzog Prize winners like this particular poet, it could be even more intimidating. But now I’m starting to sound scary – even to myself – and that’s not the point of this exercise.

 I want to encourage – even second-language speakers – to try this book, which had already received a handful of glowing reviews from the top Afrikaans critics at the time of the launch. And yes, we’re talking poetry, that niche of writing exercises.

With Afrikaans poetry critic Karen de Wet’s introduction (at the launch) in hand, I am going to use her as my guide because of her in-depth knowledge of this poet and his writing. But also as someone who knows how to judge the value of someone like Johan, who still in this time we live in, has the chutzpah to write yet another book of poetry.

It’s not as if readers are clamouring for the latest Afrikaans poetry offering. But as an artist, I suspect, he can’t help himself. He has the skill and the artistry and something to say. His awards prove that he also has the means to say it magnificently. And even I, with my paucity of knowledge in this field, can attest to that.

Johan has the credentials. He is one of only 20 poets who has won the Herzog Prize in its 104 years of existence. And he is a true classicist. Not only is he knowledgeable about classical literature, art and music, he is also well versed in history and philosophy, as well as being one of the country’s top art critics who has often curated  small and large exhibitions.

And he uses this wealth of experience in his writing. In fact, he giggles as an aside when talking about all his references at the launch, “I had to make sure ahead of time that I could still remember where all those come from.” I know him well enough to suspect that’s just his insecurities. That mind of his would hardly allow one of those to slip away.

Poet Johan Myburg

In fact, if I could really make a wish, I would like to spend some time with Johan so that he can take me through the work and explain his thought processes. It’s that kind of work. There’s too much happening for everything to be grasped with a first or even second and third reading and my grasp of Afrikaans literature as well as the classics is much too scant to be truly comfortable with the essence of this work.

Both Karen and critic Joan Hambidge agree that this is something to read again and again. As Karen states so succinctly (and I translate loosely): “The 106 pages of verse in Narreskip will not be read only once, there is value in the money paid for this poetry book.” And then Hambidge gives you the key when she explains in her review that the poet uses the classical landscape in which to play with the here and now.

Again Karen captures it best when she explains what the real importance of these Myburg words, witticisms and wisdoms might be: “What is the role (importance) of the poet, the poem, here? That those of us who might be blunted, might see what is happening in our world, see ourselves, reflect, devise (or even rethink).”

Johan himself reflects in an interview about his preference for a participating society rather a grumbling one.

He practises what he preaches and invites his readers to engage. In fact, when we lose hope not only because of what is happening too close and personal for comfort, but also because of the universal fallout with wars, epidemics and economic downturn affecting everyone, this is indeed a way to climb out of that quagmire.

Allow this wise and witty wordsmith to take you by the hand and follow him on a journey, masterfully thought through, of the here and now. It gets your mind exercising in a way that presents much more in the way of positive than negative thought.

We do need those now.

Finally, if nothing else, it is the brilliance of the Myburg mind that will entice and enchant. We need to take time out to listen and then languish in the thoughts of others – especially those who make the time to not only think, but then also share it so bravely with others.

REINAARD

AFTER A MUCH TOO LONG SILENCE THERE’S THE PROMISE OF THE GLORIOUS SOUND OF MUSIC

With the relaxing of the lockdown restrictions in May and then a sudden freedom for artists performing to full capacity venues from the end of June, the classical music scene has popped up in full colour with spectacular effect. For those who have missed the few presentations that heralded the incremental emergence of packed performances, there’s even more to be excited about on the immediate horizon… and beyond. DIANE DE BEER gives the lowdown:

In performance: Charl du Plessis

It all began for me with the Charl du Plessis performance for Aardklop Aubade in collaboration with Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool on Mother’s Day titled Songs for my Mother


Not only does he create the imaginative programme for these fantastic Sunday morning classical interludes for Aardklop, but he also performs as soloist or with his trio, Nataniël or another classical performer at these magical hour-long performances once a month.

This time he made it personal as he celebrated Mother’s Day 2022 with a very idiosyncratic and sentimental selection of music which has special meaning to him. His programme was all about the influence of his family’s vinyl record collection which brought back a flood of memories for both the performer and his audience.

And because of his versatility as both classical and jazz pianist, the programme included composers like JS Bach and French chanson superstar Michel Legrand featuring alongside standards by Fats Waller and Chopin.

As always with this extraordinary talent, it was about the selection of music as well as the performance and making it this personal was a stroke of genius.

The other attraction of this monthly series is an introduction of young musical stars from Affies, which has a very strong musical department. This time it was an extraordinary acapella ensemble cleverly named A-minere!’

The next concert is on August 7 with a cello and piano duo, Gerrit Koorsen and Eugene Joubert, who will be performing musical arrangements by three composers from the Romantic period. Tickets at www.ticketpros.co.za

Watch this space for further concerts or check Aardklop Aubade online.

Realising that Pretoria has had a paucity of classical music these past couple of years, musical entrepreneur Du Plessis decided to also introduce a mini festival – Atterbury Klassiek – from July 15 to 17.

It starts on July 15 at 7.30pm with The Scullery Quintet, a new South African classical and contemporary music crossover group that is made up of a rather unusual string quintet. The ensemble features the standard string quartet configuration: first violin, second violin and viola, but the cello role is replaced by double bass, with drum set as the fifth instrument.

https://www.instagram.com/reel/CflqrqODkjs/?igshidYmMyMTA2M2Y

This multicultural ensemble was conceived in early 2020 by a group of like-minded musicians who got together to share their varied musical influences and keep their musical abilities alive during the pandemic.

They will be performing arrangements and improvising on compositions by their favourite composers ranging from Vivaldi, Dvorak , Herbie Hancock, and Weather Report to Radiohead, which indicates their repertoire is driven by passion.

Atterbury National Piano Competition winner 2021, Gerhard Bester.

On Saturday, July 16 at 3pm follows a piano recital by Gerhard Joubert. He is the 2021 winner of the Atterbury National Piano Competition and will be performing his first full length solo recital in this theatre. He is currently a piano student of well-known pianist and lecturer Francois du Toit and the youngster has won many other competitions including the National Youth Music, Pieter Kooij and Johann Vos music competitions and is completing his BMus degree at the University of Cape Town. The recital will include works by Schubert and Chopin.

Du Plessis and fellow jazz pianist David Cousins will present Double Trouble Jazz Piano on Saturday night at 7pm with favourite jazz standards, Latin classics and music by Handel and JS Bach in new arrangements for four hands and two pianos. Composers include Chick Corea and Milt Jackson and South African Jazz legends Abdullah Ibrahim and Hotep Idris Galeta. Du Plessis is a Steinway Artist and Sama Award-winning recording artist for Claves and Steinway Spirio. Cousins is a Berklee College Boston graduate and teaches jazz piano at Wits. This is their first musical collaboration.

Jazz pianist David Cousins.

On Sunday at 3pm, t he award-winning violinist and senior lecturer in violin and viola at Nelson Mandela University David Bester again joins forces with leading South African-based guitarist and three-time SAMA nominee James Grace in Paganini to Piazzolla 2.0 for the concluding concert of this classical season.

Violinist David Bester and guitarist James Grace.

This follows on a sold-out performances at Woordfees 2020, with Paganini to Piazzolla 2.0 evolving around Máximo Diego Pujol’s Suite Buenos Aires – a four-movement work that sketches a musical picture of life in the South American capital city Piazzolla ultimately called home. Originally composed for flute and guitar, the violin offers a fresh perspective and distinctive sound in this intense and flavourful work.

All bookings at seatme.co.za

Following the Aubade concert early in May, impresario Herman van Niekerk joined forces with the Italian Cultural Institute of Pretoria for a fantastic series of concerts starting from his special Sasolburg venue, the Etienne Rousseau Theatre and concluding with a wondrous concert with the spectacular accordionist Pietro Roffi, who joined forces with the marvellous Free State Odeion String Quartet with Samson Diamond, Sharon de Kock, Jeanne-Louise Moolman and Anmari van der Westhuizen.

The Toeac Accordion Duo from The Netherlands.

Van Niekerk has previously also featured this extraordinary instrument with two accordion virtuosi, the Toeac Accordion Duo from The Netherlands, performing at Johannesburg’s Linder Auditorium.

Many classical followers might have been surprised when hearing of the classical bent of Roffi because we are much more familiar with the accordion in more popular genres of music.

Accordionist Pietro Roffi and the Odeion String Quartet busy setting up on Atterbury Theatre stage.

With a special Roffi arrangement of the familiar Vivaldi Four Seasons to include the accordion, the main feature of the performance, it was a fantastic choice because even those who just dabble in classical music will be familiar with it. And that gave one the platform to appreciate just what these musicians were doing with the music with such delicacy and obvious delight.

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=740577567292983

Also included in the extraordinary performance was Bach’s Minuet and Badinerie from his Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B Minor as well as the much loved Piazollo’s Oblivion and Adios Nonino, and an original composition performed solo to start off this remarkable concert and magnificently introducing the magic still to come.

The musicians en route…

It was mesmerising and yet another reminder of what we had been missing these past few years. For those who missed it, hold thumbs that this collaboration will be repeated again and again in the future.

If you haven’t yet discovered Van Niekerk’s extraordinary programming in Sasolburg (and sometimes repeated in Johannesburg or/and Pretoria, make a note to follow the Etienne Rousseau Theatre notices.

It is joyous that the classics are back and hopefully some of the above concerts will be supported by the pandemic-driven neglected classical audiences.

FASHION MAVERICK ANDRÉ LEON TALLEY CONQUERS THE CHIFFON TRENCHES IN STYLE

There’s so much surprising in the André Leon Talley book, which as the title suggests is all about the haute couture world, that temple of mainly French fashion, but also the world of the high priestess Anna Wintour. And then he deals with the rapidly declining media world because of the shift of advertising and of course all the personalities he mingled with daily. DIANE DE BEER hangs on to every word:

Pictures from the book

André Leon Talley’s The Chiffon Trenches (4th Estate)

Anyone who has even the slightest interest in the fashion world would at least have noticed this author at international fashion events.

He stood out –physically because of his size and his race in this almost lily-white world, but also because of his presence, his flamboyance, yes even amongst the fashion glitterati. He knew how to do that.

I’m not sure I would have read the book if one of my smartest friends didn’t gift it to me. She sussed that this might have more depth than simply chronicling the sometimes vacuous world of couture.

And indeed it does. If we have realised anything in this past decade if paying attention to America (and how can we not), it is that nothing when race is involved is as it should be. That was even true for this remarkable man, who made such an impact in the way he celebrated fashion.

There was really nothing he loved more. His own stylish entrance into this world, the way he found a way to work for Andy Warhol and form a decades-long friendship with Karl Lagerfeld. And finally at the tail end of his career, his working and more intimate relationship with Anna Wintour.

As part of the printed world, I was stunned by the revelations in this book almost mirroring what happened in our newspaper and magazine world when their advertising platforms started imploding.

I used to jokingly say that I would be switching off the lights, but not thinking for a second that the rarefied world I had been working in for most of my life would end almost with my formal career – and quite harshly at that.

Surprise then that even for those glamorous journalists and editors who are almost as much part of the story as the people they write about, life was not much different. When printed journalism’s problems escalated locally because of a dearth of advertising, it was happening worldwide. And the bosses there behaved as badly as the bosses locally.

“When Polly Mellen who had been at Vogue for thirty years, was forced to retire, they gave her a cocktail party in the basement of Barneys. I went, and remained utterly confused about it throughout the night. It didn’t make sense; it was undignified. They could have honoured her with a seated dinner, with guests of her choice. Or a golden watch, a Bentley, a Rolls Royce, something! She could decide to keep it or sell it, but a little cocktail bash in the Barneys basement? Ageism at its worst. They wanted to get rid of her at Vogue to make way for someone else. They booted her upstairs to Allure, and she retired soon afterwards. That was not befitting of what Polly Mellen had contributed to Vogue, nor of the decades for which she worked there

This might all sound a bit over-the-top. Who gets a Bentley when they leave the company? No one who can be described as middle class. But I suppose in this moneyed world where the journalists become as famous as those they’re writing about, it happenened.

What fascinated me was the business ethics which are on a par around the world. One thinks it is just in one’s little corner. But as Talley illustrates, this is the way the world turns and why we have the top 1 percent so far removed from ordinary lives that they can’t respond to their employees with any humanity.

It’s not all gloom and doom, however, not in the life of the larger-than-life André. Because of who he is and where he works, he doesn’t have to name drop, those are the people who are part of his immediate circle. From Lee Radziwill (Jacky O’s sister) to Karl Lagerfeld, Anna Wintour (whom he both admires and admonishes for her lack of warmth), and of course many others like the supermodels who reigned during his time as well as the different designers who would share their design secrets, their fears and their dreams with someone like André who had both power and empathy.

From the early days, long before Vogue, he established his own style. That’s what propelled him into this world. He could identify style, he could step into that world with grace and he could write about it with flair. He also became part of the fanfare which is part of the chiffon trenches if you really want to be part of that world. And he did.

His passion for couture and everything that represented is what dominated his life. And like any creative, he simply put his head down and found a way to become part of everything he most loved in this world.

Friends in fashion: Lagerfeld and Talley

Sadly, Talley (and of course Karl Kagerfeld) died early this year and that world has lost one of its most entertaining and flashy personalities. And as is often the case, he is really only appreciated now.

It’s a fascinating read, because of the man and the universe he lived in. No one is irreplaceable, but I’m sure even Ms Wintour must miss this valued eye who was both honest and honoured to be asked for advice on, for example, her outfit for a smart occasion.

But also his take on the world, his way of entering a room, what he believed his role was and how his whole being was thrown into his daily work. The chiffon trenches is where his heart and his passion lay.

JAPANESE TEAM PRESENT DREAM CUISINE, TIME AND AGAIN

DIANE DE BEER

The exquisite tastes of Japan as presented by the Japanese embassy.

If a Japanese ambassador brings his own chef (and, as a bonus, the chef’s wife who is also his assistant in the kitchen), you can know there’s something interesting happening both in the kitchen and at the table. We have been privileged (myself and chef/wine connoisseur Hennie Fisher) to be part of these Japanese dinner adventures a few times:

Because Ambassador Norio Maruyama arrived in this country almost at the same time as Covid19, he has had to keep his wits about him when trying to fulfil his mandate. Sometimes there was nothing to do because lockdown prohibited all gatherings, but with the lifting of restrictions, he came up with the idea of hosting small dinner parties rather than large gatherings.

This, of course, especially for those of us not part of the diplomatic scene, was a perfect solution and one that worked brilliantly. Sometimes at the large ambassadorial events, the diplomatic corps gather for dinner talk and other guests are left dangling somewhat.

Yet with these small dinners, not only can the food be more splashy, but –  especially, as in this instance, when  your host is both a foodie and a wine lover (one with excellent knowledge of local wine, to our excitement)  – the dinner can also turn into a huge learning as well as extravagant sensual experience.

From the first dinner (which I wrote, about in previous posting), we knew that not only did we discover new delights when presented with their amazing cuisine, but – especially we also lost our heart to the host and his chefs, Jun Suzuki and his wife Mutsumi.

Returning recently for a dinner, we both felt that because the chef was aware of our admiration for his food, he could relax and be more comfortable in what he presented us with. We are the kind of diners who like being surprised and discovering different levels of a cuisine we are getting to know. And with the excellent wine pairings, as well as detailed descriptions of each dish, it’s my favourite kind of meal. I’m getting nourishment of both the soul and senses – narrative and nurturing. What more could one possibly ask for?

******

And here some wine notes from wine connoisseur Hennie Fisher, who accompanied me on these dinners:

Often, people who love food also feverishly investigate and research beverages to enjoy along with their food. This includes wine, but also other drinks. In fact, the art of pairing food and wine seems to be an increasingly popular pastime. Ambassador Murayama, who loves wine, of course came to the right country to indulge his interest. One seldom visits someone’s house to be presented with wines from your own country that you know nothing about. You may not previously have drunk that exact wine, but at least, because you have close interaction with wine as an agri-product in South Africa, you generally know either the producer, farm, or estate where the wine originated. On different occasions, Ambassador Murayama brought out the big guns, local as well as international one example is a sake from Ichinokura.

The ambassador was especially proud of a white wine made here in South Africa, by Stark Conde ‘Round Mountain’ Sauvignon Blanc, because the Japanese symbol for round mountain is the same as his surname, Maruyama. On another visit, we were served a barrel-selected Roussanne 2013 from Ken Forrester, which was probably one of the most exciting wines I ever had the pleasure to drink. A Storm Pinot Noir 2018 was also sublime. On yet another occasion we had a

Testalonga El Bandito Cortez, an orange wine by Elementis, followed by a Taaibosch 2018 Crescendo, and we ended the meal with some serious Japanese whiskies such as Hibiki Suntory, a 21-year-old whisky. We will miss the ambassador’s fine palate when he moves on to his next posting.

Kanpai!

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As on a previous occasion, we again started off with One Bite of Happiness, a title I love, and it’s exactly what you get. As pretty as a picture, the deep-fried tofu with yuzu was exquisite. This was followed by a Tataki of tuna which simply means the method (pounding in this instance) of preparation served on a dashi foam. You can’t fault the Japanese on fish – and that’s no exaggeration. Next was their delightfully inventive gooseberry salad, taking the place of  the more traditional palate cleanser.

Duck yakatori style was the main and this was presented with great flair, to the guests’ absolute joy. And this being our first duck experience à la Japanese, it was quite splendid – and it had to be, not to disappoint after such a theatrical entrance.

Sweets started with an Amarula ice cream with the citrussy mikan and finally a work of art in the form of three sweet things: walnut, mochi (rice cake) and yokan (red bean paste).

Our appreciation was complete and we loved the way they paid homage to the host country with ingredients like the gooseberries and the Amarula.

Chef Zane Figueiredo from Brooklyn’s Wood and Fire with the two Japanese counterparts Mutsumi and Jun Suzuki with the restaurant staff all part of the glorious evening.

For the second time in almost a month, we attended a Taste of Japan held annually at Wood and Fire in Brooklyn, as the guests of Ambassador Maruyama. This time Jun and Mutsumi stepped into the kitchen of the restaurant and with the help of yet another of my favourite chefs, Zane Figueiredo, produced an extraordinary tasting menu which was the perfect infusion of Japanese cuisine to satisfy both the novice and those of us who feel we have been introduced to their food by those who know and love it best.

Okonomiyaki

The welcome snack of edamame beans with schichimi togarashi (a red pepper spice) is a staple on Japanese tables, familiar here but less frequently served. It’s a pity because it has that moreish quality which makes it difficult to stop and it’s healthy!

Okonomiyaki, another Japanese favourite and quite yummy, is a savoury pancake (almost pizza-like) and this was flavoured with green cabbage, beansprouts, kewpie (mayo), ginger, nori and otafuku sauce (close to our Wocestershire).

Noodles was next on the list with prawn served with a shiitake broth, assorted veggies and shiso (a mint herb) followed by a delicate arrangement of sashimi, including salmon, sea bass, and with a nod to the South Africans, Springbok carpaccio all with a dash of different Japanese condiments which just take it to another level.

Yakitori (either chicken or green beans with spring onion) was the last appetiser before the mains consisting of Katsu Curry, which included a choice of pork, chicken or aubergine with fukujinzuke (Japanese pickles) and short grain rice.

Most of the servings were small and with healthy food inherently part of  Japanese  cuisine, it was again a broad introduction to many Japanese ingredients and flavours in a meal that was delicately balanced and, as always, finished with a flourish of mochi and ice cream!

Soudai na (Magnifique)!

IT’S TIME FOR MOTHERS TO MATTER, SPEAK OUT AND CLAIM THEIR RIGHTFUL STATUS IN THE FAMILY

MOER (Protea Books), the debut novel of Michèle Meyer, tackles the shrine of motherhood and both dismantles and deconstructs the position of family saviour these often battered and bruised women have to uphold. It’s a brave and necessary approach to take, writes DIANE DE BEER:

Mothers of the world are often celebrated in superficial ways, but when it comes to their daily lives and how they have to cope, it is often woman alone.

She isn’t really allowed to complain because so many get on with it and don’t say a word. It is a selfless task, even with the rewards of raising a family. With that comes a responsibility that must be quite terrifying.

And on my part that’s only conjecture, because by choice I didn’t have any. The task for me seemed too daunting and I knew for my sanity I needed to work. For some of us that’s just how it is.

Michèle Meyer’s book MOER (Protea Books) has a title with many meanings, amongst them an old-fashioned word for mother, but also translating to extremely harsh words, and thus giving the indication, certainly to this reader, that this is going to be an interesting read.

And it is so much more. It does indeed deal with motherhood, but is written in quite a novel fashion. The chapters are mostly short and while the characters are all connected and there is a throughline, it’s not a once-upon-a-time story.

It deals with different aspects of being a woman in relation to being a mother. I know that editor Deborah Steinmair guided the decision of how to present this particular story and it’s something author Michèle Meyer eagerly acknowledges.

It is the clever combination of the writing and the compilation that adds power to this/these  particular mother(s) story.

That’s what Meyer achieves. It becomes universal rather than personal, even when it feels almost painfully personal. As her mother was singularly alone in a house filled with husband and children, so many wives/mothers are confronted with children whom they have to raise on their own. Sometimes they are single, but other times the need for help isn’t acknowledged – mentally or physically – and often the means aren’t there and one partner is out in the world earning the family’s keep, while the other keeps the family alive.

It’s a setup that hasn’t changed for far too long with most of the time, the children handed over to the mother to do as she sees fit – and sometimes she has no clue.

In many instances, it is the circumstances not the people involved that turn out to be harrowing, but in others, it’s just the way things have been done for generations with the man of the household making the decisions while everyone else has to comply.

And then, of course, there are many permutations … yet very few are resolved. Meyer’s mother(s), alas, is from a very isolated place. Young and fragile, she is left to her own devices as she tries to face the terrors of motherhood singly. The husband is carving out his career and that is something that takes up all of his time, his wife and his growing brood hardly acknowledged.

And yes, I know in many instances these things can be worked out and dealt with in quite a wholesome manner, but that is still unattainable in most households. Sometimes money helps to alleviate the worst, but there’s not much one can do about an emotional wasteland.

Not many people have the fight to go this one alone, but sometimes, that’s the only option. And for this mother that was it – and her saving grace. Meyer doesn’t save us the hardship of what her mother had to battle to survive. And that’s yet another courageous decision. Mothers are meant to carry the load – without complaints. This one does too, but she knows she has to save her life for the sake of her children and even when losing them at the start of rebuilding her life, she knows she doesn’t have a choice.

A recent story of a single mother who fought for her child on one of the streaming services told a similar story. It was based on a true story of a young woman involved with a weak man she knew she had to shake. She does, but her only option is to work in the service industry cleaning houses, and everything (especially bureaucracy) is against her succeeding. The world isn’t set up to reach out  a helping hand. Instead these women are disregarded, or seen as victims, never worth saving. They have to fight for themselves.

It’s time that more women speak out, tell and share their stories so that others might have the courage to stand up and walk out when often their sanity and their lives are involved.

Because it is a story of mothers, individual readers will read it from different perspectives, and that is what makes this such a smart read.

Meyer’s writing is hard-hitting (many will think personal) and that especially makes it such a brave book and one that will bring relief to many who will (hopefully) no longer feel alone.

RONELDA S KAMFER’S KOMPOUN WILL LEAVE YOU SHATTERED BUT THE BRILLIANCE WITH WHICH SHE WRITES IS LASTING AND WILL BLOW YOUR MIND

As a fan of Ronelda Kamfer’s gut-wrenching poetry, I was excited by the announcement of her first novel, Kompoun (Kwela). There’s something about her writing that holds you in its thrall and instinctively I knew that whichever way she chooses to tell a story, I will be on board. And having declared my subjectivity, I, DIANE DE BEER and the author speak our minds:

Ronelda S Kamfer

With Ronelda S Kamfer you know from the first sentence the kind of story you’re about to drop into.

And if you want to know what’s happening in literature in this country, you have to read this one. As an award-winning poet, this is her first novel, but she says that she doesn’t view the writing in any way as different.

“There was never really a shift. To me the boundaries between poetry and prose are superficial. I felt the story would benefit from a longer form. I wanted to capture more detail than I usually would. 

 “The main differences were the technical aspects of writing a novel. Basic things like ensuring continuity and providing geographical context, etc. But I tend to keep a lot of notes anyway.

“ And that helped. With Kompoun (the title, which is explained by a dictionary entrance on o the word in the front of the book), Nadia and Xavie had a notebook, the landscape had its own notebook, and my feelings had its own little section in a bigger notebook.

“I had a very clear idea of all the different elements that would make up the book eventually,” she explains

The brilliance of the writing and the story lies in the way she catches life, colours it in so many different shades and textures that you have to keep your wits about you, and also tugs constantly at any emotional toughness you think you have.

You should know by the end of page one whether you can stomach this one and if you do, you will be gloriously enriched on many different levels. But believe me, it’s tough.

The young Nadia explains that her Uncle Empty is actually oraait. He hits his wife, but she has too few nice adults in her life to write him off. And right off the bat you take the first hit.

Telling the story is Nadia and she alternates with her cousin Xavie as they reflect on their childhood.

Readers not familiar with Afrikaaps but also the way Ronelda tells the story, will have to pay close attention when reading Kompoun. It is  heart-breaking and often shattering in its pain, yet completely compulsive – and brilliant.

Ronelda’s choice of young narrators also determines how you experience the story. “We are children for such a short time. But it’s a time of our lives where we’re most ourselves in many ways,” she says. “ It’s a beautiful moment, before we start to compromise bit by bit.

“We are more selfish in little ways, but less selfish in the ways that matter most. When we’re children, we are less averse to risk, and that makes us more open, more forgiving and more honest.

“Most adults are calculating and closed off to some extent. Self-preservation becomes the dominant theme in our lives.

“Their resilience in the face of life’s disappointments made the children the ideal storytellers because the story to a large degree is about the struggle to retain your innocence and the desire to live freely, openly and honestly.”

And this is perhaps further explained in the dedication in the front of the book: All the women, who had to say sorry, even when they weren’t sorry

Musing on the difference between the novel and poetry, she felt that the novel required more stamina and concentration for a longer stretch of time. “I get bored very quickly, so my mind would trail off to other things. With poetry everything moves faster. And every new poem feels like its own thing even if it’s part of a collection.

“With the novel I was always aware that every part is a piece of the whole. That’s one of the reasons perhaps why I had to break the book down into these short fragments. So that every chapter could feel like a little project. It kept me engaged. I will always write poetry and I will continue writing novels, but I’m sure I will write other things as well.”

One of the riches of the book is the language but it also restricts the readership as your Afrikaans has to be good to get a grip on the Kaaps. But if you do, it’s like music to the ear.

And for Ronelda, it is who she is and how she expresses herself, as she explains:

“The language is very important, because the story spans across generations and different geographical spaces. It was important to represent all the different variations of Kaaps, whether it was Plattelandse Kaaps or the way it’s spoken in the Western Cape.

“Kaaps is also a very visual language, that relies a lot on metaphors. My mother died 10 years ago and my grandmother a year ago and I see the way they used language as part of my inheritance.

“With Kompoun I managed to come up with some phrases that felt like it came from their mouths. And that is probably one of the most satisfying things for me.”

And for those of us who read it, the way the language is used is such a huge part of the story, as often it hits its target with a speed and velocity that catches you unaware – but has double the impact. It’s simply not translatable.

It has been said that it feels like an autobiographical story, but when you ask Ronelda about the objective of the story, she says it was the book itself.

“I write things because I feel compelled to write them. It’s not a reaction to anything nor a statement. It’s really just the manifestation of a desire. I wanted to see these places and these characters in literature, so I expressed that,” she says.

And that’s  precisely why you are drawn into the lives of these children from the start. In a South African context, it is a familiar world, perhaps harsher than many of us might imagine, but something we can understand.

I have found that the thing that excites me most in any book is originality. They say there are only a few stories to be told, but it is the way the story is told where the creativity lies. That’s true for Ronelda as well.

“I love books and films and music that give me an adrenaline rush. And I get that rush from hearing a truly original thought, or seeing something beautifully observed or understood.

“My aim as a writer is the same as my aim as a consumer of art. I want the reader’s heart to skip a beat.”

And that mine did from start to finish!

I was fascinated by the way I experienced Kompoun. While the story is devastating and, the lives of the children, especially Nadia’s beatings, emotionally and physically painful, the book is powerful rather than painful, as if  by telling the story and not hiding from the truth, the children reclaim their power.

“I think Kompoun is the first book I wrote without any rage; the characters might be fighting but the story is not about rage. For me, it is about profound loss and we have all lost.

“ It is not about whiteness or patriarchy or violence. These things are a product of loss but I understand how someone might read into that first. I think it has to do with empathy, and how you relate to the unfairness of the lives of the characters.

“In some people this need to empathize causes that almost knee-jerk reaction, to look for reasons and to allocate blame. I do that all the time, but I am learning to process things slower and sit with my feelings longer.”

And then she concludes with what she wishes for readers.

“It was important to me that the experience of reading the book would conjure more than just sadness in the reader. These are strong characters who have things they believe in. I felt the character’s rebelliousness was integral to the book.

“It’s not a book about being defeated, it’s a book about emotional and psychological revolution.”

That is exactly what stays with you throughout the reading. This group of cousins, children all at the time, looked out for one another and were born into a generation that decided it was time to talk. And that made the difference. And does similar things for the reader.

If you think you might understand it and get to grips with Kaaps, no one tells a better story about these people and their lives than Ronelda S Kampher. May she never stop telling her stories – it doesn’t matter whether in poems or novels or any other way she comes up with. I will stand in the front of the line.