About two weeks ago (it seems this remembrance style has become my signature), I received a phone call from my manageress at 7am. If you are in the working world, phone calls at that hour come with a sense of foreboding. Little did I know that it was good news! I had been given the day off. This was not unwarranted. That week was hectic. It was the Woordfees in Stellenbosch and the nature of my work required me to be up 5am every morning, then to jet through to Stellenbosch and work until that usual 16:30 mark hit. Needless to say I was exhausted, so the off day was very welcome. Of course there was a catch, I had to work on the Saturday again at the Woordfees, but I thought the trade was adequate, so I agreed.
Saturday morning comes and regret seeps in. It’s the weekend and I’m suddenly reminded just how much I loathe working on weekends. I arrive at the office, unload the weeks stock from my managers car, restock it with the new material,and since she broke her arm that week ( note: Woordfees week may result in injury) it was a solo job. Additionally I had to drive , and granted that I don’t have my license yet ( I have my learners, I’m in the process, so I’m not entirely illegal), it was a rather taxing experience zooming through to Matieland in her green Peugeot convertible with the clock ticking.
Once we arrived where De Vette Mossel had set up that day, De Vette Mossel being a mobile seafood restaurant that creates a beach feel while cooking sea food on open fires, I swarmed with Afrikaans educators wanting to buy our product. It was a day catered for them by a subsection of the Woordfees called WOW – Woorde open wêrelde or Words open worlds. WOW aims to boost literacy in the Western Cape by creating reading and literacy projects at schools. They do amazing work.
The educators were seated and enjoyed a talk on technology in the classroom;an ideal opportunity for me to take out a book and to read. But as luck had it , the work started. Arrangements: over the phone, via sms, yes it turned out to be a normal working day. I needed the program of the day to ensure that all other things that had to done that day, would be done. I searched for a timetable of the days proceedings and the lady at reception offered me one. When glancing over the program, I read it. That was the moment my attitude changed. It read: Gedigte Vi’ Adam Small ( Poems for Adam Small). I had hit the jackpot.
Adam Small is a noted Afrikaans poet and playwright. His poetry and plays include a dialect called Kaaps spoken by the “coloured” working class of Cape Town. He has also been dubbed an activist , given that his writing reflected and contested the past political views of South Africa.
Imagine then, how elated I was! The anthology to be launched that day is titled Gedigte Vi’ Adam Small and it pays homage to the Adam. Writers were asked to write a poem for Mr. Small and 23 of these poems were selected and compiled to produce the anthology. Additionally the anthology includes a CD with recordings of some of Small’s poems and excerpts from his plays. The submitted poems from the included poets are also recited on the CD.
The panel discussion and presentation was led by Iris Bester, who had months before mentioned her involvement in the anthology upon a visit to our offices. Alongside Iris sat Magdeleen Krüger, Fanie Olivier, Pieter Odendaal, Willem Fransman Jnr. nd Randall Wicomb. Rosalie Small, Adams wife was also present at the launch and the welcome was done by the coordinator of the Woordfees Dorethea van Zyl.
Iris played some of the recordings from the CD and I was amazed at the respect offered by the educators as the listened attentively, laughed appropriately and internalized sincerely. Randall Wicomb dispersed two songs, in Afrikaans but most noted to me, was Pieter Odendaal. Pieter’s reputation precedes him; he is Stellenbosch University student and plays a big role in the running of the InZync poetry sessions in Stellenbosch. I shared a stage with him once, at an event called The Distance between Page to Stage at the 2012 Open Book Festival. He was captivating; in the same way he was at this launch. He wrote a poem which explained to Mr Small that his father was a good man. Pieter’s writing is twofold, as it is simple and layered at the same time. He is emotive and recites his work in true spoken word style.
I decided to write my own Ode to Adam Small entitled Kaapse Vader. The translation can be found underneath.
Kaapse vader,dankie vir die taal dat vertaal is. ‘n kultuur vasgevang In algemene woorde deur uitdrukkings wat ons stories oordra In net U manier. Waardeering , respek herkenning gee ons oor want U pogings het ons werklikhede onbedek in verhale van alledaagse lewe wat gedokumenteered is deur U werk. Kaapse vader, dankie vir die vergunning om gerus te wees in ons herkoms vir die stem van trots en aanvaarding van die afgeskeepte mensdom. Vir die drome van die kinders wat op die vlaktes woon wat in selfvertroue staan sonder berperkings van tyd want hulle is ook opgeneem in geskiedenis met U kuns. ‘n baanbreker in alle opsigte dat ons net in verenigde verwondering staan aan die werk van U lewe , hande en gedagtes sodat Kaaps ontstaan. Cape father,
thank you for the decoded tongue
a culture captured
in simple terms
in it’s unique way. We offer appreciation, respect
for through your efforts
our realities are made known
telling tales of everyday living
focalised. Cape father,
thank you for assurance of being seated in our heritage.
For the proud voice and validation
of a marginalized community. For the dreams of children
living on the flats
who stand self-assured
without the restrictions of time
by inclusiveness in history
through your art. A pioneer on all fronts united we stand in awe at the work of your life, hands and mind only from there could Kaaps arise. All honour and glory Cape father.
Adam Small manages to convey his story and not negate his truth. Through his writing he has also reflected the “coloured “culture, which many may argue is not existent. This is why I respect him.
Of course, even in his seventies, he still managed to stir up some controversy. Adam won the Hertzog prize in 2012 for his contribution to Afrikaans drama. However opinions were raised that the Academy broke and overstepped their own rules which states that :in order to qualify for the prize, a write should have produced material in the preceding three years. This was not the case with Adam Small. His last work was written in 1983. Many have said the award was long overdue, considering the strong affiliation the academy had with Afrikaans nationalism, which marginalized many authors of colour within Afrikaans literature. Controversial indeed, and definitely a man who managed to transcend boundaries.
That one working Saturday turned into such blessing and issued me a story that just had to be told.