Vlek op die horison (Afrikaans Edition)

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Ek kyk hoe die stadsligte oor die plafon beweeg en die donker versplinter. Dis nooit regtig donker in ons kamer nie. Selfs as die lig af is, is daar altyd die gloed van motor- en neon- en straatligte in die kamer. Mossie kruip tot op my bed. Haar gesig is nat. Hoekom huil jy, Mossie? Ek droog haar trane af. Sy hou my vas en maak in die dowwe lig haar geluid vir Pappa.

Ek sit regop en stamp haar so hard dat sy van die bed afval. Hoor jy my? Ek gil op haar. Ek gryp haar aan die skouers, skud haar en stamp haar weg sodat sy agteroor teen die muur val.

Al is dit halfdonker sien ek in die gloed van die verkeer en die straatligte sy is hartseer en verward. Moenie huil nie, Mossie. Moenie huil nie. Sy verstaan nie. Jy weet hoe sy is. Maar ek dwing haar om te verstaan. Die eerste skildery, met die titel Dit is Kaapstad lyk na Umberto Boccioni se Straatgeluide dring die huis binne. Die omringende geboue hel na haar oor en maak haar die fokus van die prent. Hemelblou, plumbagoblou en vlamgeel vleg deur verkeersrefreine op die maat van bokveltromme en kwaitoritmes. Ons kan ons verbeel dat ons, te midde van die mengelmoes van goudgeel en pers, die sagte gerinkel van koperarmbande hoor.

Expressen Sweden. My paternal grandparents were victims of the Holocaust. My grandmother was transported through Theresienstadt to a concentration camp, probably Bergen Belsen, where she died of typhus. Her remains might lie tangled in a Bergen Belsen mass grave, though she may have been incinerated. Those details remain unknown. When I visited the Frankfurt Book Fair earlier this month, I brought with me two fat volumes of African poetry — hundreds of poems spanning all sorts of human emotions. One of the volumes focuses entirely on war and civil conflict.

I came to Frankfurt looking to exchange these poems from Africa with those I might find in Germany. I found poems in the old buildings that had survived the aerial bombings of World War 2; and in old doorways that had witnessed the rounding up of people destined for death in concentration camps. One night a woman ran past me and I found a terrifying poem in the ringing panic of her shoes as they struck the pavement. I found a defiant poem when I looked up and saw a single light burning in a single window of an otherwise darkened edifice.

I heard poems clickity-clack on the commuter railway tracks that surely still remembered transporting doomed human cargoes. I read poems to the buildings and the doorways and the railway tracks.


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There was no revenge in the poems, no sense of retribution and no call for pay-back. I read poems to Frankfurt itself, the first German city I have ever walked through, and made of this a ritual, a gesture of goodwill. I believe that poetry can be used as a tool for peace. It can be used as a shaft of light to pierce the darkness of the warring human heart.

Africa Ablaze! It is with great pleasure that I announce the publication of the Afrikaans edition of Skyline. It is titled Horison and was translated by Carie Maas. I introduce Horison on this blog, with warm thoughts towards a certain group of English-speaking, Afrikaans women. These ladies helped my mother, newly arrived in Rhodesia from Italy in , to negotiate a way through her new environment. They all lived in Queenspark, in Bulawayo. This was a small suburb of prefabricated houses inhabited by English and Afrikaans families, most of whose men worked on the railways. My parents stayed there until I was about two years old.

Each building accommodated at least two families, perhaps four, with all rooms opening onto a wrap-around, front stoep. A row of low, desiccated, olive-green aloes alone survived the heat of outdoors. I think we had one room, maybe two, and shared a communal bathroom. From these Afrikaans mothers, my own mother, aged in her early twenties, learnt certain primary, formative information necessary for raising children in Africa. They told her to give her babies biltong and rusks to chew to ease the pain of emerging teeth.

From them she learnt to iron all laundry that had dried outside in the sun, even underwear, in case putzi flies had laid eggs on the fabric. They identified for her the ferocious Matabele ants, which marched in tight columns, devouring everything in their path. They advised her to check inside shoes for scorpions before putting them on and to check under beds, and even under the bedspread itself, for snakes that might have slithered indoors, unnoticed. They taught her to spray Flit against mosquitoes harbouring under the beds and behind curtains, and told her that if she moved away into malarial areas, she should rub quinine into the elbows of her children who would absorb it and resist the disease.

Her Flit pump — an actual hand-pump, not an aerosol can — would have contained DDT and it accompanied us through all our households, delivering horrible deaths not only to mosquitoes and flies, but spiders too. She called it La Pompa. The unbreachable social barrier between races needed no explaining.

All this information, my mother conveyed to me as soon as I could understand and take heed.

When I was much older, she told me that all those women had lost family in the concentration camps of the Boer War. They were people who carried a lot of suffering. Their experiences had made them tough and uncompromising, yet they had befriended her, a stranger from a far-off land, without prejudice, but with warmth and generosity. They had given her important first lessons for her life in Africa.

There is no dignity to mass graves.

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They are neither marked nor noted on maps. The bush is expected to reclaim these brutal sites and collude in the disgrace of it all, by casting seeds and letting runner-roots conceal the nasty cache that lies buried. When they are unearthed, they reveal a fearful tangle of knotted bones, bloodied fabric and suffocation. They speak of what is obnoxious in human nature. I reflect upon untangling communities of the mass-buried-dead and of finding there something poetic: Perhaps a wedding ring. Perhaps a photograph.

HUISGENOOT SKOUSPEL 2014 - Joshua Na Die Reen - Lig Op Die Horison

Perhaps a protective talisman given by a mother. Perhaps the very sighs of the dead rising up in a dirge as the weight of ground is removed. Perhaps the words of a prophet — simple and directive — telling us to empower ourselves with love and not with hate.

The truck is parked right at the edge of the open mass grave where its tangle of occupants are thrown unidentified unprepared naked and without cover of coffin or cloth nor laid out individually unmourned unclaimed unrecognised lacking ritual lacking dirge and lament. A man is thrown from the truck to join his comrades.

He is held up by the arms by two local administration employees. His body seems not inert unlike those of his fellows. It is held open with arms raised His is a death that moves that falls with all the weight of despair and metaphor of martydom into an anonymous hole of discarded lives like an iconic nailed-Christ into a hole horribly visible before everything is covered up. Umuzi, Cape Town, January 5.