A poetic, prose autobiographical account of an important phase in the life of a white South African woman of Afrikaner descent. She is a free-spirited dancer who has left her Afrikaner family, goes to Namibia into self-imposed exile where in 1991 she meets a MK cadre who had been released from Robben Island in 1988. They fall in love and a child is conceived. With her pregnancy the mother in her awakens, also to a potentially new-born South Africa and during the following months, leading up to their eventual return to South Africa voices of the present and the past are given life. Her Afrikaner childhood is voiced in letters to her mother (“Liewe Mammie”) and father (“Liewe Pappie”) written from the present as a memorial of things treasured, dear and sorrowful, sadly humorous as well as cutting to the bone in its analysis of a parental relationship that is deeply scarred in the fold of Apartheid. The voice of the mother as it weaves through the text, speaks of day to day things with honesty and humour as much as it carries the pain of a tortured and deeply wounded soul where every day words flow into dance, voice and poetry as an expression of the will to reach out to a seemingly unattainable future for the yet unborn child: a new South Africa, freed from racial prejudices and emotional ambiguities. Dancing with this is the child’s voice, mystical, spirited, sage-like, speaking from another world and woven into the text as a golden thread, wise in parts, admonishing, explaining, holding, weighing, giving substance and historical depth and balance, laying out, evening out thoughts, images, prospects. All these together make for an astonishing brave account of an Afrikaner woman who dared to go where few have ventured.
We were introduced to Tossie through the world of dance, sharing a passion – she on the performing, we on the reception side – and have become dear friends. When she approached us with her text, asking us to accompany her in reading it with her, we set a month aside and did just that – reading, discussing, questioning, changing, refining, reading again. It was as much an exhausting as it was a deeply enriching process for all of us, each drawing from it different insights in terms of intellectual, emotional and creative energy. On the final evening Tossie burst into an earth shattering scream, about the same time, we later heard, the tsunami had hit Japan. Who knows, maybe she was carried by a swell of energy from afar. Maybe all of us more often than we are aware, are carried by forces out of our immediate sight.
Tossie launched her book* last week amidst a circle of friends all in different ways incorporated into the development of this text. We are proud to be counted among her friends and salute her work – a preliminary end of a new beginning.
Colleen & Walter
Betty’s Bay, Sunday 21 Oct 2012
*Tossie van Tonder, Nobonke, she of all people. Cape Town 2012. ISBN 978-0-620-54368-2