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Patricia Schonstein

@ Books LIVE

In memory of a trainee-igqirha

In 2002, before embarking on a two-month journey with my husband through central Africa, following part of David Livingstone’s route, we commissioned a Xhosa woman, who was training to be an igqirha, to make us a protective talisman.

“What are afraid of?” she asked.

“Soldiers. Boys with guns. Bandits,” I replied.

A few days before we left, she delivered a charm wrapped in tar-paper which we were to hang at the windscreen for the entire journey, after which it would no longer be potent. It was as slim as a pencil, odourless and expensive.

We felt protected throughout our journey, which took us through wilderness and very remote regions, never once doubting the power of the talisman in warding off malice and harm. We encountered men with guns and were stopped at numerous road blocks, once by a group of young soldiers who wanted cigarettes. In northern Mozambique, we missed a head-on collision by a hair’s breadth. The other vehicle, an open bakkie coming towards us on our side of the road, was overloaded with standing people and a chicken coup. It carried its petrol tank on the roof of the cab. It surely would have exploded if we’d collided.

In western Tanzania, on a remote and poorly maintained road, we passed Jane Goodall, the primatologist, and her researchers, driving in convey. They were protected by government soldiers who had a mounted machine gun on their cab roof.

“What the fuck are doing here?” one of her team called out to us from his rolled down window. “Where’s your back-up?”

“Back-up?” we replied, rather lamely.

“You fools!” he shouted, “there are bandits here,” and drove off.

At one of the road blocks, at which it was proposed we had been speeding –impossible on those roads – my husband suggested to the uniformed person who had stopped us that he come for a ride, to test our very accurate speedometer against his measuring device. I got out of the car and the man was about to take my seat, but instead paused and turned to me saying, with a delicate change to his demeanour and voice: “What is it that Madam does?”

I replied: “What do I do? You mean my work? I am an author. I write books.”

Tall, and leaning down to me, he paused, then expressed certain dreams he had for his daughter before saying everything was fine and that we could go, there being no need to check the speedometer after all.

“Maybe God will help me send my daughter to Cape Town, one day, for an opportunity better than here,” he said, before wishing us a good onward journey.

Later that evening we reached a small town. I noticed a fenced-off Catholic church and suggested to my husband we stay there, where the power of angels and saints would surely be concentrated and where our talisman’s energies would be reinforced. But my husband is not drawn to anything Catholic and instead we booked in at a small inn.

There we met two travellers, M. and S., both heading for Kigoma, at the edge of Lake Tanganyika, to investigate the possibility of importing fish to the Congo. On the real level they were just travellers, two young people, but in the magically real tracks of our journey, they were angelic beings garbed, over their safari gear, in lucent material.

I tell you this story because the trainee-igqirha who made our protective talisman died this month and was buried over the Easter weekend. She had led a very hard life and leaves behind her orphaned young grandchildren.

Today, I reflect on her powerful charm, and wonder why she did not make any for herself and her family. Perhaps her strengths lay only in warding off men with guns and defusing malice. Maybe her powers were not developed enough to protect her from the TB, diabetes and cancer that felled her. Perhaps AK47s are easier to deal with than the angels of death in the employ of those slayers of good people.

Nokwayintombi L. D. K. –  Ulale ngoxolo  – Rest in peace



Part extract from my memoir On Writing (Work in progress)

Photograph from BBC News 6 December 2005

Showing beauty to Patricia de Lille, the Executive Mayor of Cape Town: At an exhibition of photos of homeless people’s dwellings by Gaelen Pinnock

We are attuned to seeing these shelters as piles of rubbish
As eyesores to be removed from pavements,
Because they spoil the visage of the city

But when considered as art installations
Our eye accommodates them as things of beauty:

There is balance
Material is thoughtfully gathered –
Placed with deliberation and attention to detail
Belying their sense of impermanence

See this one’s symmetrical composition –
How it uses a length of tarpaulin,
With poised drums and rocks weighing it down
Against the South Easter

There’s irony in the Maserati cover of that one
And the red Stor-age Self-Storage sign in the background of the other,
And just look at the measured tying together of waterproofing sheets
That gives finesse to the whole

And what about the juxta-positioning
Of the towering-grey highway overpass,
Against the soft fabric of these warm papoose-homes, these cocoons
These ephemeral single-night dwellings, packed away each day
To be rebuilt, differently every night?

Here is dignity, wouldn’t you say?
The work of  artists
Who construct narratives worthy of respect
In the mad-hurry-harsh of  Cape Town.


I am Raphael
Cape Town July 2013
Raphael Dumisani

I am Raphael Dumisani.
Raphael was a painter of the bible.
I sleep outside.
The blankets get wet.
I wait until the day is shining.
Then I put them out to dry.
It will rain again.
Then it will shine again.


The best plastic for a street shelter
Denis de Waal

White is too bright.
Green can be seen.
But black! Black is right!
It’s the colour of the night!
They can’t see me when I sleep.


Seasons on the street
Denis de Waal

The days are warm now
But the enemy is coming
­– winter!


Exhibition: Future Foreshore, including Home Series 2013 – ongoing by Gaelen Pinnock at Cape Town City Hall 2nd Floor 14 – 25 April 2014
Curated by Ralph Borland
Model of Cape Town Foreshore: by Gaelen Pinnock assisted by students from University of Cape Town


Photographs A  B & C: Executive Mayor Patricia de Lille with Patricia Schonstein – by Heleen Mills.

Photograph of model  by Romaney Pinnock
Photograph of  Gaelen Pinnock with model by Heleen Mills

Photograph of Ralph Borland  and Gaelen Pinnock by Heleen Mills




Reading Chris Ahrends

On my workbench is Dumisani Sibexo’s photograph of a man swinging a burning tyre during a protest in Mothutlung in Brits. The fire of it is like molten gold. The smoke is black. The man’s body has a choreographed, easy grace to it, like that of youths flinging stones in slingshots to kill birds. One feels the force he is generating as he swings that tyre of flames around himself. One anticipates its horrific release, and the way its momentum will hurl the fire outwards, towards people standing perilously close by.

I reflect on the hands that swing the burning tyre and see a vital, urgent, desperate form of verse. The swinging motion brings out a steady rhythm from the sound of the unfolding violence. Voices explode in chorus and the chanting is frightening. There is rumbling. The flames, newly released from hell, hiss. The man’s heart beats like drumming.

Also on my workbench is an Ethiopian cross, made from the silver of melted down Maria Theresa Thalers.  The cross has a delicate intricacy to it. I reflect on the hands that fashioned it, and on the poetry within it – so different to that captured by Sibexo’s photograph. Here, by contrast, is the gentle run of a sonnet.

I closed 2013 with publication of Africa Ablaze! and by reading, on the final afternoon of the year, Prayer for Voices by Chris Ahrends. I read it aloud, alone, standing under a lemon tree, which happened to be full of wit oogies.

On the morning of January first, 2014, the centenary year of the outbreak of the First World War, I began curatorship of an anthology of love poems as a sequel to Africa Ablaze! I will curate it with the Ethiopian cross in mind, seeking out, with diligence, the poetry of love in its broadest, most far-reaching, expression and thus contributing something of homage to all victims of war.


Prayer for voices
Chris Ahrends

This morning we wake up and know where our children are.
This morning our homes are still standing.
Our sisters and brothers are not buried under bombed concrete.
We do not have to search for lost relatives.
We breathe fresh air, drink clean water.
We turn on lights and prepare food.
We wash our faces and see they are not scarred
by vengeance nor disfigured by war
nor twisted in conflict.
This morning we have voices that cry out
for the people for whom this is a day of suffering,
of loss and grief.

Oh God, give us strong voices.

Chris Ahrends, an ordained Anglican priest, was the former Sub Dean at St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town, and Chaplain to Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He served as Executive Director of the Desmond Tutu Peace Centre and now works as a consultant in personal and social transformation. His poem Prayer for Voices is included in Africa Ablaze!

Photograph: ‘Powder Keg’ by Dumisani Sibexo. Cape Times 15 January 2014

Note: The Maria Theresa Thaler is a silver bullion coin, first minted in 1741, that was used as currency in world trade. It was issued in Vienna, Prague, Florence, Milan, Venice, Rome, London, Paris, Brussels and Bombay. It came to be used in North Africa, Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique. The coin has a portrait of the buxom Empress on the front and the Habsburg Double Eagle on its reverse.

Africa! My Africa! An anthology of poems selected by Patricia Schonstein
ISBN 978-1-874915-20-1

Africa Ablaze! Poems & prose pieces of war & civil conflict selected by Patricia Schonstein
ISBN 978-1-874915-19-5

Africa in love! An anthology of poems selected by Patricia Schonstein
African Sun Press: Publication date December 2014






On the day after Nelson Mandela died, an inter-faith prayer service was held on the steps of the City Hall for a crowd gathered on the Grand Parade in Cape Town.

People came with bunches of flowers. Someone handed out pictures of Madiba. Flags flew at half-mast.

The wind was blowing fiercely and its roaring carried away the words of rabbi, priest and imam, so we could not hear them, though we sensed their depth. We knew them to be words of homage and gratitude; we knew them to be words of praise and blessing. Surely the earth itself mourned the departure of this great man; surely all the wild beasts of Africa were also expressing homage and farewell.

A Zimbabwean man standing next to me told me: “When a man dies, we place upon the burial site his cup and plate and those other things he might have used in this life, and may still need, in the beyond. We do not keep his things.”

He continued: “Mr Mandela will be buried in his suit and black shoes. But he will leave to you, he will leave to you the people here, the broken bars of his prison cell, as lights.”

The crowd pressed and reformed, in the way crowds do, and the Zimbabwean was suddenly no longer at my side, but gone, swallowed by the movement of people. I was left listening to the haunting “Asimbonanga” sung by a small group of mourners, and the continued roaring of the wind.

I have been reflecting on those broken prison bars all these past weeks. They can indeed be taken up as a symbol of Nelson Mandela’s massive legacy of forgiveness and his singular disregard for revenge.

If they are held aloft, as beacons of ethical light, then Mandela’s “long, lonely, wasted years” would not have been in vain.


“Asimbonanga: We have not seen him
Asimbonang’ uMandela thina: We have not seen Mandela himself
Laph’ekhona: In the place where he is
Laph’ehleli khona: In the place where he is kept

Oh the sea is cold and the sky is grey
Look across the Island into the Bay
We are all islands till comes the day
We cross the burning water

Asimbonanga: We have not seen him
Asimbonang’ uMandela thina: We have not seen Mandela himself
Laph’ekhona: In the place where he is
Laph’ehleli khona: In the place where he is kept

A seagull wings across the sea
Broken silence is what I dream
Who has the words to close the distance
Between you and me

Asimbonanga: We have not seen him
Asimbonang’ uMandela thina: We have not seen Mandela himself
Laph’ekhona: In the place where he is
Laph’ehleli khona: In the place where he is kept

Steve Biko! Victoria Mxenge! Neil Aggett!

Asimbonang’ umfowethu thina: We have not seen our brother
Laph’ekhona: In the place where he is
Laph’wafela khona: In the place where he died

Hey wena!: Hey you!
Hey wena nawe!: Hey you and you as well
Siyofika nini la’ siyakhona? : When will we arrive at our destination?”


Asimbonanga – We have not seen him – by Johnny Clegg and Savuka from their album Third World Child (1987) was composed during the 1987 State of Emergency, when South Africa was heaving with political unrest; when we could not see Nelson Mandela,  but when everyone felt his power, like that of a lion, waiting in his cell.

Johnny Clegg singing Asimbonanga in 1999 concert, with Nelson Mandela on stage:  (Skip the advert)


Figurines of lion, leopards, zebras and baboons by Liso


Turning swords into sonnets


Extract from launch speech of Africa Ablaze! and Horison

The poems in Africa Ablaze! are placed chronologically. They are anchored by the Frontier Wars of the Eastern Cape, the Boer War, the North African campaign of World War 2, the Angolan Civil War, the Mozambican Civil War, the Rhodesian War, the Chimurenga War, Zimbabwe’s Gukurahundi, South Africa’s Border War and conflicts elsewhere in Africa – Biafra, Eritrea, Uganda, Central African Republic and Sudan.

The collection allows for a graphic and emotional view into killing fields, into scorched earth policies, into the shame of child soldiery and into the betrayal of conscripted youth.

Through the various poems and prose pieces we hear the triumphant, strategic rhetoric of politicians and generals. We hear the angels of death barking and reaping. We find the nightmares and remorse of former soldiers. We see courage, self-sacrifice, compassion, and a brotherhood forged in battle as nowhere else.

Early on, we are aware of gallantry and a strange courtesy. For instance, it is well recorded that the Xhosas never deliberately harmed or killed women or children during warfare. For a warrior to kill a woman or child branded him irrevocably as a coward.

There are a number of records by missionaries and others, of Xhosa warriors slaughtering husbands, fathers and adult sons right next to wives and daughters, but never deliberately harming  the women.

One of the pieces in the book records how an English settler, a Mr Mahoney, farming in the Eastern Cape, was visited by his son-in-law and grandchildren. One of his servants alerted him to a Xhosa invasion and he speedily loaded everyone onto a wagon and headed for the nearest military post.

On the way, they were intercepted by a band of warriors. The warriors overturned the wagon and killed Mr Mahoney and his son in law. Meanwhile, Mrs Mahoney crept away through the bush with the grandchildren, dropping her shawl. One of the warriors saw this, picked up the shawl and followed her. He put it on her shoulders (an extraordinarily gentle gesture for someone who had just killed the woman’s menfolk) and then shooed her off.

A similar gesture is seen in Marinella Garuti’s extract from her Memoir-in-progress. At the outbreak of the war in Angola, in April 1975, in the town of Huambo, she was caught in the cross-fire between MPLA and FNLA soldiers. One of them turned to her with: “Miss, you are in the trajectory of our weapons. It is best for you to leave now or else there might be some confusion.”

Further sensitivity is shown by Bruce Moore King. His poems of the Rhodesian War illustrate brutality and ruthlessness. In one of them, he relates the destruction of a village by Rhodesian soldiers. Villagers are given a few minutes to empty their huts before these huts are torched.

The villagers bring out their meagre worldly possessions, which the narrating soldier notices. Among them are an enamel bowl; a cheap record player; tin plates; eight spoons; a Singer Sewing machine; an iron bucket.

The soldier shows no outward remorse. He does not seem sorry to be destroying these people’s lives. Yet the mere fact of seeing these pathetic belongings, of listing them, and it is a long list, shows a deeply concealed remorse.

Many of the early poems in the collection give a sense of regulation, of military orderliness. They have structure and rhyme to them.  They are not bound by literary form. But as we move toward more recent times, this falls away. Guerrilla warfare breaks the ranks. The poems loosen up into free verse – only a few have rhyme or rhythm – they defy order and lose structure. Yet they describe the horror in as much detail as do those written classically, if not more so. They are brave with their imagery. There is no pretence. Blood is not covered up. Shattered limbs lie exactly where the landmines left them. These poems expose the sexuality, the eroticism given by the power of a machine gun or bayonet. They admit to doing horrible things. These poems expose the sexuality, the eroticism given by the power of a machine gun or bayonet. They admit to doing horrible horrible things. Here I mention the poems of Kris Marais and Derek Davey which are graphic, unflinching and honest in what they portray. In the same breath I mention the poems of Chas Lotter, for their artistic sensitivity and for capturing the human face of soldiers at war.

Taken as a whole, the collection forms a dark, tableau. A dark picture of dark human endeavour.

People have asked me whether it was depressing to curate this work. No, it was not depressing. But it was amazing to see, just on this one continent and without being at all representative, this repetition, this pattern through the ages, this extraordinary precedence for conflict, as though the human heart is hard-wired for warfare, as though warfare is humanity’s hall mark.

If that is so, if warfare is our inescapable hallmark, then surely we must also be seekers of the opposite of war. And indeed, if one reads Africa Ablaze! from beginning to end, to get is chronological picture, one senses a yearning for that which is not war.

That yearning flies through the work like an exhausted bird looking to perch somewhere. Exhausted though it is, this pastiche of the clichéd peace dove flaps on. I was aware of that bird all the way through while compiling. It seemed to be made of old, bloodied military canvas, flapping, flapping, flapping but never reaching the perimetre of the battle ground, never reaching the end of the last battle.

When the collection was complete I needed to redeem it. I wanted to cut through the tableau with a shaft of light. I searched everywhere for such a shaft and found it in Stephen Watson’s poem, Psalm. His poem is not a war poem. Nor is it an anti-war poem. It is simply about light. And it brings an inner illumination to the martial landscape of Africa Ablaze! I used it to close the collection. Deep inside the anthology I placed a poem by Ian McCallum. This too is not about war, but about homecoming. It is placed as a single drop of light so that Stephens shaft is not alone.

In simultaneously launching Horison, the Afrikaans translation of Skyline, we examine the dark matter of war and its effect on ordinary people. The novel reveals that, ultimately, the true victim of all war is the child. Whether he is a child soldier, or whether orphaned by war, or whether his whole world – his village, his town, his home – has been destroyed, it is the child who carries the brunt of humankind’s warring nature.

Horison holds at its core the effects of the Mozambican civil war on one of the central characters, Bernard Sebastiao. Bernard has fled the war and arrived in Nelson Mandela’s newly democratic South Africa, having lost his wife and children in the mayhem of an attack on his village.

He and the young girl narrator form a close friendship and together uncover the pathos of Cape Town, a city that has reluctantly become home to refugees and illegal immigrants from war-torn Africa.

The girl wants to become a poet. She is haunted by all the images thrown up by the migrants in her building, by the sounds and landscape of central Cape Town. Bernard reveals his own triumph over terrible experiences and encourages her to write, to capture what she sees and turn it into verse.

But Horison is also a book about hope, and self-discovery and the power of poetry to heal the deep wounds of loss. I want to just link this to the anthology Africa Ablaze! with a suggestion that it will be poetry that may one day become our tool for peace.

Perhaps we will one day turn the proverbial sword, not into a ploughshare, but into a sonnet.

And maybe we will allow Stephen Watson’s Psalm to resonate across battle fields, so that our weary peace dove can finally land somewhere.


Africa Ablaze! Poems & prose pieces of war & civil conflict

ISBN 978-1-874915-17-1
Fiction: Novel
Afrikaans edition

Order through African Sun Press

The launch of these two titles was held in Cape Town on 10 December 2013.
We celebrated with wine, ciabatta, camembert, olives and honey.
Thanks to the poets who contributed to the anthology.
Thanks to those who could be present and who read their works.




Tribute poem to Nelson Mandela by Maya Angelou

Ingqanga ifile:The Bateleur is dead. Praise Poem to Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela 1918-2013

Ingqanga ifile The Bateleur is dead

Yazalwa sekusaziwa ukuba iyakuphelela phi na
He was born with his destiny written for him

Nangona umzimba wayo wawuthozamile
Though his boyhood was humble

Yaba yingangamsha esebenzela ilizwe
He became a great statesman

Yayihamba njengekumkani kodwa inentobeko
He walked like a king yet was modest

Yakha yaligorha elixhobileyo
He was once an armed warrior

Kodwa yazibeka phantsi izigalo
But he put down his weapons

Yaza yangumfuziselo woxolo
And become an icon of peace

Yayingumthetheleli wabo bacinzelekileyo
He was a spokesman for the oppressed

Nabo babefumene uphum’ aphele
And for the banished

Yawaqhawula amakhamandela ocalucalulo
He broke the chains of apartheid

Yasifundisa ngoxolelwano
He taught us reconciliation

Yazamkela iintshaba zayo
He embraced his enemies

Ayizange ibenekratshi kwabo babeyivalele entolongweni
He had no hatred for those who imprisoned him

Silandela ekhondweni layo
In his flight path we follow

Iimpiko zentaka enobuqaqawuli zisikhumbuza ngendoda yamadoda
The wings of a majestic bird remind us of a great man

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela!

Ngqanga! Bateleur!

Siyakubhotisa Madiba! Hail! Madiba!

Siyakuhlonipha! We honour you!



In Xhosa bird lore, ingqanga, the bateleur eagle (terathopius ecaudatus), is held in great awe and thought to be a bird of omen.

It is now so rare and so seldom seen that its very name has a magical quality.

Should its call be heard, it is considered extremely lucky and it is believed that something good will happen.

The esteem in which the bateleur is held is echoed in the proverb ingqanga ifile ‘the bateleur is dead’, an expression used when a man of renown dies.



 Ingqanga ifile  -  The Bateleur is dead – Praise Poem to Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela  1918-2013
Patricia Schonstein Pinnock

Photograph A by Eli Weinberg

Photograph B from cover of Long Walk to Freedom

Poems for imprisoned youths

On Saturday, I delivered poems to a prison.

Walking through the first set of double gates, I sensed a strange peace, as though time itself were standing still, as though all the activities of everyday life had come to a final, quiet end.

I was body-searched and relieved of my bag, escorted through an iron turn-style and led down a corridor to a metal door that was unlocked to give entrance to a common room where sat some thirty youths all dressed in blue with shiny black shoes. I say all this with minimum punctuation to capture the way I was breathing, before taking a gulp of air as the iron door was locked behind me.

Prison protocol prevents me from saying where I actually was or with whom. Suffice to say that it was a certificate-giving ceremony for young prisoners who had completed a certain programme. Their small audience comprised parents and other relatives and wardens.

The prisoners were all young men with fresh faces that belied the ghastly crimes against which they had ransomed their liberty. They did some gum-boot dancing, read poems they had written and presented short dramatic skits. Their band played loud music. Talent was palpable. Energy was vibrant. Eyes glowed. Mothers beamed. Wardens were caring, as though of their own sons.

The yellow covers of Africa! My Africa! opening in unison in the hands of these young men, were like birds flying down from a wire.

I came home and lay down on an embroidered bedcover, weakened by having been among those caged energies. The beautiful needlework wrapped me like ivy and let me weep.




An extract from Horison

Skyline is a novel that ‘gives voice’ to the many people who have no voice – former conscipts of the war in Angola; refugees from wars and poverty in Africa; victims of xenophobia; Bergies and the marginalized poor of Cape Town.

The novel uses a number of devices to allow these ‘voiceless’ people to express themselves.

One such device is the conclusion of all but one of the chapters with the description of a painting. There are thirty-nine paintings. Each one is a work of Naive Art. They are described as though in a catalogue or at an exhibition. One hears the voice of an exhibition curator (different to that of the teenage narrator of the novel) but, as the book unfolds, one comes to hear the deep expression of the artist who created the collection.

Skyline is an iconic South African novel. Set in Cape Town’s Long Street, it portrays all the troubles and tribulations of an emergent democracy. It tackles the big issues of war, xenophobia and urban life, while holding hope at its core and never letting go of an underlying innocence.

The recently published Afrikaans translation was eloquently rendered by Carié Maas. It is a new voice for the novel’s unflinching look at the emotional carnage caused by war, and its portrayal of the colourful and violent streets of Cape Town.

I’m pleased to present the first chapter and its painting.

Hoofstuk 1

Dit is hoe ons pa die huis verlaat. Hy doen dit sommer net, sonder enige verduideliking. Een Vrydagaand kom hy net nie huis toe nie. Ek besef hy gaan nie weer terugkom nie, want daar’s ’n leegheid in die lug wat nie voorheen daar was nie. Die bakleiery sal nou end kry, en die argumente wat deur die woonstel woed, sal stil raak.

Dit is hoe ons sit: ek op die bank, bewus van die verkeer daar buite, soos altyd. My sussie, Mossie, sit op die vloer. Sy speel poker met twee denkbeeldige vriende. Ons ma sit op ’n hopie oor die foon gebuk. Die wind roer nie en die maan is nie sigbaar in die naghemel nie.

Sy bel al van tienuur af, toe sy besef het hy gaan nie terugkom nie. Eers het sy die Kimberley Hotel gebel, toe die Stag’s Head Bar en Club Georgia. Sy’t gehoop hy hang iewers dronk aan ’n kroegtoonbank. Nou bel sy hospitale en polisiekantore ingeval hy in ’n ongeluk was.

Ek wonder hoekom sy die moeite doen. Hulle is nie vriende nie en alles tussen hulle is stukkend en lelik. Daar is geen teerheid nie.

Ek trek die patrone op die armleuning van die bank met my vinger na: Voël. Tak. Druiwe. Verstrengelde blare. Die materiaal is dun geskaaf en ek pluk aan ’n rafel. Uiteindelik raak ek geïrriteerd en spel dit vir haar uit: Kan Ma nie sien hy’s weg nie? Hy was nie in ’n ongeluk nie. Hy’s nie gehijack nie. Hy het net nie huis toe gekom nie. Hy’t vir Ma gelos. Vir ons. Hy’s weg.

Ek sê dit nie op ’n mooi manier nie. Ek sê dit om haar seer te maak, want sy het hom weggejaag. Maar sy luister nie en hou vol met haar belaglike soektog na hom.

Sy steek ’n sigaret aan, al brand daar reeds een in ’n piering. Haar hare staan die wêreld vol. Sy is so ’n wrak, ek kan nie na haar kyk nie. Buite skree die verkeer. Dit skree nie altyd nie. Soms gil dit. Soms vloei dit. Soms klink dit soos ’n vrou wat sing. Vanaand skree die verkeer en vul die woonstel met haas en paniek.

Sy trek aan haar sigaret en hou die rook binne. Die verkeer huil nou en die hartseer spoel oor die balkon en by die vensters in en die trane spat alles nat. Die verkeer is die weeklag van ’n madonna, naak en bloeiend.

Ek stap deur en gaan lê op my bed sonder om die lig aan te skakel. 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. Die stad stroom na binne, spoel oor alles en vlek dit soos verf wat teen ’n muur gegooi word, afloop en ineenvloei.

Mossie kruip tot op my bed. Haar gesig is nat. Hoekom huil jy, Mossie? Daar’s niks om oor te huil nie. 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. Moet nooit weer daardie naam sê nie! Hoor jy my? Hy’s weg! Weg! Ek gil op haar. Ek gryp haar aan die skouers, skud haar en stamp haar weg sodat sy agteroor teen die muur val. Jy sê nooit weer die woord Pappa nie! Hoor jy my? Dis ’n dooie woord!

Al is dit halfdonker sien ek in die gloed van die verkeer en die straatligte sy is hartseer en verward. Ek hou haar vas en sus haar en neurie so ’n bietjie. Die verkeer is ’n swerm voëls wat krys terwyl hulle in die aandlug huis toe vlieg. Moenie huil nie, Mossie. Moenie huil nie.

Sy verstaan nie. Jy weet hoe sy is. Maar ek dwing haar om te verstaan. Pappa is weg en ons sê sy naam nooit weer nie.


 Die eerste skildery, met die titel Dit is Kaapstad lyk na Umberto Boccioni se Straatgeluide dring die huis binne.

Vinnige, soms driftige kwashale vang die dinamiek van ’n gejaagde stad vol beweging, verskrikking en verwagting vas.

’n Meisie kyk van ’n woonstelgebou se balkon af na die straat onder haar. Die omringende geboue hel na haar oor en maak haar die fokus van die prent.

Kleur voer ’n orkestrasie van Afrika-stadsgeluide na die middelpunt van die skildery. Hemelblou, plumbagoblou en vlamgeel vleg deur verkeersrefreine op die maat van bokveltromme en kwaitoritmes. ’n Kakofonie van motors en haastige mense vloei ineen in ’n uitbarsting van kleur: grenadella-oranje, plasentarooi, koggelmanderblou en die kleure van Kalahari-sand.

Ons kan ons verbeel dat ons, te midde van die mengelmoes van goudgeel en pers, die sagte gerinkel van koperarmbande hoor.


© 2011 Patricia Schonstein-Pinnock
Uit Engels vertaal deur Carié Maas
ISBN 978-1-874915-17-1
Uitgegee deur African Sun Press
Posbus 16415 Vlaeberg
Kaapstad 8018








’n Skitterende boek oor die menslike gees.
Cape Times

’n Epiese verhaal. Die karakters lewe soos brandende kerse in ’n donker begraafplaas.
Expressen Sweden

Wenner: Percy Fitzpatrick-prys 2002
Wenner: Prix du Marais 2005 vir die Franse uitgawe
Tweede prys: Sunday Times Fiction Award 2001
Nominasie op die langlys:  The International Impac Dublin Award 2002
Erenominasie: SACBF 2000
Gekeur: En bok för alla (Swede) 2006

Street Noises Invade the House (La Strada Entra Nella Casa) by Umberto Boccioni (1982-1916) is located in the Sprengel Museum, Hanover, Germany.

Reading poems at Frankfurt Book Fair

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.

Looking up at the sky, I watched clouds moving steadily in, I think from the North Sea, but I’m not sure, and read poems to them.

I read poems to the buildings and the doorways and the railway tracks. There was no revenge in the poems, no sense of retribution and no call for pay-back. They were presented in homage to my father, who remained haunted his whole life in not knowing where his mother’s remains lay.

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.

Disarmament is a poem.

Embracing the perceived enemy is a poem.

Unconditional forgiveness is a poem.


Africa Ablaze! Poems & prose pieces of war & civil conflict
Selected by Patricia Schonstein
ISBN 978-1-874915-19-5

Africa! My Africa! An anthology of poems
Selected by Patricia Schonstein
ISBN 978-1-874915-20-1

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