Saturday, February 28, 2009

Letters / Briewe

Villa Kruger’s Owner Explains

I was a little surprised that you should publish a letter from Lutz and Veronika Diegel (January 2009) when neither they nor you asked me for an explanation.

Villa Kruger, Paul Kruger’s last home, within which he died in Clarens, Montreux has undergone various metamorphoses in the hands of different Afrikaner owners: beautifully restored, a museum, later an upmarket guest house. I was in Montreux for the jazz festival about 10 years ago and went for walk, stumbling upon the house. What extraordinary synchronicity it was. I had been battling for months whether I should return to South Africa, with which I have always had a stormy relationship, or not. It was all too surreal. The builders, speaking Afrikaans. The manager and his wife invited me for dinner, the first boerekos I had had in almost three decades.

Was he, the manager, I thought a reincarnation of Kruger, I wondered? Though his kids were learning French, he wasn’t able to master the language. His eyes were so sorrowful. He was desperately unhappy. Montreux is exquisitely beautiful. Across the footpath, the lake, framed by massive glaciers.

But of course it isn’t Africa, with its veld, the overwhelming sun, its rawness.

Villa Kruger, previously called Aloe Cottage, is the name of my house. The sign comes from that very villa in Clarens.

It is far more than a souvenir; it is a continuation of a campaign I spearheaded in France, to return the remains of Sarah Baartman, the so-called ‘Hottentot Venus’ back to South Africa.
It is the theme of my project, Toorkuns. It is about exile and the concomitant (untranslatable) heimwee.

It is about Kruger and his men - their wives and children in concentration camps - who were shipped off to St Helena, Ceylon, Argentina. It is about others who were banished, later. Breytenbach and Makeba, to mention two of many.

It is an autobiography.

Hennie Boshoff

Well done, Alf Joubert

I would like to commend Alf Joubert and his group ofcollectorspickingthe litterthe Pass during December (see “Cleaning the Swartberg”, January 2009).They are a fine example to us all.

Romy Mathews

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