Travelling through memory…

VANESSA SMEETS

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SANTÉ: Founder of Blank Canvas Studio, Martine de Kock, welcomes guests to The Thyste Traveller’s third event.                                                                                  PIC: Vanessa Smeets

Memory flows for some in the form of a distinct song, an exceptional smell or a specific taste. For Martine de Kock (31), founder of Blank Canvas Studio, capturing the essence of her late great grandfather came in the form of what he loved most: great food, wine and company.

These ideals had to be captured in a truly sensory journey and, so, The Thyste Traveller series was born, asking exclusive wineries across South Africa to be part of an unforgettable experience.
The Thyste Traveller journey has grown from a small intimate group of friends to a monthly event of celebration and joy, in the comfort of a cozy atmosphere, in Pretoria.

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CHEERS: Bernard Dewey, sales and marketing director for Chamonix, and Martine de Kock, organiser of these delightful events.                                            PIC: Vanessa Smeets

Blank Canvas Studio has hosted numerous events in its young existence, but this is a very personal one for its founder:
“My great grandfather, Oupa Thys, travelled the globe to experience its culinary offerings. These events are held in his home, in memory of him, where we share a love of what he stood for.”

The third event in the series was showcased by Chamonix, a beautiful wine farm nestled in the Franschhoek valley, with a 50-hectare game farm, and found only one hour away from Cape Town.

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PARADISE: Chamonix wine farm in Franschhoek, paired perfectly for the third event.         PIC: Chamonix website

Guests were treated to a delicious 6-course pairing menu, prepared by ESSEN eatery which included:
TOP: dried porcini mushroom tortellini, parmesan ice-cream, peking duck.
BOTTOM: pork dish, melanzanata aubergine and gold Belgian chocolate dome for dessert.

Regulars to these events, Joha and Piet Bredell, said: “We keep coming for the great food, wine and company. What better way to spend a Wednesday evening?”

Keep an eye out for the fourth installment on this appetizing journey…

 

Goodbye, Hatfield Square!

VANESSA SMEETS

This week marks the first demolishing of Hatfield Square, a place which has become synonymous with the student lifestyle of partying, drinking and socialising in Pretoria over the last three decades.

Students, new and old, flocked this past weekend to say goodbye to Dropzone, Cherry Jam, Slug and Lettuce, News Café and Flair, or to relive their nostalgic student days.

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HATS OFF TO HATFIELD: This past weekend marked the last weekend for Hatfield Square, which will be demolished to make room for more student housing. PIC: Vanessa Smeets

Redefine Properties, the current owners of Hatfield Square, are planning to “break” the Square, in order to replace it with more student housing and offices. It is rumoured that at least three new student residences will be set up in its place.

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BITTER END: Bittereinder, a popular bilingual band, performed at Aandklas Friday night. Aandklas is one of the few places on the Square that will stay. PIC: Vanessa Smeets

Where will students go party now? Arcade Empire and Presley’s on Lynnwood Road, Capital Craft at Greenlyn, Eastwoods in Arcadia, Menlyn Square, as well as the Pretoria CBD, which is restructuring itself with new shebeens and clubs. The CBD has been stigmatised since the late 1990s for being “dangerous, full of satanists and prostitutes.”

Of course many students are sad with the closing down of Hatfield Square, but those loyal to Aandklas, the only place on the Square that is rumoured to stay along with Springboks, are happy Aandklas survived. “Our best memories are here! This is where I met my fiancée, my best friend and even my current business partner, “ laughed one PhD student. “It’s hard to say goodbye, but it’s also time to grow up… And Hatfield has lost its charm. No one really comes here anymore. It was at its peak during the World Cup.”

Cheers, Hatfield Square! Thank you for the memories!

A friend to all ages

Article & photos © VANESSA SMEETS

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INSPIRATION: Sarah’s joy comes from entertaining the people she cares about, from preschool to frail-care.

Sarah Widman (88) has finally had her biggest wish come true: the publishing of her first book, The Ant and the Elephant. It appeals to young children and teaches them many lessons:

K.T. (5): “It taught me to love all people.”
J.D. (5): “It taught me to be a better person.”
N.T. (5): “It taught me to work hard for the things I believe in.”

Interestingly, these lessons are all vital aspects to Sarah herself. She loves all people, young and old, by helping out the elderly in frail-care at the retirement home where she is a resident and also at Pretoria Montessori Preschool, where she reads or puts on shows for the children.

“God gave me the gift of making all people laugh, I use it as much as I can,” she says. Sarah found solace from a difficult background by putting on shows and plays for others. All her plays were self-written. Her play, Stages through the Ages, is for a more mature audience and aims to show what friendship goes through in various seasons of life.

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PUBLISHED: Sarah Widman (88) made the local newspaper this week after publishing her first book.

Sarah has definitely worked hard for the things she believes in. She waited 25 years for this first book, being rejected several times by a number of publishers.

She says: “Maybe people are more open now to the ideas of this imaginary world, where we need to escape from stress and technology.” Although her stories reflect Aesop’s Fables in terms of their morals, they are uniquely African and in tune with a child’s mind.

“I speak to my inner child, that’s where I get my ideas… I travel in my thoughts, I daydream, I ask a lot of questions… I’m always curious, like a child, and find joy in observing them.”

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BLISS: A friendly kiss after reading time for Sarah, the children at Pretoria Montessori Preschool’s dearest friend.

She has been a guest teacher at Pretoria Montessori Preschool for the last two years and this relationship has worked magic both ways. The preschool teachers describe Sarah’s presence as “a light to these little souls. They have learnt so much more on being respectful, disciplined and listening to the elderly.”

“I love Teacher Sarah because her stories are always clever and fun… She also gives the biggest hugs,” says S.M. (5).
Her next book, Adventures in Ghost-town, is currently in production and should be published by the end of the year. It will explore a little boy’s brave journey after disobeying his parents.

Fading Rainbow

VANESSA SMEETS

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FREEDOM: Is this goodbye? A democratic South Africa struggles to say goodbye to the man who freed her, as balloons, cards and posters fill up his hospital wall in Pretoria. PIC: Vanessa Smeets

In 1991, I came to a hateful, racist country that was on the verge of revival. Coming from Zimbabwe, I was shocked to see no black, Indian or coloured children in my class. “Where are they… the children of colour?” I asked my teacher one day. She looked at me confused. “Didn’t your parents tell you? We are separated here. We are different.”

Different? My black friends in Zimbabwe all spoke English. They taught me the beauty of an African sunset, those were the only colours that mattered.

I spoke fluent Shona. I could sing the national anthem, which has the exact same tune to the South African one, Nkosi Sikelel ‘iAfrika. The television spoke of a civil war rising between the ANC (African National Congress) and the IFP (Inkatha Freedom Party).

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BANG BANG SA: Greg Marinovich and other photojournalists documented South Africa’s gruesome civil war as the Bang Bang Club, now a major motion movie under the same name. PIC: Internet

My parents were glued every night to the screen: “Maybe it’s time we go back?” “But we just got here.” Chris Hani’s gruesome assassination in his driveway rocked the country the most. He was the Communist Party leader and yet, being so popular, there was hint he had a good chance at winning the next elections.

The unrest and murders were documented by the Bang Bang Club in photojournalism that shocked the world. The ANC’s leader, Nelson Mandela (a Xhosa), was set free. For years, the country had labelled him “a terrorist.” Today, he is known as our most cherished “freedom fighter.” He was even condemned by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, who later visited him as our leader.

I was only eight years old when Nelson Mandela took the oath in April 1994, next to FW De Klerk, to rebuild our country and her people. Yet, I remember it like yesterday. A man of peace stood before us. He was imprisoned for 27 years for treason. He was only allowed to send one letter every six months and get a visitor for only 30 minutes once a year.

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PEACE: The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded in 1993 to Nelson Mandela and FW De Klerk (who was his predecessor and deputy president) for “The peaceful termination of Apartheid.” PIC: Internet

It takes a lot to stand against your oppressors, learn their language and finally lead them. It takes a Godly man. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize alongside De Klerk.

My dad took us to the Union Buildings the week after our first democratic elections. There was still confetti all over the lawns. Our new flag was flown proudly above the arches.
“Do you know what this man and flag mean for all of us?” Dad asked us.
“Not really…”
“It means we are all free. We are free to vote. We are free to take the same bus. We are free to go to the same schools.”

The rainbow flag fascinated me the most: the red for our blood-shed, the white for our peace, the yellow for our riches, the blue for our two oceans, the black for our tribes. The green “Y” shows two parts becoming one. Eleven languages were a result of our separation known as “homelands.” I even remember taking my domestic worker regularly to check her pass, a few years before. “I am different to you,” she showed me. “I have to be in bed at a certain time, I cannot go to certain places.” She had eyes, ears, a nose and curly hair like me and I also had to be in bed by a certain time, it was hard for a young child to understand.

Little by little, my father’s prophecy came true. Black, coloured, Indian children trickled one by one into my school. The children played with each other’s hair the most, it was fascinating to finally meet them. Nelson Mandela’s real first name is “Rolihlahla” meaning ‘pulling the branch of a tree’ and that’s exactly what he stood for. He took a poisoned tree of South Africa and gave her new branches: the branches of courage, forgiveness, patience and peace.

People were worried the TRC (Truth and Reconciliation Commission) trials would open old wounds. And, while they did, our new country (thanks to Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu) bled less in her quest for peace. Most perpetrators were given amnesty or asylum elsewhere.

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SPORTS’ HERO: Nelson Mandela reunited South Africa using sport. PICS: Various sources GRAPHIC: Vanessa Smeets

Nelson Mandela saw the one thing that united us all: sport. While the black people of South Africa loved football (or soccer, as we call it), the whites preferred rugby. As documented by the Hollywood movie Invictus, Nelson Mandela stood at the Rugby World Cup in 1995, shaking hands with our Springboks. They sang the new national anthem proudly that day, after much practice, and took the cup home for us. That golden cup represented a golden era for South Africa that would forever be known as the “Madiba years.” Father of our nation aka Tata Madiba, for his clan name. He was our oldest elected president at 75. But, he’s not only “father of the nation,” he’s keeper of peace and guardian of our rainbow nation.

Today, I am struck with the realisation it’s time to let him go. Yet, like so many other South Africans, I am unable to free the man that set us free. South Africa stands uncertain: what will happen to the ANC? To our peace?

My only wish is that his last memory of us will be positive. Despite our xenophobia, crime and incessant complaining, that we can rise above and meet his ideals again: a country bound by love and forgiveness. You divide a nation by fear and hatred. Those who fear and hate, they flee. He gave us courage and taught us forgiveness. The problem with every rainbow, is that it slowly fades, but its beauty lives on. Mandela painted that rainbow for us.

In 2004, with his help, we were given the chance to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup. It was the biggest challenge to ever face South Africa; our stadiums were small or worn down. But, somehow, his smiling face grabbing onto that trophy motivated us.

In 2006, I interviewed eight 8-year olds for a newspaper article about what they would give him for his 88th birthday. Their answers were beautiful: “eternal life,” “immortality,” “freedom” and “happiness.”

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FREEDOM BABIES: Mandela has touched both our oldest and youngest citizens. Pretoria Montessori Pre-school’s art illuminates his hospital wall with messages of hope and love. PIC: Vanessa Smeets

Today, I am teaching four and five year olds what he means to us. These freedom babies have still a lot to learn about his legacy. Their messages on their art for his hospital wall reveal, however, that they finally comprehend what he stands for:
“He is the grandfather I always wish I had.”
“Our country will be so sad without him.”
“He was the best president we ever had.”
“Mandela means freedom for us all.”
“It’s thanks to him, I can go to school with everyone.”

It’s the biggest full moon of the year. In a way, she consoles us: “Don’t worry, South Africa. Rest assured, his light will shine on.”

EXTRA SOURCE:

 

Girls’ Getaway takes off!

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The first movie for Ster-Kinekor‘s ladies’ nights captured real life for most women.

The first Girls’ Getaway event organised by Ster-Kinekor was a lovely success at Brooklyn Mall, Pretoria, held on April 24.The ladies started arriving from 7pm, eager for their goodies and to catch up with their friends. Although the movie house was not as full as anticipated, everyone seemed to laugh at the quirky moments of “This is 40,” which explores the characters of Debbie and Pete (from the prequel, Knocked Up).

The movie explores issues close to women’s hearts: tough teenage children, apathetic husbands, a waning sex-life, temptations of all sorts and the courage of even an unexpected pregnancy (without saying too much).

Audience member Desré Barnard (27) said:

“I love how real the movie is. It explores issues that I’m bound to go through in the next ten years. Of course the swearing and sex scenes may not appeal to the older viewers in the audience. The happy ending trend is past now… As this film captures.”
The lucky draw of hampers was by far the highlight of the evening. The orthopedic pillow winner shouted: “I’ve been craving one like this for so long!” The lucky winner of the Lentheric perfume hamper is a single mom, who has been eager to spoil herself, while the lady who won the movie merchandise hamper happened to be a movie connoisseur. The Pentravel hamper winner was congratulated by her 6-women entourage. “She brought us all here! She deserves it!” said her colleague, after the show.
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Some of the wonderful women who attended ladies’ night at Brooklyn Mall’s Ster-Kinekor. PHOTO: Desré Barnard

Everyone is looking forward to the next event on May 22. “We are going to dress up for The Great Gatsby!” said a group of former Pretoria High School for Girls pupils, “We are ready to spread this wonderful girl-time and me-time to our friends.”
A big thank you to Ster-Kinekor from all those who attended.

There is HOPE! Incitement South Africa…

VANESSA SMEETS

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ARE YOU IN? Incitement SA will launch March 9. Are you ready? Courtesy: Incitement Fan-page

Once riddled with negative connotations, the word “incite” now means to provoke and spur on in a positive way. Incitement South Africa was founded February 9 this year, by Tamara and Francisca Al-Halaseh. It comes at a time in South Africa when our mind-set is rife with negativity, speculations and heartache. Originally founded in Malaysia in 2011 by Daniel de Gruijter and Zikry Kholil, as a way for employees to talk about their ideas, the movement has now become a global instrument of positive change. From Malaysia, it spread to the USA, Canada, UAE and Jordan and has now reached South Africa.

Incitement is a global movement of local communities. The site reads:
“It is born out the idea that people have something worth saying. We encourage everyone… who has something to share to get up and get it out there.”

What is it?

Incitement South Africa encourages individuals to create positive thinking, by networking with people from various backgrounds. This will be done by sharing life-affirming values and stories that have inspired and motivated them. The Incitement South Africa Facebook fan-page publishes affirmations of self-growth and self-belief on a daily basis. No judgement. No prejudice.

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CHALLENGE ACCEPTED: Are you ready to change or be the change? Pic from the FB fan-page.

How will they do it?

By hosting informal and easy-going events, starting with Gauteng and moving nationally.

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POSITIVITY: What makes a good life? Find out with Incitement. PIC: internet

When is the first event?

The event planned for 30th of March in Pretoria (at Blue Valley Mall) will gather everyone from entrepreneurs, personal growth enthusiasts, thinkers to marketers and students. They will enjoy a series of powerful presentations and participate in unique team-building exercises. These will be designed to help them grow on a personal and professional level. Think of it as a melting pot of incredible and original ideas that stir up weary souls and awaken tired minds. Watch out for the venue on the Facebook page.
Reply to the event: Incitement SA Launch.

The presentations given will be documented with guests’ permission on video and posted to their YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter channels, in hope of making positive affirmations a reality. It will help employers deal with down-trodden staff, parents with unruly children and students with depression.

Co-founder Francisca Al-Halaseh says:

“It is a platform for people to speak up and share their outrageous visions for the future, life changing experiences from the past and ideas for the present.”

But, it’s not all ‘serious talk.’ It’s also a place to have fun in front of a crowd and spread positive vibes.

For more information, visit:
http://theincitement.com/

If you would like to sponsor or get involved with the March 9 event, check out the South African Facebook fan-page:

https://www.facebook.com/IncitementSouthAfrica

Christmas time in rural South Africa!

VANESSA SMEETS

Please scroll down for the full slide-show…

About 40 children at the Peng-ai-Gong Care Centre in Zone 16 of Ga-Rankuwa, a few kilometres out of Pretoria, were greeted with toys, clothes, food and stationery last week, just in time for the holiday season.

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CHRISTMAS LOVE: Abandoned children were greeted with gifts and food last week in rural South Africa. PIC: Vanessa Smeets

The children all come from disadvantaged, vulnerable or abused backgrounds and attend schools near by. They go to the care centre after school till about 16h30 to eat and do homework. But things have not been easy: the centre lost its main sponsor a few months ago.

However, Bianca O’Neill, a lecturer at Tshwane’s University of Technology, heard about their plight and decided to help out. In September, the children were asked to draw anything of their choice that they would like to own and O’Neill instructed her students, who are future Foundation Phase teachers, to make these toys out of whatever materials they had.

It was a project that would be both educational and inspirational. The result was phenomenal: the children were given objects like a giraffe, doll houses, a Chris Brown doll, wire cars, amongst other things.

For Irene Kgasi, the centre’s manager, O’Neill’s arrival was a divine appointment:

“Bianca is a gift from God. She wiped away our tears just in time. We, however, still need a donor and more food as we cannot expect Bianca to continue helping us. Whoever is interested must please contact our Board Member, Angie Molebatsi.”

The centre is made up of a total of 46 boys and 58 girls (when they are all present) between the ages of 4-19 and also includes activities like numerical literacy and sport.

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HOPEFUL: The care centre’s manager, Irene Kgasi, hopes they will find a sponsor in time for Christmas. PIC: Vanessa Smeets

The project of transforming a child’s hand-drawn dream into a real-life model was inspired by the idea of giving to those less fortunate, but also giving something that you made personally. It was a test to see how generous and imaginative the students were, but also to test their love for children and whether teaching was truly their chosen profession. The students were marked on originality, durability, neatness, as well as evaluated on the journal they had to keep from the day they started on the toy till now.

For student Mpho Kesimoloste, it was a wonderful experience:

“To see the smiles on the children’s faces was truly amazing…The whole thing became personal for me, because I did not know where to begin or how my toys would turn out. We also didn’t know how the children would react to the toys that we made and, to our surprise, they were very happy and it brought a sense of joy and happiness to them.
I believe that as people we should continue to help and care for needy and vulnerable children, this kind of thing should not end with us but continue to help these children to be positive in life.”

For Mpho* (8), an orphan at the centre, the gifts came just in time:

“We are so happy. We have never had a real Christmas. All I wanted was a toy… old or new. Now, I have so many! We are going to share and make it the best Christmas ever!”

O’Neill describes the success of this community project:

“This involvement has inspired my students so much… I’m proud of all my students and happy with all the people who made donations. Here’s hoping to continue with his for a long time and bring as much joy to the children and teenagers as we can.”

The project also hopes to break down the stigma attached to the Tshwane University of Technology, which became infamous earlier this year for their strikes and unrest. O’Neill explains:

“My students have proved themselves as hardworking and dedicated individuals, who are willing to make a difference.”

Readers who are interested in helping the centre, can visit their website: http://noah.clickclickboom.co.za/?p=2468