1. Message (by Joke) silent force of nature
One morning, about seven months ago, I woke up with this feeling that someone had switched on the lights inside my body. I looked in the mirror and there I was, staring at myself with unusual big eyes. Some weeks later, a home test confirmed it. Pregnancy had entered me and Francois’ lives.
Since then, it is the first thing I think of when I wake up. Sometimes it feels for a split second as if that big belly is not there anymore. In an unconscious, sleepy gesture, I go with my hand to that area and yes. Of course. That little being is still living in that dark womb.
My twin sister was so very generous to buy some beautiful pregnancy clothes for me. Something one hardly finds here in South Africa. She also gave me all the clothes she has worn throughout her three pregnancies. The other day, I noticed that one of those blue dresses had a lot of fluffs on the belly area. Exactly that part of the dress that I caress so often, unconsciously even. Francois often jokes at me these days: “Trying to keep the baby inside?” Yes, how irrational that may be. The gesture feels like some sort of protection, a safety net one can say. But it is also just so nice to feel the growing roundness. Just laying my hand there. The idea that my twin sister, as seen in the signs on the dress, had also so often done exactly that, moved me. How becoming a mother is such an incredible age old, universal thing.
There is obviously more to life than being busy with this mysterious process. But since the day that light was switched on in me, things will never be the same anymore and at the same time, I am still that Joke with her particular passions, doubts, joys.
We’ve been living in the countryside since June, surrounded by a silence that is both inspiring and at times very challenging to me. I always assumed, just like my friends, that I was “a nature person”. I loved wooden furniture in my Antwerp flats, tried to eat healthy, recharged my batteries on short trips to big parks or to the South of France, hardly ever wear make-up, etc. The typical, and even rather cliché signs of “a nature person”. Yet, living out here in Stutterheim, with so many open days on my hands, made me realize it had always been a too easy position, to see myself that way, while living in such a vibrant, cosmopolitan, very urban town. No. This is the real thing. All these huge green trees, with their relentless rustling, just being there. They so often say in poems or quotes that nature brings wisdom, insights, peacefulness. True. But I had to experience first hand how nature is also hard in a certain way. What I mean with this is that she doesn’t offer you a golden plate with all the solutions you crave for neatly served. She is just there. Point. As firm as the huge trunks of old trees, deeply rooted in fertile soils. Surely, she doesn’t judge, like nothing or no one else can do. But I experienced her as someone or rather something that turns the white noise down, so that you can hear your inner turmoil as clear and loud as never before. Just that. Nothing more. No pampering, no spoiling. No words that silently whisper golden solutions for my inner quests into my ears. The only thing they seemed to say was something like: “Yes. Deal with it, Joke. Deal with the joys, the sorrows, the fears, the dreams and the passion. I won’t pamper nor distract you.”
I still love Antwerp and on some days, I can miss, like nothing else, the trams, the multicolored people, my friends, the shops, the many cozy pubs where we used to meet and work. But these green silent trees are becoming as much part of my and our life. If I think of raising our child amongst such natural abundance, I can only be grateful to offer our child the dark soils, the adventures, the secret corners of the property where we live on, to build camps, to get dirty in mud, or simply silently daydream while she will hear the very same rustling, not distracted or pampered by anything else.
Life is full of uncertain factors. These future images are obviously only daydreams of me (and Francois). But that light that was switched on in me … how can I say. It brings a focus as never before. Even if that
means having to sail through inner voices that runs wild.
Francois recently said the most beautiful thing, when I admitted, slightly shy, that I was so tired of hearing the things I wanted to run away from and urgently change. He said: “They now get all the time and space to run free, to run to the full. So, in this way they will get tired and die out more soon than when you can shadow them with all sorts of distractions.”
This thought stayed with me since then. I hope that in this fragile yet very strong world, with all its modern challenges, we can all keep on offering our thoughts, our children and ourselves exactly that: the space to run free, to run wild, to run to the full. To challenge ourselves, up to the point where a new phase can enter our lives.
This being said, on the artistic side, we are preparing hard for our next South African tour - the very last tour with just the two of us on the road. We recorded two new cd’s with poems of me and music of Francois - very nice things to do I must say! I just love our home studio. I am bit by bit sharing my novel with a handful of readers, digesting their responses and just started working on a series of short prose stories, based on things I hear on the road or read in the newspaper. I take the bottom-line of things that inspire me and fill the gaps with my imagination. I hope to have a collection of stories ready by the end of this year.
My you all have a blessed 2018, hopefully our paths cross again.
31 jan. 2018
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23 jan. 2018
This prosaic text was originally written in Dutch and then so beautifully, elegantly translated by Marie Bosman. The text is for within two weeks at our performances or online, on request. In this fragment, my partner Francois and I are lying down on the ground, surrounded by four armed men.
The leader of the group pushes me roughly to the ground. It hurts badly. He tells me to lie down on my stomach, with my hands on my back. I again struggle to understand him.
“What do you mean?” I ask as politely as possible.
“Lie on your stomach,” Francois says. “You have to stay like that for now.”
As they now tie also my hands with the laces of my hiking boots, Francois lands next to me again. This time our legs are stretched out.
Francois later could not remember these words, but I heard someone say, “I always finish my job with killing, and then we play some music.”
Soon they take us into the bushes, I thought. They position us in specific, symmetric, geometric positions and kill us one by one.
I imagine how they send a bullet through my chest, how I fall down and how my friend then also falls to the ground.
They start to go through our things. Not the books that the Nice One looked at so attentively, not the leather pants, but the stuff on the little table.
“I hate you whites,” says the leader as I hear things being thrown on the ground. “You with your laptops.”
The sentence pierces my heart and lets it break apart in many pieces. That breaking would continue for months. I hate us whites with our laptops namely also sometimes. I would not kill us for it and an army of psychologists is eager and ready to counsel me away from this, in their eyes, unnecessary guilt, but I do often think that.
Us whites with our laptops. We log on in little South African cafés while poor people serve us for a hunger pay. We use the freely available electricity while scores of people in the townships are unable to scrape enough change together to kick-start their power, so necessary for each day.
Yes, I hate us whites sometimes with a passion. We, who with our industrial revolution under the veil of civilization, permanently fucked up whole forests. We, who have our laptops made in foreign countries and then sell them at abnormally high prices. Yes, I hate us whites with our laptops also sometimes. How we all like to sit at a wooden counter with a big window in a hip coffee bar and then often plug in our ear phones to hear our favorite music, drowning out the music chosen by the professionally trained baristas. How we communicate hours on end via email. To fill our schedules. Sell stuff online. How we try to manage the whole world according to our image. Our so-called successful image. The pinnacle of civilization, which we fought so hard for. Yes, I get you, you psychopathic man. It is just that you utter these words with a hate I have never heard before.
If you hate us whites because of the cocoon in which we make our existence. If you hate us for the social cohesion that breaks down in direct correlation to the number of laptops we buy and sell. If you hate us whites for the fact that we destroyed the most precious natural resources of your continent, or are destroying them, in our vain search for more raw materials, more wealth, more stuff. If you want to return to a life where nature is the main character and not our brains. If you want to return to a life where the fragrance of trees and earth is everywhere as present as in the bushveld, then I can only agree with you.
Can we rather just sit at the table and talk to each other?
Maybe you have never contemplated that I hate some of the things on my end of the spectrum as much as what you hate them on the other side of the spectrum. You can take my laptop with you. I don’t think I will miss anything about it. You can have it. Everything.
But if you mean you hate us because we are inhumane monsters. If you mean you hate us because you think we have no feelings, no pity, compassion, empathy. If you hate us because you think we only do wrong with our wealth. If you want to kill us because you think we deliberately maintain injustice, then I don’t agree with you. I cannot drive my ‘mea culpa’ that far that nothing remains of me and my fellow white people. For that I know too many good white people with laptops. For that I know too many friends who share these concerns with me. For that I know too many people who will join me, if you would give me the chance and let me live, in compassionately consider your actions. For that I know too many psychologists, anthropologists, doctors, who would love to begin a dialogue with you.
It is true. We too often converse from our laptops. The world is crying because we rely on our laptops too much. But don’t kill us because you think we are all like that.
I am not even an Afrikaner, do you know that? I am Belgian. If your hate is fueled by apartheid, know that I was only a child when this country celebrated its racist momentum. My days were filled with going to school, trying to achieve good grades, pursuing many hobbies and longingly noticing the flirting glances of boys. No, while apartheid rode the high tide, I did not actively participate. Is that an excuse, you psychopathic man? Would it help knowing all this? Or are your motivations so racist that only a black skin would save me from a possible bullet? Oh, maybe you don’t mean any of what you said and I’m reading your words all wrong.
My friend was a part of it though. That’s true. He carries an active part of apartheid on his shoulders. But talk to him, do that. Please. His empathy is probably even more than mine exactly because he, without realizing it for a long time, stood on the wrong side of the black-white spectrum. Ask him about his years in the army, the protestant church services he attended, the map in his military class with every African country where the white colonial government fell, colored brown and titled, “The Brown Danger.” Ask him how that felt; you will see his tears.
Yes! Talk to us, please. Hear the conversations he and I are having in our second hand mini bus, when we over and over see people walking on the shoulder of the high way. Note all the times we wish we were able to better integrate into your community. Treasure all our words of admiration for the way you move your bodies, exude a kind of warmth, which we are losing or have already lost. Hear our love. It sounds pathetic, but hear it, please, and do it here and now. I have a heart. My friend as well. You can take everything with, everything, you hear me? Maybe in some crazy way that is even fair. But don’t send a bullet through us, just because our skins are so pale. Do you hear me?
“Where is your cell phone?”
Once again I’m not sure I understand the words.
“Your cell phone,” he repeats. “Where is it?”
I gather all politeness my body can produce at this moment. I want to give this man the feeling he’s being respected. That is the only thing I can think of right now: let him feel he is respected as a criminal. Maybe that is the common ground of our connection: respect. I muster all my courage. I imagine myself sounding calm, polite. I dare not sound hesitant on the one hand, but also not too confident on the other hand. I am reminded of the hundreds of hours of voice training I received during theater studies. I can do this, I tell myself.
In my best English, I answer: “It is probably on the bed. That is where I last used it. But I’m not sure. See if you can find it there.”
Someone moves the stuff on the bed. I don’t hear any violence. Apparently they are happy with their find.
“Remove the battery! Remove the battery!” I hear someone say. Yes, of course. That is how it goes down with phone theft. Sim card and batteries are taken out so that no one can trace us or the phone.
“We know you will remember this for a long time,” someone says unexpectedly softly. Is it the Nice One?
“We are all human,” he adds.
Beauty and horror were never this close.
22 jan. 2018
10 jan. 2018
De spookachtige witte gedaantes naast Francois Le Roux zijn grote koelkasten van een bakkerij in Kalk Bay (niet ver van Kaapstad), waar we zo'n twee weken geleden optraden. Oorspronkelijk was het een cinema, nog in de tijd van de Apartheid. Blanken zaten beneden, niet - blanken boven. De laatsten bekogelden blijkbaar af en toe met hun snoeppapiertjes en lege kartonnetjes het publiek beneden. Volledig begrijpelijk, zou ik zeggen. Later werd het een indoor squash baan, nu al 20 jaar een artisanale bakkerij. Toen Paul Kahanovitz een nieuwe plaats zocht om zijn jazz concerten te organiseren, dacht hij aan deze ruimte. Waarom niet? De zoveelste illustratie van het Afrikaanse gezegde "boer maak een plan". Heb je geen theater? Dan ga je toch gewoon naar een grote bakkerij en zet er alles klaar terwijl de bakkers op de achtergrond de dag aan het afronden zijn. Thanks Paul Kahanovitz for organizing this great event!