Google+ Followers

Pages

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Folksong for the Berg River






As I walk along the Berg River I always wonder why so few people do that...is it really nicer to walk through a busy touristy type of place in preference to experiencing this pure, honest earthy national treasure called Bokkom Lane ? The boats have two-stroke engines nowadays, but I am happy to report that even though some of them really "cowboy" it over the estuary, the birds are totally unperturbed. The pelicans, flamingoes and waders go about their business, while the gulls would optimistically follow...hoping for a morsel of fish.

I want to take you back in time when a little sailing cutter called "Die Alibama" would hitch a ride on a gentle breeze upriver to collect cut reeds which were used for roofing and for matting of beds. In our colourfully expressive Afrikaans language, in which some words are derived from the Malay culture and language, it would be called dekriet and matjiesgoed. The boat would return to Cape Town and feed the busy industry where a new bed was made for every Malay bride to be presented to her all made up, shiny, frilly and lacy, on her wedding day.

And here is where the famous song "Daar kom die Alibama" finds its origin. It refers to the cutter which brought in the bedding material to make the rietkooi (reed bed). This song is the main song on festivals like "Tweede Nuwejaar". (I tell all about the Minstrel Carnival on Tweede Nuwejaar in an earlier blog). No Minstrel Carnival will pass without "Die Alibama" and the beds being remembered in song. I wonder if the thousands of singers pouring down Adderley Street in Cape Town know the role of the Berg River in their favourite song?

There is another boat with a history in the West Coast. That is the American boat "Alabama", linked with Saldanha Bay and I must tell its story some time! How confused the two stories became over time, I cannot tell! Local folklore can be like that!

26 comments:

  1. What a charming painting Marie! I just LOVE boats and the way the appear in a painting. People are so busy with their lives, they don't even see these treasures anymore, preferring to charge around in their outboard 'jobbies'. I also just love those seagulls sitting on the gate!

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is a great post Marie, and I love the boat painting. It makes me laugh to hear you say they "cowboy" across the water. and it doesn't bother the birds a bit : )
    I nominated you! and the confirmation came through just fine - good luck, this is so well deserved!!!
    hugs from toasty Texas...

    ReplyDelete
  3. What an interesting story.
    Speed is addictive, eh? One rarely sees people just idling in a small boat anymore. So much taken for granted.
    Good painting, here. I have some similar ones awaiting my brush from up on the St Lawrence this year.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you, Maree. I am feeling my way with boats, some reflections like these in dull greenish water can be a problem. I suppose for the real fishermen the outboard has become important! They can rush home if there is a storm at sea.

    Thank you, Nancy, maybe it is the fishy smell of those boats that helps the birds to relate to it. Thanks so much for the nomination, it is kind of you to take the trouble! I have no change at this late stage! The nominations opened on the 2nd of August and I was not aware of it! So, let's say it is a practice run for next year!

    ReplyDelete
  5. What an intriguing commentary! I almost feel as though I am there! and thank you for your kind words on my post, I appreciate your comments very much*

    ReplyDelete
  6. I am so enjoying your history of this area and how songs, words, and art have developed from this wonderful culture. I like the combination of blues in this painting, and the unique perspective. One feels that you can reach out and pull this boat onto shore!
    I also enjoyed the article about your art and the transitions of style and mediums. I wonder if you have found your niche.
    I voted for you. I don't think anyone else gives a more enjoyable and interesting view of South Africa!
    Thanks for your comments on my recent posting.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I love your narratives, Marie ALMOST as much as I love your work! I also love the reference to 'cowboying' it across the water!!!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Nice post Marie, I loved the painting and the read. Pity, life is so commercialized, people are forgetting small wonders of life!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Oh wow Marie, I know exactly what you're talking about, having recently been in Bokkom Lane. And you've absolutely captured that area perfectly in that painting.

    I never knew that about the Alibama, so now I know why hy kom oor die see! Van Velddrif af!

    ReplyDelete
  10. What a lovely peaceful spot, Marie, and a good story! I love your boat painting.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thank you, Janice, and welcome to my blog!

    Catherine, thanx so much for the vote, I got in too late in the competition! Thank you for summing up my intentions with this story, it is truly a total culture that we have here.About my previous styles: I remember getting so fed-up wit watercolors after twenty years, I could not take another washy painting!

    Thank you Kelley, I love to know that you are not only looking at my paintings, but read my stories too!One delicious donut and three cheers to you!!!

    padmaya, your tree was thrilling, if those banyans could speak!! Thank you for the comment!

    Liz, Velddrif has an Alibama festival too, I think we must look it up on the Internet.Thank you for the comments, and hope the donkeys on your page get a lot of visitors!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Marie, your paintings are so rich for me, undoubtedly because of the history you share with each piece. I for one am with you on preferring a walk along the river rather than on a city sidewalk. This piece is beautiful and I can almost envision the hard work of the hands that will be done by the boat owner.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hi Tracy, thank you so much! I love your miniatures!
    Sherry, I hope you will send me e-mail re your address, as I have that long-promised print ready to be mailed now. Thank you for sharing my "walk", you can turn your head away from the bokkoms that you dislike and just look at the birds!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Your little blue boat really captured my attention - such a delicious colour. Its great getting all the local history along with your artworks on each post. I trolled back through some posts I had missed and wow, came to find you are a celebrity!! Such a good article and made us feel quite humble knowing your past teaching history and sales to the famous. In admiration Joannie

    ReplyDelete
  15. Joan, I am really blushing now! CV's and such write-ups and documents can look so impressive on paper on screen! But behind it all is the usual struggle to carve out a place for oneself. Thank you for visiting and doing all that back-reading!

    ReplyDelete
  16. I love the serene look of the boat... really nice... Are you going to paint the orange one too?
    I find boats difficult... Can't get my mind NOT to paint the boat this is my mind but the SHAPE that is in front of me.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Thank you for another fascinating chronicle, Marie, and for painting the lovely setting to provide the perfect ambiance in which to read the story.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Thank you Diane!

    Thanks Marian, no more of these boats, as I am trying to get further away from civilization....Lamberts Bay and some real rowing boats without two-stroke engines coming up!

    Thank you, Charlene, I am glad you liked the story!

    ReplyDelete
  19. It's amazing, I could send you some pics exactly the same as these and I am in the other side of the world to you! I must paint some of our harbour walk too.

    ReplyDelete
  20. That is so awesome, Carolann! You must do that! The Berg River's claim to fame is that it is so clean and unpolluted.

    ReplyDelete
  21. a truly beautiful and peaceful painting

    ReplyDelete
  22. I knew Die Alibama was a boat, but not the history of it on the Berg River, how fascinating Marie. My husband's grandmother used to tell the children to "gaan klim in die kooi", now I know where that comes from too! A beautiful painting of an idyllic spot, I'm so glad the birds aren't bothered by the cowboys!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Thank you Celeste, as peaceful as the real river, I hope!

    Cathy,to me it was like learning that "Ring-a-ring 'o roses" was really about the plague! All these song originated somewhere! The old Afrikaans folks used "kooi" and "katel" more than they used the word "bed".

    ReplyDelete
  24. Nice and some great material here for further paintings.

    ReplyDelete

I love your comments, they make my day!