by Francesca Villette
17 August 2016
IT MIGHT have been too painful for people from Khoi descent to talk of their past and, as a result, there is disconnection and social pathology, guest speaker at the Cape Times Breakfast Sylvia Vollenhoven said on Tuesday.
Vollenhoven, a journalist, writer and film-maker, spoke about her book, The Keeper of the Kumm, at the Table Bay Hotel. There is also a musical theatre adaptation of the book and a feature-length documentary film has been made.
In the book, Vollenhoven writes of unearthing the untold history of her ancestors, and shares her experiences about being “too black” for her coloured schoolmates, working as one of the few female journalists in the misogynistic environment of the 1970s, and the constant impact her background had on her life.
“There are horrible stories about people’s teeth being knocked out so that they couldn’t pronounce the clicks, and people being buried without any skin because commandos would skin people as a way of showing the group what would happen if they stood in the way of colonial enclosure. You don’t want to pass those stories on to your children. And so it became a silence that became part of our tradition,” Vollenhoven said.
When an audience member asked her how the truth of her past affected her, Vollenhoven responded: “The book is a long answer, the film will be an even longer answer, and so is the play. It helped me put my physicality into place, and it helped me understand that I don’t exist in this body.
“I exist simultaneously and forever on a much, much bigger plane and that is where my power and creativity comes from. That is what drives what I am. And when I exist in the fullness of what I am, then the effect is just amazing: I can do whatever I like.”