ENIGMATIC performer Antoinette Pienaar can be seen in Kathleen Winter’s documentary, A Shaman’s Apprentice, with herbal healer Oom Johannes Willemse.
Filmed in the heart of the Great Karoo, it shows how a Griqua herbalist is teaching a white woman to heal people with herbs.
Oom Johannes, already in his 90s, was a little annoyed that it took the actress nearly 40 years to find him – he had been dreaming for decades that she would be the one to help him pass on his knowledge.
Willemse is known as a seer, herb doctor, healer, storyteller, and teacher. Born on Breekkierie farm in the Kenhardt district, the eldest of 12 children, he obtained his knowledge of Karoo herbs, and other wisdom and stories, from his grandfather, Hansie.
Since his descendants had no interest in furthering the herbal traditions, Willemse was especially relieved when Pienaar finally arrived, desperate to be healed and hungry to learn.
Pienaar, a Karoo child from Carnarvon in the Northern Cape, knew as a little girl that she would one day tell stories and learn about herbs. After studying drama, she made a name as a storyteller.
During a trip to Mali, West Africa, she contracted and nearly died of cerebral malaria. Seriously weakened, she went to live at her parents’ home in Beaufort West. During a coincidental visit to Theefontein farm, she crossed paths with Oom Johannes.
“Only now you arrive,” were his impatient first words to her.
Since then, Pienaar has moved into a workers’ hut opposite Oom Johannes’s, where she not only experienced complete healing but also slowly but surely learnt about herbs, veld-knowledge and peace.
Seven years later in 2008, her book, Kruidjie Roer My, became the first step in preserving the Karoo’s herb heritage.
At Theefontein, Du Toit learnt the art of living off the veld, its herbs and how to prepare herbal mixtures. She also discovered how previous generations lived and the wisdom that gave them endurance and longevity.
On a small rise near the farmhouse, she and Oom Johannes live in workers’ huts without electricity or running water. In Pienaar’s little white house, her stories roll out like river stones. Kruidjie Roer My was written on an old typewriter under her kitchen window.
Through their work and Pienaar’s Friday afternoon contribution to Amore Bekker’s Tjailatyd on radio station Radiosondergrense, they are dedicated to relaying centuries of valuable information, stories and remedies to present and future generations.
The documentary was filmed for SABC’s African Renaissance.
l The film will be screened at Wellington’s Die Bôrdienghuis at Breytenbachsentrum today at 10am (082 812 1112); Dorpstraat Teater at Summerhill tomorrow at 11am (021 889 9158); and at the Labia on Orange on Sunday at 6.15pm (021 424 5927). Winter will attend the screenings. Running time is 23 minutes. www.kruiekraaikoning.co.za