Farewell to a beloved diva and unifier

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iol pic sa CT DEONESTA CLAASEN 3831 done Independent Newspapers Granddaughter Deonesta Claasen broke down as Grietjie Adamss coffin left her home in Daisy Street. Picture: Ian Landsberg

Cape Town -

Garies: This dusty, rural Northern Cape town came to a standstill at the weekend for the funeral of one its greatest daughters, Ouma Grietjie - the diva of Namaqualand music.

She was famous for her song Lekker Ou Jan.

Grietjie Adams, who had been a domestic worker for most of her life, recorded her first album at 77, 10 years ago.

Although she suffered prejudice and struggled financially under apartheid, Adams was hailed as a reconciler in democratic South Africa.

Shops and motels were closed and residents came out in their droves for her funeral on Saturday.

iol pic sa ct funeral pamhlet 3972 done The funeral programme for Grietjie Adams, who was also known for her colourful bonnets. She was 87. Picture: Ian Landsberg Independent Newspapers

Adams died in the Harmony Old Age Home in Springbok on Tuesday. She was 87.

“She was the diva of Namaqualand. When she performed people hung on to every word she sang,” old friend and fellow performer Pieter van der Westhuizen told the Cape Times at the funeral.

“She was a remarkable woman. Her feet were on the ground all the time. She had a place in her heart for everyone - black, white… we won’t ever forget what she gave to us.”

Adams survived seven of her 13 children. The others continue to live in the town.

Her oldest son, Charles Adams, 48, said: “There are no words to describe how I feel about the loss. My mother was a great woman. I never knew so many people had an interest in her. Now that she is not there any more, I can see that she touched the lives of many.

“She taught us always to be humble. She never answered your questions, but always asked you a question upon a question – and through that she answered you.”

Adams’s Daisy Street home in Mooiuitsig was flooded with visitors and her death widely discussed on social media.

The Reverend Sammy Muller of the Harmony Home, where Adams spent her last three years, said it had been a blessing having her there.

“She was willing to be as a humble as ever. She was never just the Adams family’s grandmother. She was the grandmother for everyone in the town,” he said.

“She was worth so much for us all. Everyone united behind her and the culture she represented. Die ding het geruk in die ouetehuis as Ouma Grietjie daar was (There was always a party in the old age home with Grietjie Adams).”

Her first album, Grietjie of Gariep, was recorded in a small farm kitchen in 2004.

Afrikaans poet and Afrikaanse Taal- en Kultuurvereniging (ATKV) member Elias Nel said: “Her music had a distinct sound and vibe. It’s true to the Northern Cape and the Nama people. We do run the risk that the music she so beautifully made may die because no one is taking it over.

“The ATKV will look into ways of promoting her work and make her legacy known, because she was brilliant to the Afrikaans community.”

Adams was presented with the Northern Cape Icon Award in 2004 by then-premier Dipuo Peters, who is now transport minister.

Northern Cape MEC for Cultural Affairs and Sport Pauline Williams said: “I would like to thank Ouma Grietjie for everything she has done for this province. She made a change by reconciling different races and classes through her music.

“She reconciled people and completed her life by contributing her whole being to changing her community.”

Adams was buried in the Uniting Reformed Church graveyard in Garies, in a grave lined with concrete.

“You may be nothing while you live, but when you die you are honoured,” a family friend, Martin Klaase, said.

Cape Times

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