The page was first launched on Facebook in 2015 and has since extended to other social media platforms.
The aim of the brand is to highlight the lives and culture of the Cape coloured community, while educating others about it.
The person behind Vannie Kaap said he prefers to remain anonymous so he can eat his Gatsby in peace and because he is “vrek skaam” (very shy) and “might still owe Edgars money”.
But on a serious note, he is not interested in “becoming a rising star”.
“I’m interested in the coloured people rising from the ashes. I am quite happy being in the shadows, as long as the spotlight is on those who need it most. To this day, I do not know the name of a single Cape Malay slave, even though they were responsible for physically building the foundation of today’s Cape Town and South Africa. So, by remaining anonymous, I stand in the gap of that unknown slave to whom I owe so much.”
He said the concept of Vannie Kaap came from a hobby. “I was writing memes in the language I grew up with - Afrikaaps, a language I didn’t know existed as a language, even though I was using it daily. I always thought I was speaking Afrikaans, but when I researched how modern-day Afrikaans was formed, I discovered there was an original distinct language formed by the Cape Malay slaves. It wasn’t a broken version of Afrikaans, it was the original Afrikaans.
“This was probably the most powerful cultural awakening I had ever experienced. So it was from this point that I set out to standardise what I was doing, and do it better. Through memes, articles and later even merchandise, I wanted our language, our history, our pain, our joy, our uniqueness and, oftentimes, craziness to be shared with the world.”
What contributes to the brand’s success is that its founder understands the culture because he grew up with it in Manenberg.
“I’m just an average guy raised by a single mother in one of the most difficult places in Cape Town to raise a boy. I grew up in Manenberg, which has always been an area on the Cape Flats known for its gang violence. When I look at some of my childhood friends and the general statistics about my area, I had a very high chance of ending up in a gang, prison, or even worse. But thanks to the way my mother raised me, I’ve managed to not become part of that sad statistic.”
But life wasn’t easy for him as they moved from house to house. “Whether it was a room in someone’s home or shared servant’s quarters, my childhood was not that comfortable, but we always made the best of what we had.”
He said after completing high school, his sister sacrificed her salary so he could study. “Unfortunately, I completed only one year and made the decision to find work because the factory my mother worked in closed down. When my sister tragically passed away a short while after, I focused fully on my job and supporting my mother. She eventually got a job as a kitchen assistant and things became better.”
But the setback did not deter him. “Having always wanted to complete my studies, I knew, based on our circumstances, it would be difficult to do so. Life went on and after a while along came YouTube. It literally became my university, as I would spend hours and, later, months watching video tutorials. I taught myself web and graphic design, as drawing was something I always liked doing as a child. My newfound skills opened up doors for me that would allow me to do freelance design work.
“So, I was having a normal - and boring - office job, but designing logos and websites for clients on the side.”
And then Vannie Kaap launched on Facebook in 2015.
He said for a year he was the only person working for the brand - which included designing, blogging, posting, promoting and researching - until a friend came on board.
Since the launch of Vannie Kaap, he said to call the response from the public “overwhelming is an understatement”.
He enjoys the emails he receives from people from other cultures about the posts that educate them.
“I receive emails every week from all over the world. They are always filled with words of encouragement for what I am doing. I am totally humbled by the amount of support I’ve been receiving.
“On Facebook, the Vannie Kaap page has more than 185000 followers, of which we receive on average 5000 new followers each week. On Instagram we have just reached 16000 followers. We have a rapidly growing email list and the Vannie Kaap blog page has received hundreds of thousands of unique visitors. The journey has been exciting and, at times, I have to pinch myself to check I’m not dreaming.”
He said the vision is for the brand to become the “leading media outlet when it comes to Cape coloured affairs” and to continue to inspire and educate.
This meme found on the Vannie Kaap Facebook page explains it best: “Yesterday I really wanted Breyani. Today I am eating Breyani. Follow your dreams.”
Lastly, also in the words from the Vannie Kaap page: “In a world full of Zumas and Guptas; be a Nelson Mandela.”
* To buy Vannie Kaap merchandise, see shop.vanniekaap.com