CAPTURING CULTURE: Playwright Peter Voges writes about overlooked 
middle-class coloured life. Picture: Cindy Waxa/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - Deep lines formed above Peter Voges’ stark white eyebrows, and his milky brown eyes stared ahead of him as he explained the shock he endured while watching his play Henrietta with Love being performed for the first time.

“When I saw it I was shocked. I gave Lee-Ann van Rooi performing rights, but told her not to tamper with it. She practically rewrote it. She said she had to modernise it It’s set in 1946 on purpose.

“All my work is about preserving culture and identity. I need my people to hear their stories. When I wrote Henrietta with Love, I wrote it with someone in mind. When you see it on stage... it’s so sad,” said Voges.

Voges, 81, is a rising playwright who started writing at the age of 79, with a pen on an exam pad in his flat in Fish Hoek.

He received acclaim and recognition for Henrietta with Love, including awards from the Western Cape Cultural Affairs Department for contributing to the literary arts.

Voges is now working on four plays based on women, their struggles and the experience in the lives of “middle-class coloureds”, which he said were largely untold.

He spoke of the pain he endured by others who judged and dismiss him: “Middle-class coloured is not township-bound and Afrikaans-speaking. My people, our people are always misunderstood. Middle- class coloured people have a culture which is getting lost.

“When someone doesn’t know who you are, they see you and immediately swing into Afrikaans. Someone asked me what I am. I told her coloured, and she said aren’t all coloured people Muslim?

“When you hear about coloured people, you hear about Manenberg; you don’t hear anything else. You don’t hear about middle and upper class,” said Voges.

One of the plays he is working on is about the complexities of life in the coloured culture. The play, One for the Road, follows a battered woman whose drinking becomes an addiction that consumes her.

Voges, 81, is a rising playwright who started writing at the age of 79, with a pen on an exam pad in his flat in Fish Hoek. Picture: Cindy Waxa/African News Agency (ANA)

Voges explains that while running around looking for her next drink, she runs straight into a fist, and between the physical abuse she endures and the drinking she turns to, she forgets about her children.

“Her grandmother helps her out and begins to cleans up her home.

“She wakes up in a strange environment, but it’s the same house, just clean. It’s a wake-up call for her.

Another play Voges is working on, Aunty Always Says, recaps his relationship with his mother’s eldest sister, who had dementia. Voges says the play follows Aunty’s experience with war and personal life stories of forced removals in District Six while dealing with the delicacies of dementia.

The third play he has in the pipeline is Margery, and partly tells his own story of being victimised and ill-treated by others.

“I was victimised, and still am. People are very nasty to me Margery is a victim to circumstances. She is ashamed of her name and tries to hide it by changing her life, giving up her real name, Desdemona Esmeralda Skitakat.”

The fourth play Voges is working on is based on the Cape coloured corps, and details the experiences of four coloured men, from various areas in Cape Town, who heed the call for new army recruits.


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Cape Argus