The Jan van Riebeeck monument in Adderley Street. People of colour are economic refugees in the Western Cape, says the writer. File picture: Candice Chaplin
The Jan van Riebeeck monument in Adderley Street. People of colour are economic refugees in the Western Cape, says the writer. File picture: Candice Chaplin

Jan Pierewiet should have left all those damn vowels in the 17th century

By Gasant Abarder Time of article published Sep 14, 2021

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OPINION: Gasant Abarder ponders why we can’t just stop playing the race card and get along with each other.

Hi. My name is Gsnt brdr. See what I did there for you, Jay Pee? I took away the too-many-vowels-in-awkward-places. Actually, I’m one of the few who managed to get to the other side of slavery, colonialism and apartheid with my family name intact.

I got to 2021 with the surname Abarder. What a monstrosity and inconvenience, right Jay Pee? What the hell was great, great, great grandad Abarder thinking, giving Rear Admiral Jan Pierewiet Smurf the slip when he arrived from a slave ship in the Cape in the 17th century?

I could have had a manageable family name like January, February, March or any other month of the year Abarder the First arrived in so we could just stop embarrassing people trying to say our family name.

But in the bigger scheme of things my name is really child’s play.

Back then, Rear Admiral Smurf, assigned to the Cape Colony – and with a head full of conquests – should have been paying closer attention to the other black and brown-skinned people. The ones who were here when he arrived. For later on, his (not so) great, great, great grandson, young Jay Pee – whose dreams of a first car were full of k*k beige Toyota Conquests – would be tormented by people who insisted on beginning their names with a ‘!’ or an Nzelenzele.

Why, Abongile, why? Nzelenzele is such a short road away from uHelen-Zille, the promise of piped water and the many other gifts of civilisation that colonisation gave us. You could have been a Zille had it not been for those too many vowels in awkward positions. Or did you mean consonants, Jay Pee? Yes, don’t fret. Who needs an Honours in English anyway? Certainly, not anyone named Juan Spleenhuisen, right? Merit is not for you. You’re fit for purpose and already have your foot in the door, old chap.

Right now, this Microsoft Word programme is disrespecting my name and surname and your surname too, Abongile, because it is dropping those wavy red lines underneath – the symbol to depict a spelling mistake. We’re spelling mistakes. But not Helen. Or Zille. Or Jay Pee. Or Smurf. But uHelen is a spelling mistake.

You see, Abongile, this world wasn’t made for you and me, despite what that song says about this land being my land and your land. Here, in the Republic of the Western Cape, you and I are economic refugees. Because you must be from the Eastern Cape, right, coming from there to fill the schools here and to take the jobs? And I must be from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan or any other part of the world wat Jay Pee nie wil verstaan (nie).

And the land? There is dololo land. It’s a piped water dream, my friend. And don’t look now but … erm … dololo is also underlined with the curly red wave. It’s also Oom Jan Pierewiet’s fault for teaching ‘them’ cricket. Now Pharryl ‘black people can’t play cricket’ Dullinumb has to suffer on a psychologist’s couch every time Kagiso Rabada takes a wicket. Or when he sees the name, Shane Warne. Just think: Marked Sloucher wouldn’t have had to apologise because there wouldn’t have been pesky brown s***s in the dressing room to call brown s***s. And Wally Bugger wouldn’t have had to come out to defend old Sloucher either.

I wish our forebears could just have shown a bit of consideration for Jay Pee. I mean Tartar never forced anyone to call him Rolihlahla, did he? We should all just fall in line because being a Smurf is good. We should all just do things the Smurfy way.

I think I’ll call myself Grain Smurf, from now on. It kind of has a nice ring to it (with apologies to Peyo).

* Abarder, who recently launched his book, Hack with a Grenade, is among the country’s most influential media voices. Catch his weekly column on Cape {town} Etc.

* The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL.

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