‘Jeremy vannie Elsies’ rich in love
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“I’m gonna make you a woman”. I watched him do a bouncy quick-step up the slight incline to the Deanery: a step forward, stepping lightly on to the right, Jarman-shoed foot, a jigging pause as the left leg rhythms along.
He greeted me with a “Djy moerit lies”, as he slapped a copy of 'Jeremy vannie Elsies' in my hand.
“I had a dream,” Hermy half whispered over the brim of his tea cup, “in which I die and I end up at the entrance to heaven. It looked like your area. A lotta white people walking their dogs and running about in shorties”. But even more disconcerting, he confided, was to see that God was white and that Jesus looked like Aron Gunnarsson, the captain of the Iceland team at this year’s Fifa World Cup.
Hermy said he felt a panic attack and shouted, “Steve Biko, Mangaliso Sobukwe, Reg September are you there?” And before he could add the name of Frantz Fanon he woke up to the gentle snore of Gabeba, reassuring him that he had not died.
“What is the colour of love, my brother, and what did the women look like?” I asked, to buy some time to formulate a comforting response.
“Gottallah, why do you bring up sex at the time? En losai Rumi gedagtes!” We spoke about how our dreams were often conversations with ourselves. A timely surfacing of our anxieties and fears. For instance, the Tunisians scored the first African goal of the Fifa World Cup 2018 but still lost to the English, our erstwhile colonisers.
Does his dream speak to our fear that we will never overcome? “Nou karasa,” noted Hermy, “check the Tunisians in relation to all this talk that we, of the Khoisan, were here first and now we are nowhere to be found”. This comment resonates with the view of coloured apathy of a given time referred to in an Adam Small poem that depicts God as a hoek-straat gambler who, in the act of creation, tosses the dice, which lands a losing score.
Jeremy Vearey, in Jeremy vannie Elsies, embodies the spirit of insurrection of the 1980s.
He is akin to the dice player who balances the dice in the back of his hands. Blows his breath through the slight gap between his thumbs, shakes it and would either release the dice in a desultory arc, or, toss it hard on to the dusty ground of the tjaart or pavement. And if it falls on a bad number he recalculates, reviews and repeats the process.
Vearey brings rich insights on to the crowded sites of identity and memory.
His work is not that of a dogmatic ideologue. It is a song cantored by a freedom fighter alert to Che Guevara’s beatitude on revolutionary love; that one should be “guided by a great feeling of love”. This consciousness enables Vearey to recount telling moments from his past in a parabolic manner, alive with the detail of an engaged observer. For instance, Vearey illustrates the shift from the “niks maakie, net bona” period of the oppressed of the Cape Flats with an account of how his cousin, Louis, arrives on a day in June, 1976, with bags of bread he helped liberate from a Duens delivery van.
There in their Oupa’s tjaart in Tiervlei, Louis - part of the advance guard of common ownership - dagga slowboat in hand, elaborates, “in ‘* piepstem”, on the nature of the means of production in relation to the root causes of the National Uprising of 1976.
And, because why? “Os Afrikaans is original.” My hope, in the time of this New Dawn, is that Jeremy vannie Elsies becomes prescribed reading that celebrates our beautiful diversity, recognising that while healing is painful it the only option we have.
* The Very Rev Michael Weeder is the Dean of St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.