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Winterliefde / Winter love

June 28, 2021

Travelling through the Garden Route and arriving at Knysna via my online travels I wasn’t in the least surprised to find out why the Afrikaans Literatti hung out there and in the end established writing sanctuaries close to the forests of Knysna, the heart of the Garden Route.

Knysna is a natural paradise of lush, indigenous forests, tranquil lakes and golden beaches. She nestles on the banks of a breathtakingly pretty lagoon.

The romantic forests and the still more romantic surroundings capture the hearts and imagination of all who come to know them. 

Many places associated with water in other parts of Africa have names that sound similar to Knysna: the old name for Lake Malawi was Lake Nyasa, and Webster’s Universal Dictionary defines the word nyanza as a noun – ‘(African): An expanse of water, as a lake or wide river.’

Ships plied to and from Knysna, supplying wood from the forests to Cape Town. The pioneers and people that made the town fascinates all who pack their personal libraries to come and read, write and reside here.

To the early inhabitants of the Cape, timber was essential for housing, transport, heating, and ship building. The Governors of the Cape – both Dutch and British – knew of the abundant forests along the South Coast, but the mountains and gorges of the area made them inaccessible. If the forests were to be successfully exploited ,the obvious solution to transporting the cut timber would be by sea -that is if they could find a safe harbour for the ships.

The Knysna Estuary -yes, Estuary and not lagoon – covers about 1,827 ha and stretches from the mouth (The Knysna Heads) to the rapids at Charlesford on the Knysna River. It measures about 3 km at its widest.

Lagoons are typically shallow, especially the coastal lagoons, whereas estuaries are deeper. With estuaries, the water flows faster, and they are strong, whereas in the lagoons they are relatively shallow, and the water flow is sluggish.

The Knysna River and its estuary had to be the answer, and so in 1795 the British Governor, Lord Macartney, sent out expeditions to explore the coast and report on the possibility of establishing a safe harbour in the Knysna estuary. As a result of detailed surveys by both mariners and adventurers, the port of Knysna was founded, and a pilot was appointed to ensure marine safety.

Hannah Lightfoot (12 October 1730 – before December 1759), nicknamed the ‘Fair Quaker’, is said to have been the first wife of George III of the United Kingdom, and it is alleged that George Rex is the illegitimate son of King George III and the Quaker girl Hannah Lightfoot.

1804 – George Rex bought Melkhoutkraal and settled there. The farm was in ruins. It had been burned down in 1802 during the frontier wars, and was plundered shortly before Rex arrived. The enormous commercial potential that he saw in the local forests, however, was sufficient incentive for him to stay, and he soon began lobbying the Government to declare the Knysna river a port.

So, Knysna was founded and settled in the early 19th century by George Rex. Middle Stone Age deposits prove that Knysna has been inhabited for tens of thousands of years – from the time when modern human behaviour began to emerge.

The Knysna Forest has many stories to tell through the eyes of the writers who have embraced the exquisite forest with their dense greenery and their sheer abundance of stunning plant- and animal species, for meditation and creative recreational activities to stimulate their writing.

For generations, these forests have been the home of an array of wildlife, but also to communities of people that have lived off the forest, completely secluded from the outside world.

The Afrikaans author Dalene Matthee’s principal achievement in “Circles in a Forest” is her re-creation of the primitive world of the Dutch woodcutters who worked the Knysna forests of South Africa’s Cape during the 19th century. They lived in the forests with their families in almost complete isolation except for occasional trips to nearby villages to sell their wood. With oxen and sledges, but mostly their own brute strength, they managed to haul out the raw material for the railroads and wagons of an expanding colony.

But for now the writer of Fiela’s se Kind is for another time and place.

“The romance genre in South Africa is written according to strict rules, with specific word counts and limitations. It is meant to be escapism and the content can’t be too serious or intimidating to the reader. While every book does not have to contain detailed sex scenes, the lovers must at least kiss passionately – which is much more difficult to write than you may imagine." -Mari Roberts

Winterliefde / Winter love
Jy is my engel / You are my angel
Pasella geluk / Pasella happiness
Liefdesboodskap / Love’s message
Liefdesdroom / Love’s dream
Uitgeboul deur die liefde / Bowled out by love
Sterrereën / Star rain
Bella se tweede kans / Bella’s second chance
Fasade van die hart / Facade of the heart
Pasellaliefde / Pasella Love
Sprokiesprinses / Fairy Tale Princess
Dans in die reën / Dancing in the rain

When I stumbled upon the list of books and their Afrikaans titles written by Marie Roberts I found a deep feeling of warmth rise up in me for the language, which is my mother’s tongue. Naturally my mom indulged herself in the afrikaans novel and radio series. I spent most of my afternoons with her listening to afrikaans series on the radio. I miss her for that. It she had the leisure I think she would’ve spent more time with the Afrikaans poem and novel.

The Orange River Gorge below the waterfall in the Augrabies Falls National Park in the Northern Cape of South Africa.

Mari Roberts had a carefree childhood in the sun-drenched town of Upington, a hidden gem on the banks of the Orange River which is a welcoming oasis in the arid Northern Cape. There are vineyards stretching along 300km of the Orange River, and the region’s winemakers choose only the best grapes to transform into world-class, award-winning wines.

Mari Roberts is one of many writers who discovered that places like Knysna, where it rains more than in the Kalahari – but not necessarily cooler – are not merely a myth that only exists on TV.  Describing herself as an incurable romantic and after passing through a dark period in her life she decided to start writing love stories for the sake of self-preservation.

Mari, like most authors, has been writing for as long as she can remember. She is married and lives in the picturesque Knysna area where she devotes much-needed time for her passions, writing and reading.

Dans in die reën:
Ná vier jaar kuier Lillie weer by haar tante-hulle op die plaas. Nick du Toit is ook daar. Haar kleintydse mentor … die man wat sy liefhet. Hy’s onvoorspelbaar, verwar Lillie, en sy weet sy moet padgee.

Her first novel Dans in die reën was published in September 2006 and, after a quick rewrite of her first attempt, Sprokiesprinses appeared a month later.

“Writing is my escape. In my books the people do what I want them to do and characters can be explored at will. While I certainly don’t make a spectacular income from my efforts, it is a hugely rewarding hobby.”

From → Mzansi

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