Fri 26 July 2013

Notes from the Underground #23

Videographer Emma Lesuis made 24 City One Minute films about Stellenbosch. In this month’s Notes from the Underground she tells us about her encounter with Kobus, the protagonist of one of her 24 films, ‘though I could easily have dedicated all of those films to him’.

kobus © emma lesuis
© Emma Lesuis


‘I’m not black, you’re right. But I’m not white either.’ That’s how I answer Kobus’ question ‘are you Coloured, like me?’ Kobus looks nonplussed when I tell him that there are ‘Coloureds’ living in Europe, too. (Though I wrinkle my nose at the English translation).

Kobus is thirty-six years old and he’s the gardener at a vineyard in Stellenbosch, South Africa. The tourist guides describe Stellenbosch as the pearl of the Western Cape, replete with sprawling vineyards and a prestigious university, itself full of prestigious students. A tranquil city where burly rugby boys walk the streets barefoot and the Cape Dutch architecture gleams in the African sun.

But according to Kobus, Stellenbosch is not as tranquil as it seems. He lives in Cloetesville, a suburb of Stellenbosch exclusively home to ‘bruinmense’, or people of Colour. I tell Kobus that I wouldn’t mind living amongst people that look just like me. ‘No, no, no,’ Kobus replies, waving his hands across one another in disagreement. Gangsters live in Cloetesville, he explains, and they do things forbidden by God.

Kobus reassures me that he’s not a gangster. I look at the tattoos on his arm. A misshapen face is meant to signify Mickey Mouse, I learn, and ‘Dr King’ written on his hand was his name in de tronk (prison). However, he insists, the fact that he has spent time in jail doesn’t make him a gangster. It was self-defense.

I look at the dark whole in his mouth where his teeth should have been and remember a documentary about gangsters in the West Cape who wore toothless grins as a kind of gangster code. The illegal dentists here pull them for next to nothing. But not Kobus – he once fell off his bike as he turned to say goodbye to a friend. Nothing is what it seems, he teaches me. Especially not in Stellenbosch.

Emma Lesuis – Video Artist



By Daniela Scholz 24/09/13 (7 years ago)

re: Notes from the Underground #23

What an exquisite movie. I found it on my friend, Elan Gamaker's facebook site. The way the camera just opens the door for all these stories to live themselves, either in their simplicity or sometimes unutterable complexity.
Wow ! Thank you.

By hedwig 13/10/13 (7 years ago)

re: Notes from the Underground #23

ik heb ze gevonden, wat mooi em!
trots op je :)

ga ervoor dit jaar.... part 2

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