Gendered Landscape/Landskap in South African Poetry

Landscape/Landskap in
South African Poetry
Maria Paola Guarducci, Roma Tre
Francesca Terrenato, Sapienza
South African veld
Vlakplaas cemetery
A bantustan
“Borders and edges of territory and language, home
and body, land and water have always offered some
of the most attractive hideouts for women writers
who have long understood that the secret might be
simply to let the other in or to sift through whatever
flotsam washes up.”
(Jo Shapcott, Confounding Geography, in
Contemporary Women’s Poetry, 45)
Ingrid Jonker (1933-1965)
I. Jonker, Escape (Ontvlugting, 1956)
From this Valkenburg have I run away
And in my thoughts return to Gordon’s Bay:
I play with tadpoles swimming free
Carve swastikas in a red krantz-tree
I am the dog that slinks from beach to beach
Barks dumb-alone against the evening breeze
I am the gull that swoops in famished flights
To serve up meals of long-dead nights
The god who shaped you from the wind and dew
To find fulfillment of my pain in you:
Washed out my body lies in weed and grass
In all the places where we once did pass.
Antjie Krog (1952)
A. Krog, Paternoster (Paternoster, 1995)
I stand on a massive rock in the sea at Paternoster
the sea beats strips of light-green foam
into the air
I stare down every bloody damn wave
in the gut as it breaks
the rock quakes under my soles
my upper leg muscles bulge
my pelvis casts out its acquired resigned tilt
Like hell! I am rock I am stone I am dune
distinct my tits hiss a copper kettle sound
my hands clasp Moord Bay and Bek Bay
my arms tear ecstatically past my head:
I am
I am
god hears me
a free fucking woman
District Six (Capetown) in
the old days and a bilingual
apartheid board
Ronelda Kamfer (1981)
A fishermen’s village in Kassiesbaai
R. Kamfer, retelling 2 (oorvertel 2) (2011)
a woman lived here Mad Maria she walked with a long rope with her house-keys
round the neck one night she died with the keys round the neck
the wind broke her neck
you Capetonians mos say die son sien alles
here it's the people who see everything
I'm not crying about apartheid I'm crying because you youngsters only hear
about District 6 I could still smell the St Helena in my granny's hair
but brown people are nothing but minstrels slack-jawed sleazebags being brown
isn't the shit-shod story the slamse make it out to be
and then there's the other story of being bushmen the problem is
when you know your family's story and there's no mention of slams and bushmen
but you have to say yes yes agreed because stories are all you have
the ocean haunts you even when you trek to the desert's edge
the ocean is a bitch and she wears red shoes
Diana Ferrus (1953)
1815 ca. French caricature engraving: Sara Baartman and her
Sara Baartman’s grave – National Heritage site
D. Ferrus, A poem for Sara Baartman (1998)
I've come to take you home -home, remember the veld?
the lush green grass beneath the big oak trees
the air is cool there and the sun does not burn.
I have made your bed at the foot of the hill,
your blankets are covered in buchu and mint,
the proteas stand in yellow and white
and the water in the stream chuckle sing-songs
as it hobbles along over little stones.
I have come to wretch you away away from the poking eyes
of the man-made monster
who lives in the dark
with his clutches of imperialism
who dissects your body bit by bit
who likens your soul to that of Satan
and declares himself the ultimate god!
I have come to take you home
where the ancient mountains shout your name.
I. Jonker, Daisies in Namaqualand (Madeliefjes in
Namakwaland, 1963)
Behind the closed forehead
where perhaps a twig still tumbles
from a drowned springtime
Behind my word killed in action
Behind our divided home
Behind the heart locked against itself
Behind wire fences, camps, locations
Behind the silence where foreign languages
fall like bells at a funeral
Behind our land torn apart
sits the green mantis of the veld
and dazed we still hear
small blue Namaqualand daisy
answering something, believing something, knowing
A. Krog, Land (Grond)
under orders from my ancestors you were occupied
had I language I could write for you were land my land
but me you never wanted
no matter how I stretched to lie down
in rustling blue gums
in cattle lowering horns into Diepvlei
rippling the quivering jowls drink
in silky tassels in dripping gum
in thorn trees that have slid down into emptiness
me you never wanted
me you could never endure
time and again you shook me off
you rolled me out
land, slowly I became nameless in my mouth
now you are fought over
negotiated divided paddocked sold stolen mortgaged
I want to go underground with you land
land that would not have me
land that never belonged to me
land that I love more fruitlessly than before
A. Krog, every day I treat you as if you were mine. After an eighteenth
century engraving of Table Mountain (2006)
We know that when one crosses the
Equator everything becomes
wilderness: white becomes black,
good becomes bad, culture becomes
a kind of barbarism in which nothing
has a name:
Women throw a tit over the shoulder
cannibals, winged lions, vulvas
hanging down to the knees
one-eye people bark and snakes
stand upright in the trees.
Nobody will ever believe our relief
when, one morning, we saw this
table – something simply so
miraculously ordinary in the
-something so civilized one at last
Could pin a memory there. (…)
R. Kamfer, Land (Grond, 2011)
once upon a time there was
a mountain
the mountain fixed the land
onto the earth
like a mat with stones
at the corners
there once happened
he who was the mountain
lost his concentration
a piece of his land
was blown away by the wind
that that specific
of land could no longer
host inhabitants
it didn’t have what a land
must have for the people
R. Kamfer, epilogue Klippenkust (2011)
as uncle Bigfish Visser walks on the sand path he stops and looks
at the side of the rich he twists his mouth like he was trying to understand
but his old face does not allow him he stares
at “them” “they” who come for a holiday “they” who paint gouaches and
take pictures “they” who think national heritage site means something
“they” who eat fish in restaurants and will never see how his mother cried
he’s been staring at “them” for years and asking himself what his father had
in mind
when he made him believe that we are “they” and “they” are we
uncle Bigfish Visser has tried to hate “them” but a look at that
heavenseawater and he sees that we of his father
we who are tugging cracked pieces of shipwrecks with us
A. Krog, Country of grief and grace
(Land van genade en verdriet, 2000)
hear oh hear
the voices all the voices of the land
all baptised in syllables of blood and belonging
this country belongs to the voices of those who live
in it
this landscape lies at the feet at last
of the stories of saffron and amber
angel hair and barbs
dew and hay and hurt

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