Karin Kortje: A Farmworker’s Rise & Fall & Rise Again

Plucked from the apple farms & dropped from a dizzy height

Docuville, the documentary slot on SABC 3, recently began a mini-series called Striking A Chord. Through the lives of iconic South Africans four one-hour films help us understand who we are as a nation. The second in the series is Karin Kortje, Idol of Note.

Ten years ago … Karin Kortje packs apples in the orchards of Grabouw, near Cape Town.

She earns R358 a month … just enough to buy food and pay a little rent to her family.

Then Karin wins the biggest, most famous reality show of all … South African Idols. It’s a huge win.
She’s the first black performer ever to win the top prize.

Karin Kortje is on top of the world.

Until things go wrong.

Partly … because of the men in her life. Although some say her problems started the day her birth mother abandons her to an orphanage …

Karin Kortje & her family

Karin Kortje & her family

A Good Christian Girl

The Kortjes bring Karin up as “a good Christian girl”. But were they hiding something from her all that time?

Six months after the applause, the fame, magazine covers, the money, the wining and dining – that are rewards for winning Idols South Africa – Karin’s fairytale abruptly ends.

Karin and her boyfriend, Cheslyn Williams, book into a Durbanville bed and breakfast. She has a singing gig nearby.

When Karin returns late that evening, she finds the owner of the B&B, Renata Kellerman, stabbed to death in a bedroom.

Cheslyn Williams is arrested, tried and found guilty of Renata’s murder. He’s jailed for life.

To this day, Karin is haunted by Renata Kellerman’s murder … stabbed to death by the man she loved. And she’s always had a great need to apologise to Renata’s husband Wynand and to his family. But for years she just couldn’t …

Karin meets Shaundore Aspeling, a married man, during Cheslyn’s murder trial.

After his divorce they get married in Grabouw and have three children.

But just as Cheslyn betrayed her, now her new great love, Shaundore, betrays her too.

One day he simply disappears. But Karin being Karin, still has hope.

Karin Kortje, Zane Adams & Terry Fortune

Karin Kortje, Zane Adams & Terry Fortune

South African Idols celebrated their 10th anniversary last year. Former Idols were asked to come back onto the show. To share in its huge success Karin wasn’t among them. She is the only winner of Idols who has been expunged from all the records online.

The world likes a rags-to-riches story. But it is an unforgiving place when the star, especially if it is a woman, does not toe the line.

Late last year during the 16 Days of Activism that focuses on violence against women and children annually, Karin hosts a very special concert. She is making a comeback and telling her story.

And the core of her story? How a woman who sings like an angel can rocket to stardom, then fall from grace and climb back again… using the power of her voice and the support of her family and community.

In Grabouw they have always believed in Karin and always will.

Karin Kortje, Idol of Note is part of the VIA – Vision In Africa Striking A Chord mini series that is running for the month of May on SABC 3’s Docuville slot. The Karin episode is the second in the series on 10 May at 7.30 pm.

The series is directed by Sylvia Vollenhoven, Basil Appollis and Eugene Paramoer. Jacky Lourens is the Producer. It includes the stories of playwright Athol Fugard, singer Emo Adams as well as Choreographers cum Dance Pioneers John Linden and Alfred Hinkel.

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