We Lived In Two Different Countries

But Oudtshoorn paper’s legacy needs to be kept alive

While the anti-apartheid newspaper Saamstaan captured the attention of many in the Southern Cape and beyond, it was virtually unknown across the main road of Oudtshoorn. Rhode Snyman, the CEO of the company that runs the Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees, writes about her own personal experiences in this regard. As her awareness of the Saamstaan story grew, she became convinced that its role as an advocate of solidarity be recognised and that its legacy be incorporated into the workings of the festival.

In 1984, I was a Standard 8 pupil at the Hoër Handelskool CJ Langenhoven in Oudtshoorn. I was completely unaware of Saamstaan, the new newspaper in town. In 1994, I was the editor of the Oudtshoorn Courant, a local newspaper published by Group Editors South and still in existence to this day. I then knew about the existence of Saamstaan, but still had no real contact with the newspaper or its staff.

I was born in Oudtshoorn, grew up on the farm Rietvalleij, started my education at Laerskool Le Roux-stasie, completed my primary schooling in De Rust and then went to high school in Oudtshoorn. From there I went to the University of the Orange Free State (now University of the Free State) in Bloemfontein, where I completed a BA Communications degree. I accepted a position in Oudtshoorn rather than Johannesburg, because I wanted to be closer to my family, and preferred life on the platteland.

Saamstaan activists from left, Harry Noemdoe, Stephen Saunders, Humphrey Joseph, Cathy Jackson, Mansoor Jaffer, Derick Jackson and Freda Noemdoe

Saamstaan activists from left, Harry Noemdoe, Stephen Saunders, Humphrey Joseph, Cathy Jackson, Mansoor Jaffer, Derick Jackson and Freda Noemdoe

In 1994 I was invited to report on a local initiative to establish a national Afrikaans arts festival in Oudtshoorn. The establishers envisioned the Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees (KKNK) to be a showcase for diversity in Afrikaans. The first advisers were Adam Small and Merwe Scholtz. I was elected to one of the committees and volunteered at the first festival in 1995.

When David Piedt joined the board of the KKNK in 1996 and was elected the festival’s third chairperson in 2002, I became more aware of the additional role the festival could play as a catalyst for growing a sense of community and social cohesion in Oudtshoorn.

Valmont Layne, introduced the KKNK to Saamstaan, when he curated a Saamstaan Exhibition at the 2008 festival, before he joined the festival’s management team in 2009.

I became the fourth CEO of Kunste Onbeperk (the company that presents the KKNK) in 2014.

When the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands proposed showing their exhibition, Signs of Solidarity, the Dutch against apartheid, at the 2015 KKNK, I immediately saw an opportunity to link the exhibition to the Saamstaan Movement and to use this opportunity to highlight the contribution of especially the Saamstaan organisers, Mansoor Jaffer, Humphry Joseph and Derrick Jackson, to Oudtshoorn’s struggle against apartheid.

The opportunity to keep the Saamstaan legacy alive through an annual discourse engaging with the root causes of problems experienced especially in the Greater Oudtshoorn community, was highlighted by Prof Hein Willemse (10 April 2015), when he expressed the need for a re-engagement with an activism like Saamstaan’s, to shape and give meaning to our joint future.

It is a special privilege to create a joint future from the examples that was set by predecessors such as the Saamstaan Movement. Therefore, we need to remember.