Paintings, Stories and Details


I can remember driving through District Six as a child in the fifties and sixties with my parents, who were both from Cape Town – I grew up in Mpumalanga, then the Transvaal Lowveld. This was a once-a-year event when we visited my grandparents who lived in Rondebosch and Villiersdorp. I was fascinated with the energy of the place and my father shared his experiences with us, which made it even more interesting. I also could not wait for the “Kaapse Klopse” or “Coon Carnival” as it was called those days, on 2 January of each year, as that was the highlight of our visit, other than off course seeing my grandparents. The years went by, and I grew up and did my own thing, enjoyed life and flew aircraft, never even giving a thought to District Six and its people.

It was only when I started painting, around six years ago, when I was looking for subjects to paint that I rediscovered District Six, through the camera lenses of Jan Greshoff, a Dutch architect and photographer. His photographs “spoke” to me and at the same time made me sad. I felt that I wanted to put colour to them, which I then did, but it did not take away the sadness. I started reading about it, followed the District Six Facebook page, administered by Martin Greshoff, Jan’s nephew, and got Martin’s permission along with the District Six Museum to put paint to paper. As Jan’s photographs did not contain many people, I painted a few of another Dutch photographer, Jansje Wissema’s photographs of the same era. I also interpreted a 1960 photograph of Ian Berry to try and convey the District Six spirit.

I also met some interesting people of District Six and befriended some, of which one is Alvie January, a poet, who lived in District Six as a child. I asked Alvie if I could include his poems into the collection as they convey the sad message of the time when these photographs were taken. A sad time in the history of our Nation and an eternal scar carried by the Mother City of Cape Town. Thanks Alvie, for allowing me to share the reality and emotions of the people of District Six so ably communicated through your pen, on this platform.


Hanover Street



The Story

Hanover Street, was the “main”street of District Six. I used a black and white photograph as a reference, which I sourced off the District Six Musem’s website. Photographer unknown.

The last Supper…

Here I am in the District six Museum today,
tongue-tied and at a loss for words to say,
so many thoughts and emotions at play.
Lost amongst the things,
we’d left behind in our flight,
pictures of bulldozers rolling over,
our screams and memories,
our crumbled lives…

Suitcases packed on a journey to nowhere;
a last supper at a table with empty chairs.
a picture of an old lady, her husband in  bed,
on their lips captured,
the last words they ever said;
a floral enamel basin filled to the  brim,
with their woes and laments –
frozen in time: The lives they led.

The sunken eyes, the pleading face,
caught in its own forever space.
Stacked on a mezzanine floor,
reminiscent of flats; in another time,
a lazy breeze, blowing like a song,
I heard before –
Memories come tumbling,
as visitors opened bedroom doors.

The ‘Love Letter’, so prominently displayed,
whose silence we need shattered,
to have visitors jump back in total shock and dismay,
when they hear how we were crushed,
by the machinery and apparatus of the state.
How, like leaves, we were raked
into an “all over” place,
names written onto the floor in an empty space.

With a thankful heart we see
our memories dearly enshrined.
We can wrap our arms around our lives,
that bitterness and pain… that time.
When the clouds over the mountains roll,
we will remember District Six, the human stain,
on the walls of our lives:
The well chartered landscape of our souls.

Looking at the street names grouped together,
forgotten streets that ran on forever and ever.
Lovingly I remember I’d been here, I’d been there,
with tears in my eyes realized today, like never before:
I cannot even go there, they simply are no more.
I look around and the room dance and swirl;
with childhood memories that toss and twirl,
never had a chance to grow up in this place, find a fancy girl.

Never a love story about hearts that are fickle,
easily broken, easy to bleed,
my life twisted and shaped by power hungry people’s greed.
Staring into the reflections on the glass, arms reaching out to me,
on the big yellow bulldozer, the driver too blind to see
that under the rubble, the souls  of the dead;
tearful angels watching, faces sad.
Rest softly our District, sleep on in eternal peace
and know that long after that last supper,
we your children, still struggle to be free…
© Alvie J January
12.05.2021

The Details


  • Watercolour on 300 gram Fabriano Artistico paper
  • Schminke watercolour paint
  • 1000mm x 700mm
  • If there is interest in prints, I will contact the owners to see if they will allow.
  • Not available

De Villiers Street



The Story

This painting of De Villiers Street is based on a black and white photograph of Jan Greshoff. It was auctioned off as part of a fundraising to publish a book on District Six, District Six: Memories, Thoughts and Images by Martin Greshoff, the nephew of Jan (RIP).

Alvie January, a poet who lived in District Six as a child mentions De Villiers Street in many of his poems, here is one of them.

Whether ‘n begrafnis of keffaayit,

Glo my vry!
Jy kon almal van’ie distrik daa kry.
Van De Villiers- tot by Russellstraat
Was os neighbours- een groot happy family.
Maa’ staan selfs ek vedag vebaas, in’nie empty no man’s land: totally confused en surprised!
‘n Bouquet vi’ love en laughter, g’n Seven Steps waa’ my kinners kan sympathise?
Die vibrancy wat daa’ ee’s was: van polkadot knickers, Bobbysocks tot Beehive hare
Het uitgesterf soes die Beatles en ‘ie Dinosaurs en’ie flowerchildren van dai jare …
So oek on’ner die paint van die ou buildings in os minds, wys nou net die age-old secrets in hul krake.
Het’ie false prophets van os separate lives en apartheid laws se son oek onner gegaan,
is hulle lank vergete …
Droom os vandag nog steeds van’ie District van os gewiete se voortbestaan.

Lê  u vandag vasgekeer in ‘n kamertjie in Hanover Park,
ver van die geur van’ie fynbos, fennel en berg-fern, die Loerie se echo teen die mountainside –
van sweet summer nights, of’ie rustic leaves van autumn; of’ie slow – eating decadence.
Is die klank van party crackers nou real gunshots wat u aan die slaap sus.
twist past en die present met die colours van candy-stripes en floss.
Sien ek die hare swart, die floral rok wat uit die heupe klok.
Die Here het vir u ook ‘n plekkie in die hemel, Antie Annie, dit glo os mos.
Almal wat die District ken …
Os, die kinners van’ie Bloemhof …

Hier, van Moravian Heuwel, sukkel even die wind om te huil deur’ie minarets van’ie masiette!
Hoe gan’k nou sê aan die wandering spirits van my Boeia en my Oemie?
Allah-hoe-Akbar! O my God almagtig!
Dat os uitverkoep is vir dertag silwerstukke deur’ie Israeliete?

Ons once beautiful Kanala-dorp
enticing body en lips van my once sinful Slum-City.
Jy sal vi’ altyd wies in my bloed,
lank was jy huis en haard.
Lank sal ek nog gaze oor jou surrounding pieke
en weet …  Jy sal altyd ‘n fineline wies tussen my gisters en vandag.
Distrik Ses, my lewe … my geliefde … my gewiete …

Opgedra aan my ouers en  my Antie Annie. Rus sag.

The Details


  • Watercolour on 300 gram Fabriano Artistico paper
  • Schminke watercolour paint
  • 1000mm x 700mm
  • If there is interest in prints, I will contact the owners to see if they will allow.
  • Not available

Horse & Cart in front of Eaton Place



The Story

Horse and Cart in front of Eaton Place is also based on a black and white photograph of Jan Greshoff. The photograph is shown on the cover of Martin Greshoff’s book, District Six, District Six: Memories, Thoughts and Images.

Alvie January, a poet who lived in District Six as a child, mentioned the horse and cart in one of his poems and after reading this poem I met with Alvie to listen to some of his experiences whilst living in D6. After a long lunch of sharing, not only food but also many memories of our pasts, I gave Alvie this painting as a token of friendship. The poem reads as follows:

Eaton Place en ander drome …
Die snerpwind van herfs sny,
met ligte ysvingers oor my gesig
en steel oor my gedagtes om my
somers in roeskleure te verbruin, 
vat my weer ver, ver deur die jare terug.
Jaag twee tolbosse spelend mekaar,
van De Villiers tot by McKenziestraat,
oor Konstitusie op soek na ander strate  
en huise teen die hang –
net ‘n Heuningbekkie wat so stil-stil fladder,
suig diep teue  nektar uit ‘n Suikerkan.
‘n Ligte briesie ontbloot ons voetspore
wat van ons jare-terug eksodus oorbly
en wis nie eers van ons sukkelbestaan, verlore
op ‘n Vlakte waar die vrees-wolf spoorsny
en moedig ons dag na dag voort bly stry.
In die Distrik bly die  hart vir altyd,
in ‘n liefdeskokon vasgevang –
Daarbo lê die uitspansel, ons stom getuie;
deur die doolhof van ons verlede steel die maan,
jou lipstiffie soen vanaf my wang.
Sien ek die man op sy groen perdewa
In die waterverf-skildery, verlore na Eaton Place staar,
In die perd het ek selfs ‘n diep heimwee en verlange gewaar:
Sou dit die einde van sy weeklikse roete bring,
Die dag as die bergkanarie in die Distrik, sy laaste liedjie sing?
Miskien moes ons tog die Fafie-man vra,
Om vir oulaas sy nommers uit te haal,
Hanoverstraat en die res van die Ses vir stroping opgeskryf:
die einde ons uit die bloute tref, so fel,
het die ou Chinees ons liefs die geheim van ons drome en die nommers vertel …
© Alvie J January 15.05.2020

The Details

  • Watercolour on 300 gram Fabriano Artistico paper
  • Schminke watercolour paint
  • 700mm x 1000mm
  • If there is interest in prints, I will contact the owners to see if they will allow.
  • Not available

Standard Building



The Story

Standard building, Hanover Street in District 6, based on a black and white photograph of Jan Greshoff.

Here is one of Alvie’s poems that mentions the building:

‘n ROSE VIR’RIE SES

Oh, die Boytjie lyk darem grênd ve’dag,
ek gie jou somaa’ ‘n soen en vi jou ‘n rose.
Ennie pink ghoema- hare laat jou net met dimpeltjies lag.
Dis nou nie Henry Williams blomme nie, maa’ close.

Die geselsies onthou ek nou eers weer,
na al die jare, ek was maar net agt.
Soe tussen OK Bazaars ennie Standard Bank,
Waar die flower-sellers ennie skinderbekke oor-en-weer gesels en lag.

Jy lyk lyk darem nog altyd grênd mark my words!
Word ek in ‘n oortollige boesem diep begrawe.
‘Haai jirre nee Galiema, jy gan hom versmoor’,
was ek vining deur Mamma uitgepluk en woes gelawe.

Nou eers oor na Hanoverstraat,
by die Fish Market, met sy array van visse oral op display.
“Kyk maar na ôs Yellowtail, Geelbek, Rooi Roman enTunny Boeta –
Daai snoeke, King Klip en hake is vanoggend se ‘Catch of the day’

Sover ons loop is dit’môre, hallo of salaam. Die cultures was soe diep gemix deur’ rie hele plek.
Dit ‘dankie, tramakassie!’ tot Ellesmere, Aspeling en Muirstraat se athaan.
Altyd concerned oor’ie neighbours se wellbeing, nooit die eie ek.

Nou vind ek dit as most amazing –
Hoe ôs deur’ie jare na mekaar uitreik.
Deur’ie memories ennie trane ennie jare shift en more than anything:
Om net wee’ die rumoer te hoor daa’ van‘nie Terrace, die steps, die shebeen van Ou Vyf.

Die dag is nou half gedaan:
Mamma se rok se measurements by Miriam’s,
Ôs suitlappies innie maak by Boeta Salie in Cliftonstraat.
Pappa sê daa’s net een Taylor wat hy  hie’ trust!

Lag-speel en jil ek met ‘n hekkiebek,
Met die nursies by ou PMH se hek.
Finally oor na die familie om te hoo’ wie is gebore
En wie het die lewe verlaat innie hart vannie Ses …

© Feb 2019 Alvie Jamiel

The Details

  • Watercolour on 300 gram Fabriano Artistico paper
  • Schminke watercolour paint
  • 700mm x 1000mm
  • Prints are available on watercolour paper or canvas at various sizes – Max 250 are available. Price based on option selected
  • Not availalble

Wasdag (Laundry Day)



The Story

“Wasdag” – Washing day in the Standard Building in Hanover Street, District 6. Compilation of two of Jan Greshoff’s photographs (Jan Greshoff’s Photographs) .

The heartless of this, my beloved city…

Out of the hopelessness,
of being homeless,
there should always be a story, a poem that shines.
Of how love doesn’t ask questions,
or try to find reasons why.
So many of our old people walking the streets,
not knowing what tomorrow might bring.
Criss-crossing aimlessly to hunger’s merciless beat;
ignorant to clouds gathering or the winds,
from Table Mountain blowing strong:
Painfully aware of the foot patrols nudging,
a city shooing them along.

Adjacent to this cold city,
where thousands daily, sightlessly pushed and shoved,
was there once upon a time a District Six,
that was our haven of love.
No questions were asked – who or what you were running from,
nor what worldly possessions you had,
you were safe in our home of affection, tolerance and warmth.
Off some alleyway would be a small room where,
you could rest your weary head;
where you’d find on the lonely roads walked,
under the heavens above:
There is still God and His mercy,
something to eat, happiness and love.

In this tricked-out worl
of cynicism and mirth,
you want the reassurance that yours
was never an unwanted birth.
Dawn brings the knowledge,
that God is good, always
and His angels still walk this earth –
that this coldness and apathy
belong to heartless councilors of this, my beloved city

I wander this empty, this barren piece of  land,
where the heart cannot fathom,
nor the deepest recesses of the soul understand,
why we, who were once happy, now have to roam,
become Cape Flats beggars being fed from the city’s mighty hands.
Fleeting, wispy figures in the mist, searching for our home…
There is still valuable lessons to be learnt every day,
in the trolleys pushed, the shopping bags of the homeless,
filled with this fickle world of ours –
still exist happiness; love, hope and faith:
There is still at work prayers… and a Godly power…
© Alvie J January
    30.08.2021

The Details


  • Watercolour on 300 gram Fabriano Artistico paper
  • Schminke watercolour paint
  • 700mm x 1000mm
  • Prints are available on watercolour paper or canvas at various sizes – Max 250 are available. Price based on option selected
  • Not available

Barbers & Tailors



The Story

This was 108 – 114 Hanover Street. Based on a black and white photograph of Jan Greshoff.

Alvie mentioned the barbers and tailors in the following poem:

Fare thee well, District Six…

Farewell thee District Six,
I am leaving today.
My life soaked into these bricks,
the tears and the weight
keeping the words away.
Farewell thee, Hanover Street,
you were always part of my dreams.
The people I met on your sidewalks,
thinking of them whenever longing for you, made me want to sing.
To you Mr Goodman and your Sweeteries,
your imported gadgets and toys were every child’s dream.
To the Liebermans and the library,
your thousands of books,
the children of the world, but also
the answers to why our world in September ’69, shook.

An ode to the Fish Stalls, why the smells wouldn’t go away,
our government claimed we were fraud with vices, moral wrongs and decay
the Wash Baths, the Lifebuoy, the soapy suds
It cleansed, invigorated, but our exodus was never prolonged.
Bubbling forth was all those wonderful shower songs.

The stars up in the heavens and the clouds that lazily swirled,
silent witnesses to our humble teachers
that have sent leaders and intellectuals into this great big world.
The grassy knolls, the sand and dust that once were our homes,
into you we locked up our happiness and the best years we’d known.
Whether classy fair, or slender, brown skinned
we were caring; humorous, tolerant and kind human beings.

Our fathers and uncles that trudged off to war,
that Africa was safe, of that they made sure.
You then sent in bulldozers in Cape Town, rolling in like tanks, to settle scores.
Shell-shocked amid the destruction of District Six,
till their death they wondered what they were fighting for, way up north.

Our fashion stores, haberdasheries, our barbers who trimmed and Brylcreemed our hair.
let’s never forget how you’ve brought along poise and flair.
To our tailors who were a class of their own and not afraid,
when we coined the phrase of even that low hanging pants as ‘Tailor made’

The coons and our Hollandse troupes,
you made us follow everywhere, you entertained
The Kamali ‘Atchas’, we feared you, how you made us run,
made us hid behind a sea of legs to later realize it was all part of the growing up fun.
The devil with his fork, the feathers, tomahawks and drums,
The love of our grandparents, parents,
oh my District, you were all comparable to none .

To ‘Mama’ Shariefa Khan of ‘Douts’
or the Cafè Bombay,
like a song your curries and samoosas took our breaths away.
You’ve turned a hundred years not so long ago,
since then received keys to a District that hasn’t any character yet, to show,
but when you rest your head and the clouds over Table Mountain roll,
you have your memories and the southeaster
And the days you first came to District Six,
long, long time ago…

Fare thee well, District Six, you always had me happy.
Till today I still carry you around with me
and knowest you’ll always be dearest to me…
© Alvie J January
    15.08.2021

The Details


  • Watercolour on 300 gram Fabriano Artistico pape
  • Schminke watercolour paint
  • 1000mm x 700mm
  • Prints are available on watercolour paper or canvas at various sizes – Max 250 are available. Price based on option selected
  • Not available

Dusk is Setting In…



The Story

Based on another black and white photograph of Jan Greshoff. A view of Cape Town and the Old Mutual Building, from District 6. Dusk is setting in …!

Continuing Alvie’s story…

District Six,
how your soil, red and bloody,
cries out to me:
The wilderness that you’d become 
criss-crossed, well-trodden paths, streets:
Each empty space to tell its story…
Having found myself while
looking deep within your heart.
If I can be the voice…
Would you be my words?
Having always been the heartbeat.
that shimmered between the darkness and the dawn:
If only we could once more be the light,
upon your empty streets, forlorn …

Would my soul in anger
and indignation rise?
Would I stand strong this time,
against the winds of change,
that blew our lives away?
Bitter ashes from your floor,
rise like bile with rage …
and troubled sighs –
Remembering how our grandparents,
never made it to the door,
that Kristallnacht when District Six lost its light:
When glass, the roof and rafters became the floor.

No streets covered in the colors of love,
or resound with the echoes of well-known beats.
If our parents could once more dress
in gabardine, Jarmans and woolen fines,
be draped like mannequins, lost in your vacant sights…
temporarily escaping the sameness of their Cape Flats lives –
Would you recognize and remember them,
by the longing in their immigrant eyes?
Would they need a bar-coded wrist,
to show they belonged or once lived here?
Hoarsely whisper as they recount their ghetto lives –
One way in and one way out, as daily the staircases tremble in fear.

Joy came when voices blended
and your streets pitch-perfectly harmonized;
every now and then the past come flooding in
and throats lump up and tear ducts spill their bloody stories:
On our streets where the gun dictates …
and stipulates who will live…   and who will die –
Where even our babies fear to cry
and justice, blindfolded, look away
and time pass us by with hurried strides …
© Alvie January
01.09.2020

 

The Details


  • Watercolour on 300g cold press paper
  • Schminke watercolour paint
  • 700mm x 1000mm
  • Prints are available on watercolour paper or canvas at various sizes – Max 250 are available. Price based on option selected
  • Not available

Vernon Terrace



The Story

This painting of Vernon Terrace was the last one of Jan Greshoff’s black and white photographs that I interpreted into colour. This gave me a lot of pleasure as the textures were challenging but I could play with the various colours and try new techniques.

Alvie vertel:

Totdat  die stof en sand van Vernon’s Terrace soos onweerswolke oor Mountstraat strek:
Julle goedjies styf ingepak staan.

Vandag het jou ma ook almal vaarwel  toegeroep,
Op die Kaapse Vlakte waar ons siele eindeloos dwaal.
Het ek  jou verloor in Hanover Park, waar dit nag na nag woel
en in die Distrik waar ons gelag nog soos gister se  liedjies op die windjie draal.

Dink ek nou al hoe meer aan daardie dae toe my ma en jou pa laggend kon sing,
Lastige trane nou deur skrefiesoë warm loop.
As ek net eenkeer jou kan oortuig dat familiebande deur jare kan dring,
en vir oulaas ‘n handvol  pienk Star lekkers en Wilsonblokke vir jou koop.

Waar jy ookal op die Vlakte mag wees,
Hoop ek daar is iemand wat vir jou sorg, jou ondersteun.
Ek jou opdra in my gebede saans, hardloop ons Mountstraat plat sonder vrees,
Op die balkon waar ons skuil,
die wolk oor Tafelberg steeds nog oor ons afwesigheid huil…

Ja Eleanor, die lewe het ook vir ons van sy draaie, sy kronkels gebring,
ek nog steeds aan woorde timmer, ‘n Distrik wat verdwaald saamsing.
Ek onbewustelik deur die ruit na die sterrehemel staar,
hoor ek weer die hyskrane raas en skepe wat uit die hawe, die onbekende invaar…
© Alvie J January
23.08.2021

The Details


  • Watercolour on 300g on rough paper
  • Schminke watercolour paint
  • 700mm x 1000
  • Prints are available on watercolour paper or canvas at various sizes – Max 250 are available. Price based on option selected
  • Not available

Constitution Street



The Story

A cornershop in Constitution Street, based on a black and white photograph of Jan Greshoff

Be still my heart, be still …

My house sounds empty tonight,
save for the occasional noise the kettle makes,
or the flashbacks of the forced removals, or our violent past –
the keen wailing of an ambulance siren
on the dark, deserted Constitution Street.

I wonder who have died tonight,
watching a full moon traverse the autumn skies.
I use to love listening every day
to my mother’s cheerful voice coming from the walls –
to fill my empty hours,
to brighten up my days …

These voices nowadays seem so far apart.
I’m not always sure that I’m even hearing it.
My old guitar sounds just as tired
of the Spanish lullabies and the Sixties crooning songs
It’s like we’ve done and sang them all.

If only I could live in the Bloemhof or even Eaton once again –
at least I would have had some whispers left on the staircase as a sign,
that we were here and gone …
Appreciation for even stilted conversations moved my core
and with a teary sigh

I caught glimpse of a thousand refugees –
their voices a silent protest into the District night
and pierce my heart the hopeless cries …
How long they cried, how long
would we have to succumb to the terror and the fear
of watching your bulldozers rape our fallen glory, eating away our sanity
crushing so many of our dreams …

Politicians, like rabid dogs,
delighted o’er the spoils of war!

Wordlessly I brushed aside the NATO flag, to touch my tv screen
and to the Lord of the children my silent offering of frankincense and myrrh I bring –
All the while my heart in indignation cry:
a homeless soul am I!

The fading voices from my wall become,
a conciliatory repartee:
Swirling shadows down the hall,
I greet in passing, whatever else is left unsaid …
Immortalised behind a
yellow- brown picture frame,
a Welcome Dover: its ashes cold –

In the dregs of my percolated coffee,
I drown the District’s misery …

The Details


  • Watercolour on 300g paper
  • Schminke watercolour paint
  • 700mm x 1000mm
  • Prints are available on watercolour paper or canvas at various sizes – Max 250 are available. Price based on option selected
  • Not available

British Bioscope



The Story

The British Bioscope seen from the corner of Canon Street and Clyde Street. Based on one of Jan Greshoff’s black and white photographs.

Alvie posted this poem on the District Six Facebook page linked to a thread where the British bioscope was discussed.

Be at peace District Six, be at peace …

I am yet to see flags flying half mast,
as a salute to our city:
The streets of fame,
that became the streets with no names,
see peace brought to a people who drowned
In a world that showed no mercy or pity.
The Southeaster, a whispering breeze,
finding nothing familiar,
over barren land, where it started to roar
at the sparse growing trees –
Bowing down low past the mosques and churches,
far in between,
before storming up Devil’s Peak,
where the shroud from Table Mountain silenced its screams
Were we there to pick you up,
when you had fallen down –
Were we there when you needed someone?
to make things better
and lend a shoulder when you cried?
I cannot even  remember how we juggled
or balanced the loneliness and pain,
the day the love and music died.
Would you have shared with me, would you
have left your tender heart in my care?
Even for just one night?
One day we’ll salute you,
With our right hand over our hearts and hope to die
To bring you peace for your battles fought.
All our clergy; artists; musicians, our dreamers and learned and working class who loved you a lot
A gentle breeze wraps you in the petals of love
and shared your  thousand nights,
mirrored by the sea …
Our hearts:  the ebb and flow
of forgotten tides – our District Six.
On your empty streets,
A host of angels depart on their magical flight,
While one lonely soul wanders around aimlessly,
Trying to find the house of love, where he was born …
Alone in the dead of night
© 17.12.2019 Alvie J January

The Details


  • Watercolour on 300g paper
  • Schminke watercolour paint
  • 700mm x 1000mm
  • Prints are available on watercolour paper or canvas at various sizes – Max 250 are available. Price based on option selected
  • Not available

Ashley Street



The Story

The corner of Ashley Street and Duff Lane through the black and white lense of Jan Greshoff. See Jan’s photographs on Facebook at Jan Greshoff’s Photographs. This view shows mostly Duff Lane, as taken from Salie Dollie’s playground according to Ebrahim Hiema.

Following is one of Alvie’s poems that he published under a thread on Facebook where people were sharing their experiences on Ashley Street and surroundings.

Distrik Ses: Sal jy die sluiers lig?

Rommelwerf! Krotbuurt! So is in Februarie 1966 verklaar,
ploeg rusperband-wiele van stootskrapers in 1968 ons lewens uitmekaar.
Skend jou skoonheid, afbreekmure wat lê teen jou wang –
In sak en as en roukleed: Ons klaagmuur die berg se hang…
Is daar niemand wat die wolk, wat oor ons ween, gewaar?

Net somtyds sou ons wonder.
was ons toe beter af gewees sonder,
die angs en pyn, die sielerus;
die vreedsaamheid wat rondstrompel,
soos verwyte in jou strate na sononder…

Sou ek as genadekans,
wil  wegsteek en myself verskans –
of selfs net dat jou maan my kindergestalte,
deur my herrinneringsgordyn, met stralekrans soengroet:
voor ek biddend aan die slaap val saans.

Om hier teen jou bors te lê,
my hartseer; my verlangens, my dankbaarheid ongesê.
As die donker kombers oor ou Tafelberg lig
en my met ‘n knipoog gister se herrinneringe skink –
arms wyd oop, sou jy my lief,  my weer terug wil hê?

Die haat; die verwyte, die berou is laat vaar,
die woedende gebrom van my siel  teenoor my hart, selfs dit het bedaar.
Die see, glansplaat blink, onthou hoe het die matrose,
met hul eie verlange, op soek na lewenshitte –
diep jou strate, krombeen ingevaar.

Jy was jy, Distrik Ses en jaarliks in vrolikheid getooi,
dansend het ons klopse hul harte en bont sambreeltjies in die lug opgegooi.
O my hart; my Distrik; my wêreld, my alles!
Ons wat nou nog treur, maar steeds oor jou mal is:
Jy was en is steeds vir ons mooi.

Tasse op ‘n platform, so is ons lewens vandag Distrik Ses, styf teen mekaar, verlore, bang,
op die Kaapse Vlakte, lê ek my hand op jou hart en huil onbeskaamd teen jou wang.
Hardloop my hart steeds wanhopig in die Distrik rond  –
Soos vrietangs  klou ons krampagtig aan sierangstingels op die grond,
Verdiep die bergkanarie en loerie hul in hul harmoniese samesang.
Distrik Ses, sal jy die sluier oor ons goeie dae lig?

Oor ons gisters, ons verledes deur ‘n regering gesteel
Sal jy die storie van ons komvandaan vertel,
wat wegkruiper speel,
in die moeë rimpels op my gesig…
© Alvie J January
    19.10.2021

The Details


  • Watercolour on 300g paper
  • Schminke watercolour paint
  • 750mm x 1000mm
  • Prints are available on watercolour paper or canvas at various sizes – Max 250 are available. Price based on option selected
  • Not available

Vernon Terrace Pillar



The Story

Another painting of Vernon Terrace based on a black and white photograph of Jan Greshoff. Alvie mentioned Vernon Terrace in the following poem:

I’d rather …

I’d rather see a lightning bolt
and hear thunder roar across the sky,
than the crunching-crushy sound,
of bulldozers rushing by.
I’d rather have the burning salt water
in my eyes: wave after wave –
than to watch them demolish Vernon’s Terrace;
Hanover Square, the Steps and be brave.
I’d rather not be the last house on Horstley Street,
but I’d be the parents that screamed and screamed.
I’d rather be Captain Marvel in the Avalon in black ‘n’ white,
make the District whole under a Cerulean sky,
than to watch one more tear spill from a pair of old and rheumy eyes,
fall on my soul with a mighty sigh. …
I’d rather not be a brilliant mind
and plan the destruction of a people, a livelihood –
where streets had names and people smiled
and colonialists steal away quietly with our girls at night.
I’d rather be one one with nature
where our existence masterfully fit together –
Where all men should have been brothers, here on this earth:
A promise made at birth …
I’d rather pray on every promise kept,
be a lost soul, rather to have lost my soul
and watch the Technikon build a parking lot,
over the Seven Steps …
©2019.11.10

The Details


  • Watercolour on 300g paper
  • Schminke watercolour paint
  • 750mm x 1000mm
  • Prints are available on watercolour paper or canvas at various sizes – Max 250 are available. Price based on option selected
  • Not available

Sheppard Street



The Story

Sheppard Street, District 6. Thanks to Chrischene Julius, who heads the Collections Research and  Documentation Department of the District Six Museum, for her support in getting more information on the colours of the buildings. Also to Martin Greshoff for his continuous input and feedback. See Jan Greshoff’s photographs (Jan Greshoff’s Photographs) to view the original black and white photographs of Cape Town in the 70’s.

Sheppard Street, the same street name where I grew up as a child in Nelspruit.


https://www.instagram.com/p/CaQI2ViMXEj/?igshid=MDJmNzVkMjY=

District Six (find your way home , please)…

Would I find any sign to guide me,
or maybe a road that I can follow?
If I’d have found you Hanover Street,
would you have been my way home?

Wandering aimlessly around: A lonely ghost,
lost to this hollowed-out world left to see –
Tyne-; Horstley-, Sheppard- and William Streets, I wish most,
for you to bring all familiar things back to me.

If life is written in words of love
and sadness written in echoes, that once was,
the rundown beauty that was ours to behold:
Oh, how did they crumble and tumble to the streets below.

If we were children once more,
recklessly gliding on sunshine in our homemade Bashews carts –
Our last laughs the wave that endlessly washes our hopes ashore,
District Six, you’re deeply anchored to our beating hearts.

If forever was the sign we should have followed
and never the sign we have lost long ago.
If we should lay down our lives tomorrow,
District Six, would you still find your way home?

Is there a song we could sing?
Or a a shrine we could build for all the children, you’d raised on happiness and love –
Even if we could have gathered on Moravian Hill would you’ve known?
Would our prayers and spiritual utterances have brought you home?

Would you rise out of the thick tides of mist, or the ashes, again and again,
As a phoenix or as the storm rolling down the mountain of anguish and pain?
If all of us, for days on end, stayed on our knees,
Would the love be deemed enough for you District Six, to find your way home, please?

In the days that went by so fast,
District Six, I wonder: When did we laugh our last laughs?
© Alvie January
10.08.2020


The Details


  • Watercolour on 300g paper
  • Schminke watercolour paint
  • Watercolour 350mm x 500mm
  • Prints are not available
  • Not available

Blythe Street



The Story

Blythe Street in District 6, overlooking the Harbour. Based on another photograph of Jan Greshoff. This was a photo chosen by Martin Greshoff, his nephew and hanging in his home in London.

It is also the first smaller painting on the subject.

Thanks Martin, I really enjoyed painting it 


https://www.instagram.com/p/CaWOGPKK3Lm/?igshid=MDJmNzVkMjY=

District Six … my geliefde, my gewiete …

Mon’tstraat op, Constitutionstraat af,
While die athaan se echo oor’ie Kaap weergalm.
Het ek oek mos ook hier as kind gespeel,
hoekom sluip ek dan nou soos n skelm
wat probeer om memories t’rug te steel?

Sukkelend met my blackboard chalk en whiting het ek ook my graffiti langs die van die Globe Gang en die Stalag 17 s’n, oppie Peninsula Maternity home se muur gelos, my kryt geclutch soes n Catholic rosary.
Met dieselfde guts, fears en gangster
anxieties.

Maar nooit, ooit sal os sieker weer
vrolike gelag hoor van die hoeke van Constitution of Vandeleur
Of Nabie Stores met sy apricot bolle
en oumensdrolle trug kan kry.
Sal’ie donker arched entrances van’ie Bloemhof flats, soes penny sweets
hie’ onner die hange van ou Devil’s Peak, slegs n bittersweet memory wies …
Gottala bra, ganit help om te kla,
of teen die prikkels te skop,
of te verlang na die usherettes van’ie British Cinema of’ie Avalon beez
Jy wiet dai een met’ie gepuntte titties, altyd kouend aan n drop…
Jamiela of Jasmiena van Boeta Aggies, wat jy nooit te nimmer kon date “ie of meet,
Maa’ wat met klapgeluide kon french-kiss op die agterste seats.

Nie eens ganit help as ek my fez op my kop vaster drukkie
Of claim of swear of plea dat ek van niks af wiet’ie
Terwyl my gewiete vra wat ek gedoen vir’ie tenants van die now empty zones:
Sal altyd getuig teen my siel,
die kerke en masiette.
My klaagliedere stom word voor’ie evidence van’ie cobblestones ..
Die Do-wops en’ie crooners, lamenting down ‘ol memory lane
sal vi altyd stil wies, soes die Council toilets
Op’ie hoek van Sir Lowry, Mount en Darling Streets, sy secrets keep-
Sal’ie Castle walls daa’van getuig!
Die prossies en’ie moffies met hulle lips geseal, vi protection teen die South easter gale
Sien’ie ee’s die lonely condom, wat sy smelly trane teen’ie fence af huil.

The Details


  • Watercolour on 300g paper
  • Schminke watercolour paint
  • Watercolour 350mm x 500mm
  • Not available
  • Not available

Elderly Woman Knitting



The Story

I painted a series of the people of District 6, through the lense of Jansje Wissema, with the permission of Cape Provincial Institute of Architects.

An elderly woman sits and knits at a table in her home in District Six, Cape Town in the 1970’s prior to the state orchestrated forced removals to locations further from the city. I don’t know if the old woman is the wife of the old man, they don’t say. They may be sitting at the opposite sides of the same table.

Alvie shares another memory in this poem.


https://www.instagram.com/p/CZBpRbUMzZ4/?igshid=MDJmNzVkMjY=

One life to live …

When the shadows were many and deep,
when the first sunlight entered my room
and chased away the edges of sleep,
like dust motes disturbed by a broom.

And voiceless friends became words on a page,
Like tendrils reaching into my brain,
turning my head to see beyond the sunlit lace:
A star leading me to our cradle of happiness and pain

District six I promised a hundred poems dedicated to you.
One hand became many as we walked and relived your streets
enthralled by  stories of a Slum-city and a heaven blue:
Likes and loves and hearts and memories of skinned hands and knees

We had hands that fell away,
never to be back or be touched again.

We had our angels that brought us to the  hundredth heavenly mile,
then left us to remember them through our tears, with a smile.

And the cobblestones, a throbbing heart,
cotton skirts and swinging hips and songs of yesteryear resound
Corner jokes and secret smokes and promises we’d never part…
And reached across social pages to make sure that every single one is found

With a grateful heart the tears flowed,
through blurry vision I realized we’re one for all and all for one.
One District Six, one pain to show,
one life to live, till our days are done …
© Alvie J January
23.12.2021

The Details


  • Watercolour on Arches 640g cold press paper
  • Daniel Smith watercolour paint
  • 280mm x 380mm
  • Prints are available on watercolour paper or canvas at various sizes – Max 250 are available. Price based on option selected
  • Not available

Bearded Man Reading



The Story

I painted a series of the people of District 6, through the lense of Jansje Wissema, with the permission of Cape Provincial Institute of Architects.

A bearded man sits at a table and reads in District Six, Cape Town in the 1970’s prior to the state orchestrated forced removals to locations further from the city. It is not known whether this man is Jewish or Muslim.

https://digitalcollections.lib.uct.ac.za/collection/islandora-18524


https://www.instagram.com/p/CY_0XVpMP3_/?igshid=MDJmNzVkMjY=

The world you were to me…

Look at shadows hiding from the day,
asleep within an obscured, distant doorway:
A leather-rigged Labrador, who had lost its way.
Where he lived
someone surely had been blind,
and now…
In all the bulldozed insanities
he had been left behind,
senses lost in the where and how;
its dust-caked fur and luminous eyes,
spoke of a family, kind.
In the deep blue of the sky,
as only they know –  to fly and fly,
Pigeons: searching for the reasons why,
they still came back to a plot;
where people and loft were long gone –
hopefully to somewhere safe,
where they were covered
by the Almighty’s wings and grace –
Where children, bewildered woke
After dreaming of being scattered and alone
and so many questions why?
Why the humble were silenced,
The old and meek left to die?
Homes declared unfit to be occupied,
When people lived there all their lives
Trampled under bulldozer caterpillar tracks
and digger-loader tyres:
Our muslahs; our kitaabs, a hymnbook,
lines blurred by the tears we’d cried.
District Six, our world, our all!
Gone before we could even
say goodbye…
As I still the frame;
to the dust; the burning flames;
the forever free,
our “Return to sender” mail.
A photograph that can never be:
The world you were to me…
©Alvie J January
21 October 2020

The Details


  • Watercolour on Arches 640g cold press paper
  • Daniel Smith watercolour paint
  • 280mm x 380mm
  • Prints are available on watercolour paper or canvas at various sizes – Max 250 are available. Price based on option selected
  • Not available

Eating Ice Cream with My Father



The Story

A man sits on a low wall outside his home and pats the head of his young son who is eating an ice-cream, District Six, Cape Town in the 1970’s prior to the state orchestrated forced removals to locations further from the city.

It was done based on a black & white photograph of Jansje Wissema, taken in 1970. See some more of her other photos at https://m.facebook.com/greshoff/albums/1063621223799089/?v&ref

Alvie shares some lighter moments around the Dover stove in this poem:

Die Doverstouf, vetkoeke en Golden Syrup…

Dit is vroeg al winter,
Die nag se donker vinger oor die ruite vee –
Die stukkie van die maan se geel,
wat oor die Welcome Doverstouf val
en diep binne oor my siel streel,
verjaag net bietjies van die skaduwees.
Die stouf was elke bruid se droom:
Yellow-green was een van die favorite color schemes.

Die nuwe dag, ‘n ligstraal,
waar die natuur ‘n streep trek op die oosterkim.
Mamma se arms tot by die elmboë in die meel staan –
knie die deeg dat die meel-dwarrels,
wolkies is wat verbouereerd opslaan.
Op Radio Suid-Afrika blêr ‘n liedjieskrywer
sy lied oor: ‘Daar  in die ou Kalahari,’ ver…
Sien ek hoe die rook lui-lui by die chimney uitsyfer.
Lag ons want die Kalahari lê miskien net hie’ anne’kant ou Tafelberg…

Skroei die vetkoeke tot goudbruin,
Op’pie stouf se top –
Was dit ‘n lied, sou die die moerkoffie in die ketel sing,
son’ner ophou of stop.
Lag-kraak die geel vlamme en die rooikranshout
se ente, wat soe sappig suis.
Ses stoele om’mie geskropte tafel in ‘n kring,
sit ôs al reg met’tie peanut butter en Golden syrup,
as Mamma die vetkoeke tafel toe bring.

“Sal jille  nou ophou met jille gejil?
Voor ek met’tie natlap onner jille inklim!”
Elke meal ‘n mission,
toe ôs maa’ net kinnes was.
word die blame van’nie
een na’rie anner gepass.
Staar Mamma goedig na haar kroos;
Ses mondjies en ‘n helse geraas!

Vlug die jare vinnig tot nou
1979:
Waar ek staan soes een in diepe rou –
Nog ‘n groep afgebreekte mure staan soekend rond,
in Horstleystraat, soos vrot tandjies in ‘n mond.
‘n Paar cracked tiles try om die res van’nie verhaal te ve’tel,
sê ‘n Boeta skielik: “Die fôkken Cape Flêts, is mos ‘n living hell!”

Wiet ek’anie waa’van die ouman praat,
as’sit rient en’nie water sypel deur’rie muur –
Dis wanne’ my ma vloek op’pie bliksems van’nie stadsraad:
“Ek he’te good mind om hulle my repair bill te stuur…”
Die District het sy bouvallige structures gehad,
maa’ dit was ôs en ôs was ‘it, dag en nag,
maa’ hie’ was ôs net gedrop in damn sak en as!”

Decadence was ‘n word wat ôs’sie baie gebruik’it ‘tie,
dit en bouvalligheid en whores was gelos,
vir’rie parlementarians se peppered District Six speech.
Die hart was’sie District en’nie District was in’nie hart.
Daa’ was trou gesweer tot in ’66
tot ôs forcefully moes beginne part.

My soeke in’nie District gat aan en aan,
want die flêts in Mountstraat se vloere,
Was’an nou gelyk mer’rie sand.
PMH lyk of ‘n stomheid daa’oo’ gesak ‘it’,
want die nursies se swart-rooi manteljies,
lyk of’it hulle teen’nie’ hartseer moet protect.
Die inhabitants het dan nou ge-disappear:
‘n Game blok-blok waa’ am’mal simply gaa’ wegstiek’it
Weggestiek ‘it uit total fear…

Teen die voo’ste van’nie Dover loep’ie steamtrane af,
Die moerkoffie het vergete gestol in’nie sak –
Selfs die lou-oond wiet daa’ sal’lie wee’ ‘n bord ingaan,
want op’pie Flêts gan’nit maa’ net buite in’nie yard moet staan.
Hie’ waar’rie doringtak teen’nie ruit van my memories knaag,
sien ek hoe Mamma se betraande gesig
en’nie  smaak van’nie vetkoeke
met’tie vrot tanne ruins van’nie District vervaag…
Skrik ek wakker District Six, sal ek weet jy was lank gelede daa’   
©Alvie J January 05.04.2021

The Details


  • Watercolour on Arches 640g cold press paper
  • Daniel Smith watercolour paint
  • 560mm x 760mm
  • Prints are available on watercolour paper or canvas at various sizes – Max 250 are available. Price based on option selected
  • Not available

Kaapse Klopse



The Story

I have painted the structures of District 6 based on Jan Greshoff’s photographs. There are not many people present in those. Thought that it is time to see what the people of District 6 look during the 60’s and 70’s. Also using black and white photos, I started with this one taken by Ian Berry in 1960.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CZLkUJLqCXD/?igshid=MDJmNzVkMjY=

I have included two of Alvie’s writings here;  the first is a poem dedicated to his mother and the second New Years wishes for 2021.  In both the “Klopse”, “Minstrels” or “Coons” are mentioned:

The whispered promises – (For the District, for you Mom  …)
By 
Alvie Jamiel January

Today I am ready again to write you,
my District’s friends and family.
My thoughts wandered and roamed
back to your neck of the woods …
A year of working through loss and pain –
Of losing you,  Mom and my connection to the District all over again.
So many things, wonderful moments;
and happenings that came and went –
Events planned I so much wanted to attend.
After this tiring personal journey I find myself,
totally rundown and emotionally spent

For a while I felt incomplete,
knowing nothing will ever be the same again.
You were my umbilical cord to the District Mom: The rhythm and the echoes of the Steps;
The children, over the moon and having fun in the streets;
The fancy Coon colours coming ‘Tweede Nuwejaar’
The carnival mood and the twang of banjos and guitars;
Parties with forgotten cries and the stomping of feet –
Merriment, that when the ‘Dieners’ came, with a shrug was easy to defend
Bulldozer tracks, grassy knolls and buried years and memories:
Laid like railway tracks, end to end …
From Buitenkant Street to the other side of District Six.

Before we say goodbye to 2020…

Before we say goodbye to 2020, let us pause for a minute over good things that happened. Let us be grateful for family that is still with us. Let us just love the moments that brought joy and gather them like pearls. We are good at collecting memory moments. That is the reason why we still carry the heart of District Six around with us.  Let us carry the torch of hope into the new year, let us keep the faith. Things might get worse before it gets better. Let us support each other, be there for each other and show the same love that we were raised on. Let us share the spirit of D6 and just enjoy every opportunity that arise.

So many things will change in this new year. The great favourite of our New Year: The Klopse (minstrels, coons) whatever names they were given over the years, will be quiet. The bright satin colored fabrics, the twirling of their umbrellas, the painted faces – all missing from our bright landscape of rainbow colors.

Let us see them again in our memory. See them walk through the District again and the fearful devils, the Atchas put that same fear in us while as we scream and shout from the balconies, try and get away from as they veer across the street to the sidewalks to put the living fear in us as children.

Let us leave fear; trepidation, anxieties and our sadness on the threshold of 2020 and enter 2021 with the necessary respect for each other’s safety by following the rules and regulations laid down. We are important to life and to each other. Let us meet 2021 headon and make the best of it. HAPPY 2021 ALL FAMILY AND FRIENDS!!!

The Details


  • Watercolour on Arches 640g cold press paper
  • Daniel Smith watercolour paint
  • 560mm x 760mm
  • Prints are available on watercolour paper or canvas at various sizes – Max 250 are available. Price based on option selected
  • Not available

Scroll to Top