Posts filed under ‘van pletsen’

What’s in a Song?

By Roon Lewald

Mimi CoertzeWhat’s in a song?  Oh, many things, many many memories, as I discovered when I surfed the Worldwide Web on a sudden sentimental impulse, looking for the half-forgotten words of the poem for which composer S. le Roux Marais wrote the music of probably the most beautiful Afrikaans art song I know.  I searchtagged “My hart verlang na die stilte” and immediately found the text of S.L.R. Bruggen’s poem “Heimwee” (Longing, or Homesickness). Not only that, but a link on the same page took me straight to South African singer Mimi Coertse’s homepage

I clicked “Heimwee” and found myself listening for the first time in 50 years to the recording of the song she made in 1956.  That was the year when Mimi, fresh from triumphs “overseas” (magical word to post-colonial South Africans in those days!), toured South Africa to wow her countryfolk as South Africa’s first internationally acclaimed classical singer. (more…)


May 22, 2010 at 2:27 am 10 comments

The Van Pletsen Saga

by Helen Lewald (nee Van Pletsen)

Translated by Blane van Pletzen-Rands 

 Klik hier vir Afrikaans 


Click here for extended Genealogy


by her son, Roon Lewald

When my mother completed her hand-written chronicle of her Van Pletsen ancestors in 1974, a typed manuscript produced by an admiring relative was photocopied many times and found its way to numerous members of her tribe throughout South Africa. As far as I am aware, the Afrikaans-language manuscript remains the only known history of the Van Pletsens (or Van Pletzens with a “z”), and graphically portrays a typically huge clan of Afrikaner (Boer) descendants of mingled Dutch, German and French Huguenot settlers.

I was nevertheless astounded when, during a random web session in 2008, I stumbled on a faithful copy of the “Van Pletsen Saga” in both the original Afrikaans AND an English translation in this very same blog. From Bonn in Germany, where I have lived since emigrating in 1971, I immediately contacted the responsible blogger in New York. I was delighted to find out that editor The Rev. Br. Blane van Pletzen-Rands BSG is indeed a remote relative as well as a fellow expatriate, with a similarly nostalgic attachment to the positive aspects of Afrikaner traditions and the expressive Afrikaans language with its fine literature. Like many Americans, post-colonial South Africans – especially those who have joined a swelling diaspora in Europe, both Americas and Australasia in recent years – are deeply interested in their ancestral origins. Since Blane came upon a copy of the Saga during a visit to relatives in South Africa, he has therefore made it a centrepiece of his blog. The many comments it has attracted show that it has become a watering hole for virtually migrating Van Pletsens and other South Africans. (more…)

December 1, 2009 at 5:38 pm 36 comments

Another Van Pletsen Storyteller

Dina-Ann Boessenkool

Dina-Ann Boessenkool

Introduced by Roon Lewald

My cousin Dina Ann is providing fresh proof that the ancestors of the Van Pletsen tribe all qeued up to kiss the blarney stone. Dina’s mother (my Aunt René, who is still hale enough at 89 to plan her umpteenth trip to Europe this year) is the  last survivor of my maternal grandfather Frans van Pletsen’s brood of four daughters and one son. The story-telling gift which prompted my own mother (Reinet’s elder sister Helen) to record the family’s history in her “Van Pletsen Saga” has resurfaced in Dina Ann Boessenkool (née Vincent). (more…)

May 28, 2009 at 11:28 pm 1 comment

On Afrikaans

Taal Monument

There is, for me, something remarkable about well-crafted Afrikaans prose. Her words are fertile; a faithful translation into English will often demand of a translator three words for each pregnant Afrikaans word. She remains, for this writer, a language that at once embraces and estranges her readers, for she is essentially tribal.

Any engelsprekende that has ever ventured into a conversation in Afrikaans with Afrikaners might know what I’m trying to place my finger on: his toungue immediately betrays him as an outsider; there is an awkward moment of sheer horror when conversation halts — and resumes — in English. There is little to no middle ground for those who speak Afrikaans as a second, third or foreign language. Our battered vocabulary and slaughtered syntax betray us immediately for the buitelanders that we are. It is our shiboleth. (more…)

May 2, 2009 at 1:43 pm 8 comments


In memory of my sister, Deanne Seneschal Raszat, née Lewald, born 31 Jan. 1940 in Durban, South Africa; died 26 Sept. 1996 in Leimen-Gauangelloch, Germany

By Roon Lewald



After cancer won a five-year battle for my elder sister’s life, my brother-in-law sent me a parcel of old studio recordings of Deanne’s singing recitals made by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC/SAUK) between 1953 and 1958. Apart from a pile of yellowed newspaper clips and eistedfodd certificates, they were all that remained of the years when my mother’s coaching of Deanne’s voice propelled her into brief local prominence as a promising young singer. My dutiful elder sister had already been slaving away at her piano lessons for nearly five years when, at the age of 10, our Ma yoked her girlish lyrical soprano too into the musical harness of our parents, both of them singing teachers. At the age of 13, she piped German Lieder and Afrikaans liedjies into an SABC mike for the first time and was introduced on the nationwide “Young South Africa” programme as a young singer with a great future.


April 22, 2009 at 11:42 pm 12 comments

Helen van Pletsen – the Nightingale of Natal

Roon LewaldBy Roon Lewald, son of Helen van Pletsen, author of “The Van Pletsen Saga

In a personal twist to the old show-biz saying that “you haffta be Jewish”, my Afrikaner mother had a stock diagnosis of people she considered too humourless to appreciate the funny side of life. Irritated by an encounter with some particularly dour, self-righteous grudge-bearer, she would shrug and say: “His / her problem is a lack of irony in the blood.” (more…)

March 16, 2008 at 11:13 pm 11 comments

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