“Steek my Weg / Save the River”

“Save the River / Steek my weg” came about while I was working on one of my documentary film projects, “Wie se dans is dit” (whose dance is it). “Wie se dans is dit” is about the |khaba ra dance or “rieldans.” One of the groups that I was interested in filming was the Barrydale “rieldans” group of Barrydale. I set up an interview with the group leader Peter Takelo in December 2018. However, in the interview, he kept talking about the Redfin Minnow. He explained that they annually have a giant puppet parade in which they raise awareness regarding certain topics. That specific year it was about the Redfin Minnow. He said that the Redfin Minnow is one of the oldest freshwater fish and is on the brink of extinction. The biggest threat for the Redfin Minnow appears to be agriculture. We set up an interview with another community leader the next day.

The interview the next day was with Lando Esau. He was also critical of the big agricultural projects along the Tradouw Valley and its effects on the environment. He also spoke about the force removals that took place in Barrydale. His family and many other families were forcefully removed along the valley during apartheid. Lando also spoke about the pain these forced removals caused and which they are still experiencing daily. For Lando and Peter, the answer to dealing with this pain is culture or holding on to their Khoi roots. They spoke to me about the lack of access to their ancestral lands and about a cave full of rock art to which they also do not have access. I realised that I would have to go back to visit the cave.

I returned in 2019 for their annual giant puppet parade. The day after the parade, I went to the cave with the two guides and a camera person. We drove to a hiking trail, climbed through a fence and did a 20-minute hike to the cave. The energy we felt going to the cave was excitement and expectation. Yet, once we entered the cave, we became still as if we were entering a sacred space. I did not expect the magnitude and the beauty of the rock art in this cave and it was not the first time I visited a rock art site. My intention was to see whether the Redfin Minnow was painted on the walls of the cave. However, I found more. The rock art is telling a story of the early inhabitants. How they lived and what they valued.

I decided I will attempt telling the complex Upper Barrydale postapartheid story, and this film is my attempt to tell their story.

Jacob Cloete

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