Tribal Gathering

My Oupa arrived in South Africa on a ship from Holland, as a young boy. His father, my Great-Grandfather, had relocated to the railway village of Waterval Boven where at the time there was a need for wheel-tappers. Boven was a central part of the rail trade system into and from surrounding African countries.

Ouma and Oupa

Some years later my Oupa met and married Ouma. Their wedding took place in Egypt during The Second World War. (The story goes that she lied about her age and signed up, following him North – she is no longer around for me to confirm the details of this account but then again late-night campfire stories never lie.)

Together they grew a family, which included my Dad who is 70 this year. He is the eldest of six.

After my Grandparents moved on the ‘Big Six’ began to gather every second year around Easter time. Having tested out a few different locations the event seems to have settled at the beautiful Tranquillas Adventure Farm, belonging to my lovely, strong and generous cousin Ruth and her equally lovely husband, Mike – Tranquillas is fittingly located at Waterval Boven.

While the ‘elders’ spend endless hours sitting around the fire catching up, with the odd spell of leg-stretching and bird-watching thrown into the mix,

us ‘youngsters’ spend time on our bikes exploring the surrounding forests or climbing the amazing rock that runs along the krantz that has brought rock-climbing fame to this breathtakingly beautiful place.

These gatherings of the tribe are a time of kuier

a word with Dutch roots referring to ‘visiting’ but denoting a deeper level of meaning which is somehow lost in translation. It refers to the intense type of visiting that takes place when all else is set aside and the reason for the visit is solely to do just and only that….kuier.

The six is now five and as time passes it is unclear what will become of our family reunion. Organising it can be a mission and travelling long distances for a short weekend feels daunting at times when life is happening at  pace.

But come what may I am grateful for the gatherings that we have had and for the opportunity to listen to family history and legends retold around the fire.

Grateful that my kids have a better sense of ‘what and who’ and have had a chance to spend time with their second cousins.

And grateful to have had the opportunity to share this part of who I am and where I come from with my own little family as I catch brief images of the past reflected in their fresh faces.

Waterval – April 2013 / Smulders Gathering – Celebrating Family and all that it is.


28 thoughts on “Tribal Gathering

  1. Wonderful!– I am a distant relative as well and the story is similar to our family’s – our tribal gatherings have gotten lost it seems also due to excuses, distances and life’s hecticness and its sad when one thinks of it! – and our one person who could remember everything and knew everyone from the year dot has just passed away – my aunt Joan – at nearly 94 – and we didnt write it down…..! Her funeral tomorrow will be a small gathering of some of the clan that’s left but not all. Thanks for reminding us how important family and clan is! June

    • Perhaps we just take too much for granted nowdays and we don’t seem to spend time together like folk did in the old days. It is interesting though how the saddest of events can bring people together in a good kind of way.I hope all goes well for your family tomorrow.

  2. What a beautiful family! Oupa and Ouma would be so proud and happy to witness their offspring enjoying each other and their environment so. They were such a very handsome and lovable couple who left a wonderful legacy. You can all be justly proud of your roots. Johan is now the flag bearer to keep it all going. Being the eldest, he has the most to share with his 70 yr.old memory (or not?…..) and not to mention his ever so humble gift of sharing………(love you Johan 🙂
    Well done to the whole family! Thanks Gill for doing your part in keeping the tradition going by sharing your pics & posts. I once told you Gill, that we relate more to the people we’re related to than we oft care to admit. I’m sure you are happy to admit you relate to many of your rellies.
    “Everyman is a quotation from all his ancestors” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
    “You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you” – Desmond Tutu

    • Thanks Jess. These reunions have helped me realise how special and important family can be, especially through watching my Dad so proudly share his memories of family with us.

  3. I had tears in my eyes, reading this post and the photos. Any reason for family gatherings are wonderful, ok funerals less so, but reunions are the best as there is no agenda except to get together, hang out, yarn, cook and eat. My family’s annual reunion has suffered numbers wise for the last few years due to timing and other commitments, including for me but i’m hoping to get there in the next year or so. Seeing your photos makes it move up my list of priorities.

    • I thought about you when I wrote this, knowing your love of family history and such, and wondered if your tribe gathers. This event has become a priority over the last few years – it means alot to my Dad but has become extremely meaningful to me too. It is an age thing I think which is a pity because by the time one cottons on some of the folk that you would like to engage with and explore history with have already passed on. Better late than never they say.

      • So nice you thought of me 🙂 We started deliberate get togthers after doing so one weekend to commemorate the 25th year since my Pa died, and we kept it up annually for a decade… your post got me thinking as well that its current form needs tweaking so we all can go.
        It’s funny, it’s Dad & I who have the interest in family history, the others not really and they only occasionally tell old stories.

    • Tell me about it! I lay awake at night wondering about different things and feel very frustrated but I guess the thing to do is try get as much info from those still around as possible and the rest is left to one’s imagination!

      • But there’s invariably something you wished you had asked. Then again, family stories can be notoriously skewed. A bit like Chinese whispers – they get changed at every telling. Am writing a short piece for a competition on ‘Treasures’ which has set my memories gushing.

  4. What a beautiful tribute to what family means — or is supposed to mean. The photographs are perfect, too. Thank you for explaining the word, kuier. I understood it immediately, and would imagine that it doesn’t involve cell phones, iPads, and text messaging.

    • Cell reception is not great at Tranquillas – thank goodness. In this crazy world setting time aside, away from mod comms feels like something important that needs to be done in order to ‘stay connected’. Thanks so much for taking the time to check out my blog. Am thoroughly enjoying yours!

  5. So lovely to read, see and feel the strong connections you have here amongst yourselves and what a wonderful tribute to the adventurous and loving spirit of your amazing grandparents!

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