Stellenbosch Visio Winter 2024 Issue

As the winter frost settles in, editor Francé Beyers warmly reflects on highlights from the Stellenbosch Visio Winter 2024 issue.

As we were putting the final touches to this winter issue of Stellenbosch Visio, the Western Cape was struck by the most severe windstorm in decades. I battle to find the right words to describe the force of howling gale-force winds tearing through our region in early April – unseasonal winds that left devastation in their wake.

It was heart-wrenching to see so many of our beloved giant oak trees blown over or snapped in two like matchsticks. Homes and even big buildings had their roofs blown off or were severely damaged, and fires swept through formal and informal areas, leaving thousands without shelter.

Historic landmarks like the Jonkershuis and the beautiful Manor House on Blaauwklippen, our second oldest wine farm dating back to 1682, were razed. Our deepest condolences go out to everyone who suffered loss and damage.

Then, even as the skies were still clouding over and we were bracing ourselves for the second wave of this storm (which mercifully didn’t happen), we experienced instead the enormous resilience, compassion and unity of our community in the face of adversity.

The municipality took swift action, and teams could be seen everywhere, hard at work clearing the roads, removing fallen trees and lending a hand wherever needed.

Community Services sent out appeals and within hours loads of food, clothing and blankets were donated, sorted and distributed. Moments like these truly highlight the power of a community coming together to support one another in times of need.

This storm again made us aware of our homes as a shelter against the raw power of the elements. But homes are far more than that. They are where our dreams are stitched into the fabric of a place.

Acclaimed author Marlene van Niekerk gives a delightful glimpse into how the artist and previous head of the Visual Arts Department at Stellenbosch University, Keith Dietrich, made his dreams tangible in an unpromising Victorian house (p. 84).

In our town, we quite rightly treasure the gifts the past has left for us, but what drives us forward is the spirit of innovation. Elmari Rautenbach met Marco Botha and was bowled over by how he had harnessed a love for sports to a school community’s pressing needs. Who could ever imagine that a school’s soccer field in Kayamandi linked to a hyper-sophisticated water filtration system could deliver clean drinking water. Read the story (p. 96) and marvel!

We would like to believe that it is Stellenbosch Visio’s community spirit that persuades so many top-notch journalists to write for us – as you will see in this issue again with Richard Holmes writing about glorious Gåte restaurant (p. 26), Emile Joubert sharing wine (p. 106) and brandy wisdom (p. 72) and Jacques Marais indulging in the snow at Mont Rochelle (p. 90). And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

Ons is ’n land met wonderlike natuurskoon en mense met warm harte. Geen wonder dat ’n gevierde skrywer en akademikus soos Ena Jansen ná ’n uiters suksesvolle loopbaan in die buiteland weer teruggehunker het na die Kaap nie. Haar woorde op die agterblad sal steeds by my weerklank vind. Welkom tuis, Ena!