Oom Piet’s Story

A Participant's Story From An Intercultural Storytelling Workshop

As part of their ‘Our Story, Your Story’ project, Clowns Without Borders South Africa ran a series of Intercultural Workshops, involving participants from the communities of Touwsranten and Hoekwil. The sessions were an opportunity for participants to develop their skills and connect with neighbours from diverse cultural backgrounds, building bridges between the communities as they did so.

Lisa Cohen, the Project Lead, described the “intimate” and “meaningful” experience of “putting people in a room that you would never expect to have in the same room together”. “They would never normally have shared stories from their lives together”, she added.

Oom Piet was one of the participants at the Intercultural Workshops. Here, he retells his story (translated into English from its original in Afrikaans), giving us a flavour of the tales which were shared:

I am Piet Klein and I was born in 1950 on a small farm which was about 20km outside of Sutherland. I lived in a small house, a very tiny house – which had just enough space for a bed and a small cupboard. That is the place where my grandmother (my mother’s mother) lived and, after that, we moved to a farm by the name of Grensfontein. That’s where my mother worked. My father’s parents lived there. I grew up with my grandmother and grandfather and my aunt (my father’s sister) and those three played the most important role in my life and helped me to understand the world and people.

They raised me and taught me everything I know – since I was a baby until I was 8 or 9. They taught me how to act, they taught how to be and they gave me toys to play with. They were my mentors. I used to call my grandmother “Mama”, I called my oupa “Papa”, and my dad’s sister I called “Lala”. I don’t know where that name came from, but that was what I called her. Those 3 people were my life. My mother worked from 5 in the morning till 12 sometimes at night – and sometimes she would leave in thick snow and all I would see was her footprints. Then she would come home at 12 to come breastfeed me then go back to work. I didn’t drink breast milk for long before I moved onto the bottle. My mother would then come and make my bottle then leave around 2 for work. I would only see her the next morning or, sometimes, I would try to stay up past 12 at night. But that is where my life began and that is how I started interacting with people. At the age of 9 or 10 my mother got married to her friend […] And at the age of 10, I went to school for the first time – but I didn’t have the resources to study further. I was only able to go to school for 4 years but in those 4 years I learned everything that I could and used it in my life.

My Mother […] would leave in thick snow and all I would see was her footprints.

It made the person I am today […] The things I learned from that man (my mum’s friend who stood in for me as a father). He was my mentor. He changed my life – he taught me how to be man. He taught me things and told me about stuff. One day, when I was 9, he gave me a hiding and I don’t know why but I will never forget that hiding. I still remember until this day […] After that it was words and every day he told me what to do and I did as I was told. He was my teacher for most of my life and everything I am today was because of him. He taught me through his mannerisms. He never smoked or drank, which are things I also don’t do. He taught me how to be an upright man. I doubt if my father had lived that he would have made such a big difference in my life like he had. And so that is how I came through life. I have 3 children and today they are adults. The teachings that I got from my stepfather, I put a lot of that into my children and taught them the values he taught me. And they are good children. My daughter is a mother of two […] they are wonderful children. And that is my story.

He was my teacher for most of my life and everything I am today was because of him.

You can find more information, and links to further resources, about the ‘Our Story, Your Story’ project here.

© Dialogue Community Performance / Clowns Without Borders South Africa