Christina September

Christina September was born on a farm named Bo-Swartvlei on 24 September 1948. She has seven children – two boys and five girls – and is very happily married.

Christina September tells of her childhood and how she started working for a white family at a young age. She shares stories about fishing and swimming in the river, and being warned of the waternooientjie (water maiden).

Christina September was born on 24 September 1948 and got married in 1964. She and her partner are still happily married, unlike many young people of today who separate when the marriage gets difficult. They have seven children – two boys and five girls. One of the girls is married and lives in Paarl. Christina was born on Bo-Swartvlei and went to school in the town. They walked to town from the farm for groceries and did not have a lavish childhood, but always had something to eat. They went to school until about standard 3 or 4, after which they were taken out to work. Their parents could not afford for them to continue schooling.

Christina’s first job was working for white people, taking care of their kids. She was still a child herself and so was given light work to do. She and her husband have learned a lot from their own children and have always been treated well by die blankes. They are retired and live in a house on the farm.

Christina’s mother told her the river was dangerous – there were waterbase (water bosses) and waternooientjies (watermaidens) in the river who could catch the children. This made them not want to go to the river alone and an adult always accompanied them. As children they believed what they were told but never saw any of these river creatures. Christina now says that the adults told them these stories to warn them to be safe at the river. The waternooientjie is said to have long hair that she brushes while sitting on a rock, but the bottom part of her body is the tail of a fish. Her father went fishing at times, and she says the fish in the river were big in those days. Her mother would prepare the fish and bake suurdeeg brood (sourdough bread) in an outside oven that they built themselves.

I’m Christina September. I was born in 1948, the 24th September 1948 I was born and I was also married, in 1964 I was married, in August, and so we lived and carried on and we’ve been, we’ve been happy, until today. We don’t have problems or things that bother or worry us, and my husband and I, we’re still together and healthy, spared through the grace of the Lord, for which we’re also thankful.

But the youth of today, young people of today, I – as I’ve now already learnt and heard, and have also seen – they don’t stay together for long, because when things start going wrong, or become difficult in the marriage, then the one simply decides, no, I’m now divorcing, I don’t want to, don’t feel like continuing, and so on. But there haven’t been times like those in my husband’s life, marriage life. And we are, we had seven children in the marriage, all of whom are still alive – five daughters and two boys the Lord  gave us. And one of our girls is now married. She lives in Paarl and the other children are still around in this area, close to us. Half of them live in town and the others are with us here in the house, and so on.

Where did you go to school?

O yes, and I was born here on the farm, Upper Swartvlei, and I went to school on Noordhoek, no, I went to school in town. In those years there were still primary schools here, and we didn’t, there weren’t residences in which we could board and lived. Our parents had to ask people in town whether we could stay and live in their house during the week, during the week when it was school, when it was school. And on weekends we came home, to the farm. And our parents, in those years they had to walk, because there wasn’t transport like now. They mostly had to walk to town when they had to buy groceries and so on. They had to walk, they told us when we were children, when we were growing up. They had to walk to get to town and buy their food and stuff. And then they had to, what they had bought, they had to make bags and carry it on their backs, what they were able to carry, and had to walk back to the farm.

And, well, they also didn’t earn that much in those days either. My pa told us they didn’t earn much money in those days and… but they used that to – on that little they were able to bring us up. So the Lord carried them and helped them so that they could… There wasn’t a day that we were without bread or went to sleep without having something to eat. There was always something that my ma could prepare for us and have on the table. And that we could enjoy.

And, well then, and so we grew up, went to school and… I did, Ma and them couldn’t afford for us to go to high school. I only progressed up to, to Standard 3 in school, and most of my sisters and my brothers, we only got to, got to, Standard 3 and Standard 4. Then Ma took us out again, because they couldn’t afford it, the children… The things that they buy for the children, shoes and clothes and stuff, so that you could look presentable at school – there wasn’t actually much money for that. Now they had to – Ma always told us, as long as we could read a letter to her, or write a letter, that was how Ma wanted us taught. And when we reached Standard 3 or Standard 4, then they took us out, out of the school. And then we had to see about getting a job.

Now my first work was to look after children at home for, for the white women. And doing any light jobs I was able to do, I was after all still a child. In those days, they gave us light jobs to do, and what we, what the madam paid Ma, actually me for the work – Ma always collected it from her, at the end of the month. And Ma would buy me what I needed and, and so we carried on, until we were young girls and also met boys, got married later on, and also had children, when we eventually had our own families.

But until now we, the children are, they don’t give us problems. Our children are peaceful children.  They’ve always helped us wherever they could and if we can’t do something, they always help us, or they say, “Ma, not like that,” or “Dad, we don’t do it like that, we do it like this.”

But we also listen to them, and how they’re now teaching us. And what they’re telling us. So that we can also understand how life works and how one must do things. And my children also learnt. Now in our time it was… The state of schooling was better, wasn’t it, there were high schools, primary schools. Some of my children, some of them have made matric, and they’re working today, they have good jobs, and so their earnings are okay, and so on.

For the rest, we still live happily here at Upper Swartvlei. The whites have treated us well all this time, and, and said – we’re retired, aren’t we, we’re old now – we could remain here in the house until we’re not here any more. We cannot complain about them, they’ve always treated us well, and still do. And when there are problems that, that we now, that we might be unhappy about, we can go to them and speak to them about it and they understand us and we understand them. And so there is always a solution for the problem. That is now my story.

Did your pa and them maybe tell stories – stories about the river, or mountain stories, ghost stories, for example? Can you remember one or two?

Don’t know.

What did the old people here say about the river when the children went there, were there stories…?

Oh yes, ehm, Ma always told us, but us children – when they were children, it was dangerous at the rivers because, they told us, there were [things] like water maidens and water bosses that, that caught you if you went swimming there. Then we always became scared, we, you didn’t want to go on your own, we went there with grown-ups who went swimming and so on. But we never saw these water maidens and water bosses they spoke of. But you know children, they believe what they hear, what their parents tell them and ehh… No, I think they told us these things so that we would be careful and would know about the dangers that were in the river, hiding there.

Did they say what the water maidens and water bosses looked like?

They said the water maidens had long hair and he* always came out, then maybe he sat in the river on a rock, or on those… those water plants and then he combed his hair there, but the bottom part looked like a fish, but the top was like, like we are, like a person, with long hair. But the bottom part of the water maiden was like a fish’s tail. That’s what they told us. And they also told us, when my pa and them went fishing in the river – in those years, they said, there were big fish here in the river. And so my pa and them caught fish and if they got fish, they brought it home, and Ma cleaned it and cooked it for us, prepared it for us children to eat. And, so later on, every now and then we had some fish to eat. When there wasn’t meat, we ate fish. Or vegetables, which we had, which Pa and them got from the farmers – as they grew and planted and had them, Pa and them got from them and brought them home and, so Ma and them prepared the vegetables, cooking them in the pot and…

Ma and them also made sourdough bread in their time, prepared yeast. And they baked in the outside ovens, ovens that they made outside with clay and bricks and water. They mixed the sand and the clay, and mixed it with water, and then they made a stiff putty to plaster the, the oven and to make, to prepare it, and when that oven was dry and ready, so that he could be baked in, then a fire was made inside. Then when your bread was kneaded, the fire made inside, and the oven ready, then that bread was placed in the oven, and then that bread baked for about an hour, and after an hour you could take it out, then it was ready. To be eaten. It was nice bread, that. And so on.

Did you maybe know of Bushman drawings close by?


Have you ever heard a story about Dirk Ligter?

I heard them speaking about Dirk Ligter, but I don’t actually know him. Who he was and what he did, and so on, about him moving through these parts, and so on.

Have you ever heard of paljas*?

I heard people speak about something like paljas many times, but I don’t really know what it is. I heard the grown-ups speaking about someone who had been paljassed, then that person was confused and off his head, and so on. And that, that the person’s people made a plan, got him to someone who could help him, that they knew of who could help him so that he could become healthy again, could be healed, could become normal. I don’t actually have much knowledge of that, but I heard about it. People speak about it.

Christina September is op 24 September 1948 op ’n plaas genaamd Bo-Swartvlei gebore. Sy het sewe kinders – twee seuns en vyf dogters – en is baie gelukkig getroud.

Christina vertel van haar kinderjare en hoe sy op ’n jong ouderdom vir ’n blanke gesin begin werk het. Sy vertel hoe hulle in die rivier vis gevang en geswem het, en hoe die grootmense hulle teen die waternooientjies gewaarsku het.

Christina September is op 24 September 1948 gebore en in 1964 getroud. Sy en haar man is steeds gelukkig getroud, anders as talle jongmense vandag wat skei wanneer dinge in die huwelik moeilik raak. Hulle het sewe kinders – twee seuns en vyf dogters. Een van die dogters is getroud en woon in die Paarl. Christina is op Bo-Swartvlei gebore en het in die dorp skoolgegaan. Hulle het van die plaas af dorp toe gestap om kruideniersware te gaan koop. Haar ouers het maar min verdien, maar daar was altyd iets om te eet. Hulle het tot standerd 3 of 4 skoolgegaan en daarna moes hulle gaan werk. Hulle ouers kon dit nie bekostig om hulle langer op skool te hou nie.

Christina se eerste werk was by blankes, waar sy kinders opgepas het. Sy was nog maar self ’n kind en het ligte werkies gekry om te doen. Sy en haar man het baie by hulle eie kinders geleer en die blankes het hulle altyd goed behandel. Hulle het afgetree en bly in ’n huis op die plaas.

Christina se ma het haar vertel dat die rivier gevaarlik was – daar was waterbase en waternooientjies in die rivier wat die kinders sou vang. Dit het gemaak dat hulle nie alleen rivier toe wou gaan nie en ’n volwassene moes altyd saamkom. As kinders het hulle geglo wat die grootmense vir hulle vertel, maar hulle het nooit enige van hierdie rivierwesens gesien nie. Christina sê die grootmense het vir hulle hierdie stories vertel om hulle te waarsku teen die gevare wat in die rivier skuil. Die waternooientjie sit op ’n rots en borsel haar lang hare. Haar onderlyf is soos ’n visstert. Christina se pa het soms gaan visvang. Sy sê in daardie dae was die vis in die rivier baie groot. Haar ma het die vis voorberei en suurdeegbrood gebak in ’n buite-oond wat hulle self gebou het.


Ek gee nou toestemming met die opname vanmôre dat die meneer nou vir ons kan opneem en ons kan ons storie vertel soos ons nou van doerie tyd af gekom het tot hier toe.

Ek is nou Christina September. Ek is gebore 1948, die vier-en-twintigste September 1948 is ek gebore en ek is getroud ook daar in 1946 is ek getroud, Augustus, en so het ons nou maar gelewe en gekom en ons is, ons is gelukkig, tot vandag toe. Ons het nie probleme of dinge wat vir ons hinder of pla nie, en ek en my eggenoot, ons is nog altyd bymekaar en gesond, uitgespaar deur die genade van die Here, en waarvoor ons ook dankbaar is.

Maar die jeug van vandag, jongmense van vandag, ek, soos ek nou al geleer het en gekom het en gehoor het, en ook gesien het, hulle bly ook nie lank bymekaar nie, want as dinge beginne skeefloop, of moeilik word in die huwelik, dan besluit die een sommer, maar nee, ek skei nou en ek wil nie, voel nie meer om aan te gaan nie, en so nie. Maar daar was nog nie sulke tye in my eggenoot se lewe, huwelikslewe nie. En ons is, ons het sewe kinders in die huwelik waarvan almal nou nog lewe – vyf dogters en twee seuns het die Here vir ons gegee, enne, ’n meisiekind van ons is nou getroud. Sy bly in die Paarl en die ander kinders is nou nog maar hier in die omgewing rondom, by ons naby. Helfte bly in die dorp en die ander span is darem nou hier by ons in die huis, en so.

Waar’t Antie skoolgegaan?

O ja, en ek is gebore hier op die plaas, Bo-Swartvlei en ek het in Noordhoek, nee, ek het in die dorp skoolgegaan. Daai jare was hier mos nog, uhh, laerskole, en ons het nie, daar was nog nie koshuise wat ons in kan geloseer het en gebly het nie. Onse ouers moes maar mense daar in die dorp gevra het om, by wie ons kan bly en tuis gaan vir die week gedurende die skool in die week aan is, skool aan is. En naweke het ons huis toe gekom, plaas toe. En onse ouers, hulle moes maar daai jare gestap het, want daar was nie vervoere soos nou nie. Hulle moes maar merendeels gestap het, dorp toe, as hulle wou gaan inkopies doen ook, en so. Moes hulle maar gestap het, soos hulle nou vir ons gevertel het toe ons nou kinders, soos ons opgegroei het. Toe moes hulle nou maar gestap het om in die dorp te kom en hulle kos en goed gaan koop. En dan moet hulle maar weer, dit wat hulle gekoop het, sakkies maak en agter die rug sit en soos hulle nou kan dra en maar weer die pad vat terug, plaas toe. En so, hulle het ook maar nie baie in daai dae geverdien nie. My pa het vir ons vertel die verdienste wat hulle geverdien het, was ook maar min daai jare gewees en, maar hulle maar ook vir ons so, met daai min het hulle vir ons kan grootgemaak het, so die Here het vir hulle gedra en gehelp dat hulle vir ons kan … Daar was nie ’n tyd dat ons sonder brood of sonder iets om te eet kan gaan slaap het nie. Daar was altyd iets wat my ma vir ons kan voorberei het en op die tafel gesit het. En lat ons kan geniet het.

En, nou ja, en, so het ons maar opgegroei, skoolgegaan en … ek het, Ma-hulle het nou nie kan gebekostig het vir ons om hoërskool te bereik nie. My vordering wat ek skoolgegaan het was maar by, tot standerd drie, en meestal van my susters en my broers, ons het maar so, net so, tot by standerd drie en standerd vier gehaal. En so Ma het weer vir ons uitgevat, want hulle kan nie bekostig het, die kinders daa-, die geriewe wat hulle vir die kinders koop, skoene en klere en goed, sodat mens darem ordentlik kan lyk, op skool, daar was nie eintlik baie geld vir dit nie. Nou moet hulle maar vir ons net so, Ma het altyd vir ons gesê, solank ons net vir Ma ’n brief lees, of ’n brief skrywe, so het Ma maar vir ons gelaat leer. En, wanneer ons nou so by standerd drie of standerd vier behaal het, dan’t hulle vir ons uitgevat, uit die skool uit. En dan moet ons maar vir ons ’n werk of so gekyk het om te kry.

Nou my eerste werk was maar gewees om kinders op te pas by die huis, by, by die blanke vrouens. En so, soos ek nou werkies kan doen, ligte werkies, ek was mos nog maar ’n kind. Ligte werkies het hulle daai tyd vir ons gegee om te doen, en dit wat ons nou, wat die mevrou nou betaal vir Ma, vir my altans vir die werk, dit het Ma nou altyd daar by haar gekom kry, end-maande. En so het Ma nou maar vir my gekoop wat ek nodig het, enne, en so het ons maar aangegaan, totlat dit tyd geword het dat ons nou jong meisies is en ook outjies ontmoet, lateraan getroud, en ook kinders, as ons die dag op ons eie gesinne het. Maar so ver is ons, uhh, die kinders is, hulle gee ook nie vir ons probleme nie. Onse kinders is rustige kinders. Hulle het nog altyd vir ons gehelp waar hulle kan, en, as ons nou nie iets kan doen nie, dan help hulle altyd vir ons, of hulle sê: “Ma, nie so nie” of “Pa, ons doen dit nou nie weer so nie, ons doen dit op so ’n manier.” Maar dan het ons ook vir hulle geluister, en, hoe hulle nou vir ons leer. En vertel. En lat ons ook nou kan verstaan hoe die lewe gaan en hoe moet ’n mens dinge doen. Enne, my kinders het ook geleer. Nou in onse tyd was dit, die skooltoestand was mos al beter, daar was al hoërskole, laerskole. Van my kinders het, hier is van hulle wat darem matriek gemaak het, wat nou werk ook vandag, wat ook nou goeie werke het, en so, enne, wat hulle verdienste darem ook vir hulle oraait is, en so.

Maar verder bly ons nog gelukkig hier in Bo-Swartvlei. Die blankes het al die jare vir ons goed gebehandel en, en gesê, maar ons is mos al afgetree, ons is mos al oud, ons kan maar hier bly in die huis tot tyd en dae ons dan nou nie meer daar is nie, enne, maar ons kan nie kla vir hulle nie, hulle het altyd vir ons goed gebehandel, en nou nog altyd. En as daar probleme is wat, wat vir ons nou, waaroor ons nou miskien ongelukkig is, kan ons na hulle toe gaan en met hulle gesels daaroor en hulle verstaan vir ons en ons verstaan vir hulle. En so is daar altyd ’n oplossing vir die probleem. Dis nou maar my storie.

Antie, het Antie se pa-hulle miskien vir Antie-hulle stories vertel, soos stories van die rivier, of bergstories, spookstories? Kan Antie een of twee onthou?

Weet nie.

Wat het die oumense gesê hier van die rivier as die kinders daarnatoe gaan, was daar stories …?

O ja, uhm, Ma’t altyd vir ons gesê, maar ons as kinders, toe hulle kinders gewees het, dan is dit gevaarlik by die riviere want, toe vertel hulle vir ons van, daar is, soos waternôientjies, en waterbase wat, wat ’n mens vang as jy daar gaan swem, of so, en. Toe raak ons nou altyd bang, ons, dis nie sommer vir alleen gegaan het nie, dan gaan ons saam met grootmense wat nou gaan, gaan swem en so. Maar ons het nooit dié waternôientjies en waterbase gesien waarvan hulle gepraat het nie. Maar soos ’n kinders nou maar is, hy glo wat hy hoor, wat sy ouers vir hom vertel, enne, nee, ek dink hulle het maar ook vir ons so vertel sodat ons kan versigtig wees en weet die gevare wat daar in die rivier is, en skuil. Enne….

Het hulle gesê hoe lyk die waternôientjies en waterbase?

Hulle’t gesê die waternôientjie het lang hare en hy kom altyd uit, dan sit hy mos miskien in die rivier op ’n klip, of op die … daai skuilpolle en dan kam hy daar sy hare, maar die onderste gedeelte het gelyk soos vis, maar bo was die, soos ons nou is, mens nou is, en lang hare gehad. Maar die onderste gedeelte van die waternôientjie was nou soos ’n visstert. En so het hulle nou vir ons vertel. En dan het hulle vir ons vertel, as my pa-hulle nou gaan visvang, in die rivier in, dan, uhh, daai jare het hulle gesê was hier groot visse in die rivier gewees. Enne, dan vang Pa-hulle dan vis en as hulle nou vis kry, dan bring hulle huis toe, en Ma maak skoon en maak dit nou gaar vir ons, berei dit nou voor vir ons kinders om te eet. Enne, so naderhand, so nou en dan het ons darem ’n vissie ook gehad om te eet. As daar nie vleis is nie, dan het ons maar vis geëet. Of groente, wat ons nou gehad het, wat Pa-hulle nou ook maar so hier by die boere, soos hulle nou gekweek het en geplant het en gekry het, het Pa-hulle nou altyd by hulle gekry en huis toe gebring en, enne, so het Ma-hulle maar altyd voorberei en die potjie gaargemaak en … Ma-hulle het ook in hulle se tyd die suurdeegbrood gemaak, ingesuur. En hulle het gebak in die buite-oonte, die oonte wat hulle buite maak, met die klei en die stene en water, hulle maak nou so die sand aan en die klei, en maak hulle nou so aan met water en dan maak hulle nou so ’n stywe patta-besigheid om nou die, die oond te pleister en te doen, reg te maak, en as daai oond nou droog is en hy is reg, dat hy in gebak kan word, dan word daar nou vuur in gemaak, dan as jou brood nou klaar geknie is, vuur in gemaak en as die oond nou reg is, dan word daai brood nou ingesteek in die oond in, en dan bak daai brood nou so vir ’n uur, en so oor ’n uur dan kan jy hom nou weer gaan uithaal, dan is nou reg. Om geëet te word, maar dit is lekker brood, daai. En so.

Het Antie van miskien Boesmantekeninge hier naby is, of …?


Het Antie al ’n storie gehoor van Dirk Ligter?

Ek het gehoor hulle praat van Dirk Ligter, maar ek ken nie eintlik vir hom nie. Wie hy nou is en wat hy gedoen het, of so, oor hy nou hier langs beweeg het, en so nie.

Het Antie al gehoor van paljas?

Ek het baie gehoor die mense praat van so iets soos paljas, maar ek weet nie eintlik rêrig wat dit is nie, maar, dan het ek gehoor die grootmense as hulle nou praat van iemand wat gebejas is, dan het daai iemand nou hier deurmekaar en hy is van kop af, en so, en dat, dat die persoon se mense nou met hom plan gemaak, by iemand wat nou weer vir hom kan help, wat hulle nou van weet wat hom kan help dat hy weer kan gesond kom, regkom, normaal kom. Maar ek het nie eintlik baie kennis van so iets nie, maar ek het gehoor daarvan. Die mense praat daarvan.