Sofia Ockhuis

Sofia Ockhuis says she is not a sop (soup) Sophia, but a Sofia. She was born on Heuningvlei, where she is known as Ounooi because as a baby she looked similar to an ounooi (older lady) at Pakhuis. She turned 78 years old soon after the interview.

Sofia Ockhuis reminisces about her childhood days, the jokes children played on one another and the values she was taught. She tells a story of her father’s stepmother, who disappeared and lived with baboons in the mountain.

Sofia Wilhelemina Ockhuis tells us there are two different ways to spell her name: “Sophia” and “Sofia”. But she is not a “sop Sophia” (“soup Sophia”). She is known as Ounooi on Heuningvlei. When one of her grandmothers came to meet her as a baby, the grandmother said she looked like one of the ounoois (older ladies) at Pakhuis and so she became known as Ounooi. They did not have a lavish childhood, but always had food on the table – even if it was only a slice of bread. She was taught manners and to appreciate all that was given to her and done for her. This year, 2018, she will turn 78. She finished school up to standard 5, but was told by a teacher to continue because she is clever. Her parents said they could not afford it, and Sofia said she would miss home too much. Now she regrets not finishing school. She has been divorced for 30 years and has seven children. Three have passed away, and four live in Cape Town.

Sofia was taught to work from an early age and then took care of sickly family members. They were nine children – four boys and five girls. Only she and her 83-year-old sister survive. She says that she has never been without food to eat or friends to laugh with, and she is happy on Heuningvlei. Her mother taught her to be frugal, and she tells of the jokes they played on each other in good spirits. 

Sofia tells of her father’s stepmother, who became senile with old age and left home. She was lost for eight days, and when they found her she said she lived with the baboons. She passed away three days later.


I was baptised Sofia Wilhelmina Ockhuis, but Sofia is written in two different ways. The one is S-o-p-h-i-a, but my name is S-o-f-i-a. Now, I always joke and say I am not a soup-Sofia, but as my parents told me, or my ma, when I was a small baby one of the grandmas here came to look at me when I was born and she said, “Look, this klimmeid’s* eyes look just like those of Ounooi* behind here at Pakhuis.” And then they gave me the pet name Ounooi. When someone comes here to Heuningvlei looking for Sofia Ockhuis, they don’t really know who that is, but if they ask for Ounooi, they know.

But as my parents told me this, we didn’t grow up in luxury. Simple, poor, but we had something to eat every day, even if it was only a piece of bread. And most beautiful of all, we were educated in the home. We had to learn manners, know our manners, for our future lives. We had to know “please” and “thank you” – and that is how we grew up, our parents – and to greet people, not walk past them. To greet them, and then, as I’ve already said, if you ask something, “please”, and if you get it, say “thank you”. And appreciate everything that is done.

So I just, I’m now, I’ll soon be 78, yes, but I haven’t been anywhere, I’ve stayed here in Heuningvlei. Went to school, learnt up to Standard 5 at the time, Grade 7 today, if I’m not mistaken. Learnt up to Standard 5. According to my teacher, the principal, Mister Noag (?? 03:11), he is now deceased, I was quite clever. It isn’t me that is saying this, he said it. And he really wanted my parents to let me study further, because I had potential. But they said there wasn’t any money. And I myself didn’t want to go, because I would have been too homesick. Today I regret being so stupid at the time.

But now I live in Heuningvlei. Sorry to say, I was married but presently I’m divorced, for thirty years now. And I have four children. Three are deceased, and four are alive, my son and three daughters. They all live in the Cape, and they work there, but they do provide for me. But I enjoy the rural lifestyle in Heuningvlei. And I believe in this: When I walk out my door, I don’t want to lower my head, I want to lift my head and see who I can see and greet them with a smile. That is my way, because I feel, I live alone, I cannot live in discord with people. Tonight when you fall ill, then I have to be able to pick up my telephone and phone someone to come and help me. This is how I want to live my life, but I also pray to God that He helps me with this. That is so.

I have, I can’t say I’ve done nothing in Heuningvlei. I’ve done all kinds of chores, and when I was a young woman I also worked for two teachers who were teaching here. And that time we [laughs], we paid but twelve shillings, R1,20 a month. But I gave it into the hands of my ma, just like that, and I have to say, they, actually, also taught me a lot. To work and that is why today I know very well how to do things, to do things neatly, and to do them correctly.

That was my life, and after that I had to… care for many old people who were on their sickbeds. My pa, my ma, my mother-in-law, my uncle and my sister, my eldest sister. I’m now speaking of those who have already died. And today I’m again looking after my other sister. Working for her. We were nine children, four boys and five daughters. And of these nine children only myself and this sister are left. She is now 83, turning 83. So that was my life in Heuningvlei, but I cannot say that I was ever without a piece of bread in this simple and poor house. The Lord has blessed me. Every time. Have many friends, and we chat and we teach one another and we laugh. Make jokes and we laugh. That’s how I’m making my life here now.

And I have to say, or, I’m able to say, I’m very happy. All in all. Carry on speaking?

Your father and them told you stories and so on, didn’t they? Can you still remember some of these stories? Like ghost stories?

Yes. The thing I want to start with is…  we were never allowed to eat before my pa had said grace. And his prayer was, “Lord, bless this lovely food, amen.” It was still in the Dutch language. And he also taught us to say a prayer before going to sleep. When you’ve finished your prayer, you have to say goodnight to everyone in the house, and tomorrow morning when we get up, we say good morning to everyone. And the prayer that Pa taught us was, “When I go to sleep and wake up refreshed, a prayer of thanks is the first task.” That was the prayer.

The stories they told me, I cannot remember them so well now, but he once told me that he had to go and work in Wupperthal on the buildings, he worked on the buildings. And that small piece of bread that was in the house had to be shared, between us at home and him there at Wupperthal, so that he also had some. And then he told me, there where he slept, in Wupperthal, the next morning when he had to go to work, he felt that his shoes were pinching him that morning, the shoes were too small. But he set off anyway, all the time feeling “these are probably not my shoes, because they pinch me and they always fitted me”. And while he was busy working, the shoes just kept on bothering him. And when he looked at the shoes again later on, he saw that he was wearing the left shoe on the right foot, the right foot, the right shoe on the left foot, and that is why the shoes were pinching him so much.

And, I can’t remember everything any more, but that’s how it was, and it was very funny, we laughed a lot and, what did my ma tell us? How come I can’t remember the stories any more, I am old now, of course, and…

But my ma… [laughs] … was very precise about the work that we did and when we did something, we had to do it correctly. We had to take the bundle of washing and go wash it in the furrow. You were not allowed to rub it with a lot of soap. And my ma came and sat watching us wash, and when I rubbed in the soap, she told me, “Stop, that’s enough.” So then I rubbed in a little more soap and then she scooped up the water and splashed me sopping wet.

And, but that is how she taught us to do everything frugally. Because there wasn’t always money to buy whatever we wanted. And, oh, I had the story in my head just now, but now it’s gone again. Ehh, it’s…

Then… [laughs] … let me quickly tell you this. In those days, I was already married, we had a joke. First of April, we played April Fools. And my ma said to me, “Go and tell the auntie here in front, that auntie on the corner, Auntie Marie, call her and tell her to bring a jug with her.”

And it was April Fools. I went, I told the auntie, “That auntie says you must go there and you must bring a jug with you.”

And, “Oh, she probably wants to give me a bit of flour, or something,” the auntie says. And off she goes with the jug.

That is what my ma did – I had to do the work, she said what I had to do. And she came and sat with the auntie, Auntie Marie, and sat and sat. It was quiet, she didn’t say anything, Auntie Marie.

Then the other auntie later on asks, “But you called me and said I had to bring a jug.”

“Who told you that?” the auntie asks.

Then the auntie says to Auntie Marie, “Ounooi told me.”

Then she says, “(inaudible 11:38) Ounooi. Those are jokes, I didn’t call you, I didn’t say that you had to bring a jug with you.”

But those things made no one angry, we all laughed about it because it was April Fools.

Ehh, what should I still [tell you] about Ma…?

Let me just quickly (inaudible 11:58) [gets up to get something]


It’s okay.

[returns and mumbles] … the story of my ma…

Did they maybe tell you about a man called Dirk Ligter?

No. I don’t know about that. Something that I can tell you now and which I experienced myself: I was still young and, my pa’s ma was deceased, had died, and there was only one daughter amongst them, Cecile (??12:48), and they were all still young and she didn’t have motherly love and the mother inside her. And my grandpa decided to marry again so that this Anna mother can look after the children. And she looked after them well, but of course she grew old and then the grandpa died, Grandpa Isak. Then she remained with the children and the children grew up and married and her mind diminished a bit. And what she had in her head, she just wanted to wander. We had to keep an eye on her, because she climbed the high cliffs, here at Heuningvlei she stood on a high cliff so that we had to run to save her there. Up there.

And one day no one knew where she was, she was just gone. No one knew in which direction she had walked. And the daughters were sad, the children were sad and they started tracking her. And up there, as one gets to the footpath, up on (inaudible 14:02), they found her tracks and where the sandy path ended, ended, they couldn’t find her tracks again. She was gone and gone, and there in my pa’s house the family gathered at night, prayed, sang and prayed that the Lord would bring her back, dead or alive. Eight days passed. She didn’t have any food with her, nothing. Then one day a grandpa came from Clanwilliam, we called him Grandpa Segua (??14:39). And he came walking through the mountain, up Krakadouw. And when he got there, this grandma was sitting there on a rock. Alone. Alive, after eight days. Without food. He walked here quickly and told my pa and them about the grandma sitting there. And the family immediately went over the rocks to go and get her. And they carried her on their backs, piggybacked her, as we (inaudible 15:14) to here.

And my pa asked her, “Ma, what did Ma live on? Ma had no food with Ma. Where did Ma sleep?”

Then she said to my pa,“I lived with the baboons, and they, I ate with them and I slept with them and they didn’t bother me. I was doing nicely.”

It was such a wonderful miracle that one could almost not believe it. They gave her food that evening and put her to bed because she was weak. And after that she only lived three days. Then she died. That is everything that happened that I can remember, that my pa and them experienced. And so.

Sofia Ockhuis sê sy is nie sop-Sofia (Sophia) nie, maar Sofia. Sy is op Heuningvlei gebore. Almal noem haar Ounooi, want toe sy ’n baba was het sy baie soos die ounooi op Pakhuis gelyk. Kort na die onderhoud het sy haar 78ste verjaarsdag gevier.

Sofia dink terug aan haar kinderjare, die poetse wat die kinders mekaar gebak het en die waardes wat sy geleer het. Sy vertel ’n storie van haar pa se stiefma wat weggeloop en saam met die bobbejane in die berg gaan bly het.

Sofia Wilhelmina Ockhuis sê daar is twee maniere waarop ’n mens haar naam kan spel: “Sophia” en “Sofia”. Maar sy is nie ’n “sop-Sofia” nie. Op Heuningvlei noem almal haar Ounooi. Toe sy ’n babatjie was het een van die oumas na haar kom kyk en gesê sy lyk kompleet soos die ounooi op Pakhuis – vandaar die naam Ounooi. Hulle het nie in weelde grootgeword nie, maar het elke dag iets gehad om te eet – al was dit ook ’n stukkie brood. Sy het maniere geleer, en ook hoe om alles was sy gekry het en wat vir haar gedoen is, te waardeer. Vanjaar, 2018, word sy 78. Sy het skoolgegaan tot standerd 5, al het die onderwyser gesê sy moes verder leer omdat sy slim was. Haar ouers kon dit egter nie bekostig nie. Sofia sê sy het ook gedink sy sal die huis te veel mis. Nou is sy spyt dat sy nie klaar geleer het nie. Sy is 30 jaar gelede geskei en het sewe kinders. Drie is oorlede en die ander vier woon in Kaapstad.

Sofia het van jongs af geleer om te werk en het na siek familielede omgesien. Hulle was nege kinders – vier seuns en vyf dogters. Net sy en haar suster van 83 leef nog. Sy sê sy was nog nooit sonder iets om te eet of vriende om mee saam te lag nie, en is gelukkig op Heuningvlei. Haar ma het haar geleer om spaarsamig te leef, en sy vertel van die poetse wat hulle mekaar gebak het.

Sofia vertel van haar pa se stiefma wat met die ouderdom seniel geraak en van die huis af weggeloop het. Sy was agt dae lank dae weg. Toe hulle haar kry het sy gesê sy het saam met die bobbejane gebly. Drie dae later is sy dood.


My doopnaam is Sofia Wilhelmina Ockhuis, maar daar’s twee maniere wat mens Sofia skrywe, die een is S-o-p-h-i-a, maar mý naam is S-o-f-i-a. Nou spot ek altyd, dan sê ek ek is nie ’n sop-Sofia nie, maar soos my ouers my vertel het of ek tans my ma, toe ek ’n klein babatjie was, het een van die oumas hier vir my kom kyk toe ek gebore was en gesê, maar dié klimmeid se oë lyk nes die ounooi hier agter op Pakhuis. En daarvan af gee hulle vir my die speelnaam Ounooi. Soos iemand hier op Heuningvlei vir Sofia Ockhuis kom soek, dan weet hulle eintlik nie wie dit is nie, maar as hulle vir Ounooi soek, dan weet hulle.

Maar toe my ouers my so vertel het, is, het ons nie in weelde grootgeword nie. Eenvoudig, armoedig, maar ons het elke dag iets gehad om te eet, al was dit ook ’n stukkie brood. En die mooiste van alles was, ons is opgevoed in die huis. Ons moes maniere leer, ken, in onse vorentoe lewe. Ons moet weet van asseblief en dankie, en dit is soos ons grootgeword het ons ouers, en om mense te groet, nie verby hulle te stap nie. Te groet, en dan soos ek reeds gesê het, vra jy ietsie asseblief, kry jy iets, sê dankie. En waardeer alles wat gedoen word. So ek het maar, ek is nou, word nou agt-en-sewentig, ja, maar ek was nêrens nie, ek het net hier op Heuningvlei gebly. Skoolgegaan, geleer tot standerd vyf destyds, dis nou graad sewe vandag, as ek dit reg het. Geleer tot standerd vyf. Volgens my onderwyser, die skoolhoof, meneer Noag (?? 03:11), hy is nou al oorlede, was ek nogal slim. Ek sê nie so nie, hy het so gesê. En hy wou baie graag gehad het my ouers moet my verder laat leer, om- … -dat ek daai potensiaal het. Maar hulle het gesê, daar is nie geld nie. En ek self wou ook nie gaan nie, want ek sal te veel huis toe verlang. Vandag is ek spyt dat ek so dom was.

Maar nou bly ek op Heuningvlei. Jammer om dit te sê, ek was getroud, maar op hierdie oomblik is ek geskei, vir dertig jaar. En ek het vier kinders. Drie is oorlede en vier lewe, dis nou my seun en drie dogters. Hulle woon almal in die Kaap en bly, en hulle werk daar, maar kyk darem om na my. Maar ek geniet dié plaaslike lewe op Heuningvlei. En ek glo daaraan – as ek by my deur uitstap, wil ek nie my kop afgooi nie, ek wil my kop oplig en kyk vir wie ek raaksien en met ’n glimlag groet. Dit is my maniere, want ek sê, ek bly alleen, ek kan nie in onvrede met mense lewe nie. Vanaand as jy siek word, dan moet ek my telefoon kan optel en enige iemand bel om vir my te kom kyk. Dit is hoe ek graag my lewe wil maak, maar ek bid ook vir God daarvoor dat Hy my daarmee help. Dit is so.

Ek het nou, kan nie sê ek het niks gedoen op Heuningvlei nie. Ek het alle huiswerk gedoen, en ek het toe ek jongmeisie was by die twee onderwysers wat hier onderwys gegee het ook gewerk vir hulle. En daai tyd het ons [lag], het ons maar twaalf sjielings, een rand twintig ’n maand gepay. Maar dit het ek net so in my ma se hande gelê, en ek moet sê, hulle, trouens, het ook vir my baie geleer. Om te werk en dit is hoekom ek vandag baie weet hoe om iets te doen, netjies te doen, en reg te doen.

Dit was my lewe, en daarna moes ek na … baie oumense omsien wat daar siek lê. Dit was my pa, my ma, my skoonma, my oom en my suster, my oudste suster. Ek praat nou van hulle wat reeds oorlede is. En vandag kyk ek weer na my ander suster. Werk vir haar. Ons was nege kinders, vier seuns en vyf dogters. En van dié nege kinders is daar nog net ek en die suster oor. Sy is nou drie-en-tagtig jaar, word nou drie-en-tagtig jaar. So dit was my lewe op Heuningvlei, maar ek kan nie sê dat ek ooit in hierdie eenvoudige en armoedige huisie sonder ’n stukkie brood gesit het nie. Die Here het my geseën. Elke keer. Kry baie vriende, en ons gesels en ons leer mekaar en ons lag. Grappies maak en ons lag. Dit is hoe ek nou maar my lewe maak hier.

En ek moet sê, of, ek kán sê, ek is baie gelukkig. Met alles en alles. Nog praat?

Antie Ounooi, Antie se pa-hulle het mos vir Antie-hulle stories en dies meer vertel. Kan Antie Ounooi nog onthou van van die stories? Soos spookstories, of dié?

Ja. Een ding wat ek wil mee begin, is … ons mag nooit eet voordat my pa nie die seën gevra het op die kos nie. En sy gebed was: “Here, segen dese liewe spyse, amen.” Dit was nog in die Hollandse taal. En dan het hy ook vir ons geleer voor ons gaan slaap om ’n gebedjie op te sê. As jy jou gebedjie klaar opgesê het, moet ons vir almal nag sê in die huis, en môreoggend as ons opstaan, dan vir almal môre sê. En die gebedjie wat Pa vir ons geleer het, was: “As ik gaan slaap, verkwik ontwaak, is ’n dankgebed die eerste saak.” Dit was die gebedjie.

Die stories wat hulle my vertel het, kan ek nou nie meer so lekker onthou nie, maar hy het vir my op ’n tyd vertel dat hy moet gaan werk, Wupperthal, op die geboue, hy het op die geboue gewerk. En daai broodjie wat daar is, in die huis, moet gedeel word, vir ons wat by die huis is en vir hom daar op Wupperthal dat hy ook het. En toe het hy my vertel, daar wat hy geslaap het, op Wupperthal, die anderdagoggend, toe hy moet werk toe gaan, toe voel hy, maar sy skoene druk hom vanoggend, dié skoene is dan nou te klein. Maar hy stap toe nou maar, en hy voel net, maar dié is seker nie my skoene nie, want dit druk vir my en dit pas altyd vir my. En daar besig by die werk, en die skoene pla net. En toe hy nou later weer kyk na die skoene, toe sien hy, maar hy het die linkerskoen met die regtervoet aan, die regtervoet, die regterskoen by die linkervoet, en dit is hoekom die skoene hom so gedruk het.

En, ek kan nie meer al die goeters onthou nie, maar dit is hoe dit was, en dit was baie grappig, ons het baie gelag, enne, wat het my ma vertel? Hoe kan ek dan nie meer die stories onthou nie, ek is mos nou al oud, en …

Maar my ma … [lag] … was baie presies met die werk wat ons gedoen het en as ons ’n ding doen, moet ons dit reg doen. Dan moet ons die bolling wasgoed vat en by die voor gaan was. Jy mag nie baie seep smeer nie. En my ma het daar gekom sit en gekyk hoe was, en as ek die seep smeer, dan sê sy vir my: “Hou op, dis genoeg.” Dan smeer ek maar nog so ’n bietjie seep en dan het sy die water en dan skiet sy my sopnat.

En, maar dit is hoe hulle vir ons geleer het om spaarsaam aan te gaan, met alles. Want daar was nie altyd geld om te koop soos ons wil nie. En, ai, die storie was nou in my kop, nou’s hy weer weg. Uhh, dit is …

Dan … [lag] … laat ek maar gou dit vertel. Destyds, ek was al getroud, toe het ons ’n grappie gehad. Eerste April, speel ons April Fools. En, my ma het vir my gesê: “Gaan sê vir die antie hier voor, daardie antie op die hoek, antie Marie, roep vir haar en sê sy moet ’n beker saambring.” En dit was nou die April Fools. Ek het gegaan, ek het die antie gesê, daai antie sê jy moet kom tot daar en dan moet jy ’n beker saambring. En, “Ai, sy wil my seker ’n bietjie meel gee, of iets,” sê die antie nou. Daar loop sy met die beker. Dis wat my ma gedoen het nou, ek moet nou die werk doen, sy sê wat ek moet doen. En, sy het nou gekom daar en gesit by die antie, die antie Marie, en gesit en gesit. Dis stil, sy praat niks, antie Marie. Toe vra die ander antie later: “Maar jy’t vir my gelaat roep en gesê ek moet ’n beker bring.”

“Wie’t vir jou so gesê?” vra die antie.

Toe sê Antie, sy vir antie Marie: “Dis Ounooi wat vir my so gesê het.”

Toe sê sy: “(onhoorbaar 11:38) vir Ounooi nie. Dis grappe daai, ek het nie vir jou laat roep nie, ek het nie gesê jy moet ’n beker saambring nie.”

Maar daai goeters het nie kwaad gemaak nie, ons het almal gelag daaroor want dit was April Fools.

Uhh, wat moet ek nou nog van Ma- …?

Laat ek gou die (onhoorbaar 11:58) [staan op om iets te kry]


Dis reg.

[kom terug en mompel] … die storie van my ma …

Het hulle miskien vir Antie-hulle vertel van ’n man met die naam van Dirk Ligter?

Nee. Ek weet nie daarvan nie. Iets wat ek nou kan vertel en wat ek self beleef het: Ek was nog jonk, enne, my pa se ma was oorlede, het gesterf, en daar was net een dogter onder hulle, Cecile (??12:48), en hulle was nog almal jonk en die moederliefde en die moeder het gekort in haar. En my oupa het besluit om weer te trou sodat dié Anna-moeder na die kinders kan kyk. En sy het baie mooi na hulle gekyk, maar sy het toe maar gaan oud word en toe is die oupa oorlede, Oupa Isak. Toe’t sy agtergebly saam met die kinders en die kinders was groot en getroud en haar verstand het bietjie weggegaan. En wat sy in haar kop gehad het, sy wil net loop. Ons moet haar dophou, want sy gaan klim op die hoë kranse, hier op Heuningvlei het sy op die hoë krans gestaan dat ons moes gehardloop het om haar te red daar. Daar bo. En op ’n dag het niemand vir haar gesien nie, was sy net weg. Niemand het geweet watter kant toe sy geloop het nie. En die dogters was harts-, die kinders was hartseer en hulle het beginne spoorsny. En daar bo-op, soos ’n mens nou voetpad loop, hier op (onhoorbaar 14:02) het hulle haar spoor gekry en toe die sandpad nou op, end kry, toe kry hulle nie verder haar spoor nie. En sy was weg en weg en daar in my pa-hulle huis het die familie in die aand bymekaargekom, gebid, gesing en gebid dat die Here haar moet terugbring, dood of lewend. Agt dae het omgegaan. Sy’t niks kos by haar nie, niks nie. Toe kom ’n oupa, uit Clanwilliam uit, eendag, ons het vir hom genoem Oupa Segua (??14:39). En hy het hier deur die berg gekom stap, Krakadouw uit. En toe hy daar kom, toe sit dié ouma daar op ’n klip. Alleen. Lewend, na agt dae. Sonder kos. Hy’t vinnig gestap, hier deur en vir my pa-hulle kom sê van die ouma sit daar. En die familie het dadelik hier oor die klippe gegaan om vir haar te gaan haal. En hulle het vir haar op die rug gedra, ge-abba, soos ons (onhoorbaar 15:14) tot hier.

En my pa het vir haar gevra: “Ma, waarvan het Ma gelewe? Ma het nie kos by Ma gehad nie. Waar’t Ma geslaap?”

Toe sê sy, vir my pa:“Ek het saam met die bobbejane gebly, en hulle het, ek het saam met hulle geëet en ek het saam met hulle geslaap en hulle het my nie gepla nie. Dit het goed gegaan met my.”

Dit was so ’n wonderlike wonderwerk wat mens amper nie kon glo nie. Hulle het die aand vir haar kos gegee daar en vir haar in die bed gesit want sy was swak. En daarna het sy net drie dae gelewe. Toe’t sy gesterwe. Dit is alles wat gebeur het wat ek kan onthou, wat my pa-hulle ook maar deurgemaak het. En so.