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Winelands, Wealth and Work Edited by Kees van der Waal Launched at Solms Delta

 
A glorious sunset accompanied the big crowd of academics, contributors, wine farm workers, locals and enthusiasts at the launch of Winelands, Wealth and Work: Transformations in the Dwars River Valley, Stellenbosch edited by Kees van der Waal on Wednesday 19 February last week.

Winelands, Wealth and WorkThe book was the result of ten years of research by Van der Waal and colleagues, exploring the effects of the changing land use within historical and spatial contexts of the Dwars River Valley which stretches between Pniël, Kylemore and Lanquedoc. Van der Waal, a professor of Social Anthropology at Stellenbosch University, employed his knowledge to discover how the valley’s community has survived despite extreme poverty and other hardships they have to face daily.

Winelands, Wealth and Work highlights the fact that the richness of the area is found in the people who inhabit it, coping through various methods such as turning to Pentecostalism, respectability (referred to as ordentlikheid) and entrepreneurship. This “gentle, thoughtful guide to the valley” makes a great contribution to ethnographic literature in South Africa, said Louis Gaigher, commissioning editor of UKZN Press. Also speaking at the launch was Professor Johan Hattingh, dean of the US Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences; Dawie Carolissen, a community leader from the Dwars River Valley; and Solms Delta historian, Tracey Randall.

Carolissen, speaking as a representative of the interested populace, highlighted the evolving narrative of the community, pointing out that this book, and the research that lead to it, had come at an opportune time. Contradicting the belief that Gif, an informal settlement in the valley, is named for it’s poisonous nature, Carolissen praised the moral fiber of the people of Dwars River, mentioning the value of family life, church involvement and strength of unity. “We are fully aware that our future lies in our collective endeavors,” he said, welcoming the nuanced perspectives that would be gained from Van der Waal’s project.

Randall spoke about her work as an archeologist and historian on the farm where the launch was also held, pointing out that the heart of the chapters of Winelands, Wealth and Work would be the strong sense of community found in the valley. Her work on the farm, and her contribution to the book, focused on the transformation of the farm over the years. “Transformation is not just a two decade-old process,” Randall said, noting that the history of colonisation can not be forgotten in the context of the Dwars River Valley.

Hattingh, who is trained in the philosophy of arts and culture, structuralism and post-structuralism, informal logic and environmental ethics, spoke about what he found to be the highlights of the project, ending with a commendation that this book “cannot leave us untouched and unaffected”.

The evening ended with questions from the crowd, prompting Van der Waal to say that this project has left him a more humble and patient man, showing him that you cannot rush into anything head on. The ten years he spent working in the community emphasised the fact that one of the biggest challenges facing South Africans today is that of unfulfilled promises. The final question of the night was a poignant one: What about the people of the valley? Would they have access to the book? This left guests with something to think about as they snacked on Solms Delta appetisers and wine, enjoying the last of what was a near-perfect day in the Dwars River Valley.

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Johan Hattingh Speaking at the Launch of Winelands Wealth and Work by Books LIVE

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