Ronelda Kamfer – vertaling in Engels

Ronelda S. Kamfer – vertaal deur/ translated by the Charl JF Cilliers and the author.


Ronelda Kamfer

Ronelda Kamfer

Ronelda S. Kamfer was born in 1981 in Cape Town. She spent her childhood in Blackheath and Grabouw, and matriculated form Eersteriver Secondary School in 1999. She has worked as a nurse, a waitress and an administrative assistant at a marketing company. Her poetry has been published in Nuwe stemme 3, My ousie is ‘n blom, and in Bunker Hill. Her first volume of poetry, Noudat slapende honde (Now that sleeping dogs) was published in 2008 by Kwela Publishers. It has won the Eugène Marais Prize in 2009. It was also translated into Dutch as Nu de slapende honden (Podium). Her second volume of poetry, Grond/Santekraam, was pubished in 2011.


Shaun 2


people say druggies could help themselves

if they wanted to

people say the problem is the drugs

but my friend Shaun no longer believes

anything people say

he says if one day someone came to him

and told him how it felt to be 6 years

old and to sleep in the subway at Wyn-

berg Station he would perhaps listen

Shaun says if someone came and told him

how they slept in front of Kentucky

just to kinda be

near food he would perhaps listen


Shaun is fucking clever for someone

who has only had five years of schooling

he knows everything about everything

one day for my benefit

he recited

“like the park birds he came early

like the water he sat down”


“now that’s poetry, isn’t it”

he always said


Shaun was locked up on some or other

drug-related charge

shortly before his release he sent me

a letter to tell me when

he was coming out

and how maybe he was now ready to try

something different

“jail isn’t a place for a small person”

was the last line in his letter

a day before he was let out Shaun

was murdered

people said it was gang-related drugs his time

but I no longer believe what people say


(From: Grond/Santekraam. Kwela Boeke, 2011)

(Tr. by Charl JF Cilliers)





my mother’s name is Martha if

if one day someone asked me how much I

love her I would just say that when

I was four years old I walked

home with her in the dark

from a prayer meeting to where my

my dad was waiting to give her a beating

the moment she walked in my mother always

walked home quickly to her

other children and her husband

I had to struggle to keep up

then suddenly I began to cry


alone in the dark because all my

love for her meant nothing


(From: Grond/Santekraam. Kwela Boeke, 2011)

(Tr. by Charl JF Cilliers)





there is a distance in your eyes house palace

shanty pigsty that I go to

I grow still

the chaos inside and outside is like smoke

I grow still as soot a lightning flash an

orbit a crescent moon you strange

animal with cat’s eyes take me along take me

to a place with merry-go-round mountain

streams and worms that are solitaire

a place for my stick and hat


(From: Grond/Santekraam. Kwela Boeke, 2011)

(Tr. by Charl JF Cilliers)



Disastrous ending (oops)

“I’ve been working on a cocktail called grounds for divorce”



a man like you is supposed to

make me happy you think for yourself

but do what I say your desk is

untidy and your eyes are lovely everything

I thought I wanted but now all

I see is how simple you look when you

are sleeping and how in the kitchen cupboard

you inspect the glasses and if god forbid

you find a smudge it actual-

ly makes you happy your intellectual friends

call ordinary people common while

every year at least three of them go


to Aardklop I now realise that

a man without issues is not for me



(Tr. by Charl JF Cilliers)



Charl JF Cilliers  was born in 1941 in Cape Town. Initially he went into the field of electronics and lectured for 4 years. He then joined Parliament as a translator in 1968 and retired in 1998 as Editor of Hansard. His first volume of poems West-Falling Light appeared in 1971, to be followed by Has Winter No Wisdom in 1978. His Collected Poems 1960 – 2008 appeared in 2008 and The Journey in 2010. His latest volume of poetry , A momentary stay.  was published in 2011. He also published a volume of children’s poems, Fireflies Facing The Moon, in 2008. He has retired to the Cape West Coast where he continues to write.



I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo, what the hell am I doing here, I don’t belong here
Radiohead, ‘Creep’ (Pablo Honey)


i wish i could get up like yesterday
wash, get dressed, go to work like yesterday
but today is a different day
today, everything i know is lost and everything which is lost is me
maybe tomorrow will be better
if i can only get through the danger of today


© Translation: 2008, Ronelda Kamfer




Good girls


Good girls don’t join gangs
they don’t get pregnant at thirteen
they don’t wear tjappies
they don’t smoke weed
they don’t do meth
they don’t have sex with their teachers
or with taxi drivers
they don’t work for Shoprite
they are not the cleaners
good girls don’t live on the Cape Flats.


© Translation: 2008, Ronelda Kamfer


Translator’s Note: tjappies – gang-related tattoos





for Candy, Emmie and Jessie


May the darkness treat you well
May silence mean peace
May the sounds and the shadows in the dark
Send you off into a heavenly sleep
And may you dream dreams
And never just sleep


© Translation: 2008, Ronelda Kamfer



for Alfonso Cloete and Velencia Farmer

They say it’s the whiteman I should fear, but it’s my own kind
doing all the killing here.

Tupac Amaru Shakur


Cardo was born
but not expected
his mother was sixteen
and his father community builder of the year
his grandmother was a cashier
and his stepgrandfather drank to ease the pain

Cardo was a beautiful child
with dark skin and light eyes
beautiful enough to speak English
he liked playing drie stokkies
and vrottie eier in the street
Tietie Gawa from the mobile said
that Cardo was heaven sent

On the eve of Cardo’s first day
at big school
schoolboys were playing with crackers in the street
Cardo looked through the window
the bullet lodged in his throat
his mother did not cry
the politicians planted a sapling
the Cape Doctor uprooted it
and threw it where the rest
of Cape Town’s dreams lay

on the Cape flats


© Translation: 2008, Ronelda Kamfer


Translator’s Notedrie stokkies – three sticks
vrottie eier – rotten egg
Cape Doctor – the wind






auntie Doris was a typical housewife
dropping her kids off at school every morning
dressed in a pink check overall, big green rollers in her hair
she cooked and cleaned and did her laundry
she was a housewife
one rainy day in June auntie Doris
did her regular housework, washing the clothes and the windows
watering the plants on her stoep
later a police van and two Tygerberg mortuary vans
pulled up in front of her house
three body bags on stretchers were pushed out
one big and two small
for the first time in years
auntie Doris wore a floral dress with her hair in luscious curls
down her back
she was handcuffed and climbed into the police van
telling the nosey crowd that we can look all we want
her house is clean.


© Translation: 2008, Ronelda Kamfer

Bookmark and Share

Comments are closed.