Former Grassy Park resident Ernestine Deane, 44, will be performing at the upcoming Suidoosterfees arts showcase.
Ernestine, who now lives in Vredehoek, said she’s always been passionate about music and she believes her mother Ellen who told her that she started singing before she could even talk.
Her family was originally from Constantia before they were forcibly removed from their farms under the Group Areas Act. They then moved to Grassy Park where she was raised and schooled at EC Primary and Grassy Park Secondary schools.
It was her former maths teacher, Yusuf Johnson, who discovered her talent when he suggested “we busk to fund-raising events” where they would sing and dance on Claremont Main Road.
She said the fund-raising events led her to performances at rallies as it was a time of youth movement and youth revolution when Nelson Mandela was still in prison.
“There was a lot of awareness programmes, mass rallies and I used to sing at the awareness programmes,” she said.
It was at the age of 15 that she started singing professionally with hip hop legends Black Noise before she joined Moodphase5ive who dominated the South African music scene in the late 1990s to early 2000s.
“Moodphase5ive was a multi-cultural band and it was hip hop that spoke to everyone where we were telling the stories of South Africa and it will forever be a project close to my heart,” she said.
Ernestine said it is an artists’ job to raise awareness around issues touching lives.
“When you have a society built to keep people apart, where textbooks are very different from the truth, it’s important for creatives and artists to fill in the gaps of information that was withheld from people,” she said.
She said she moved to the city to further her career at age 23 and then later to Germany for a few years.
Ernestine said this is the time and the opportunity to address the heritage of the Afrikaans language.
“The language is known as the language of the white Afrikaaner and you don’t get to hear the history of how Afrikaans was created. Some don’t even know that there are some Khoi words in Afrikaans,” she said.
She said we’re not told about slavery enough and we put each other in colour boxes, forgetting that being coloured means you’re coloured in with all different bloodlines of the slave routes that the Dutch and Indians came in.
She said the Khoi and San together with the slaves needed to communicate and that’s how this hybrid language was born.
“Yes, it was used to suppress and created trauma to many people in the country but Afrikaans is not just a nationalist/apartheid language, its story and origin haven’t been spoken about,” she said.
Ernestine said she was proud to see young musicians from the Cape Flats such as Youngsta CPT, who grew up in Wynberg, proudly speaking “Afrikaaps” because there’s no such thing as a pure Afrikaans.
“Language can separate or unify people and for me, Afrikaans spoken in southern Africa is a testimony to who was here 400 years ago,” she said.
While her upcoming performance of Ernestine Deane Live at the Suidoosterfees, takes place in a fairly big venue, Ernestine says fans can expect an intimate space and story-telling.
“We’ll be honouring the other side of Afrikaans, the untold story of its colourful heritage on the homesteads of the early Cape colony. The Khoi and slave roots, but also a celebration of life and South Africa’s potential, Africa’s power. It will feel like someone is in my lounge with me, it will be a connective experience and people will be able to move and dance.”
Her message to the youth is, “to always nurture what your talents are and align this with your career path, so that your work is also your passion. Talents are not only artistic, but if you’re good at organising, co-ordinating, negotiating, budgeting, looking after children, baking, gardening, writing, academics. I believe that we must invest our energies in what we’re good at and grow these skills into the businesses that can sustain ourselves and our communities.”
Ernestine Deane Live will be performed at the Artscape Theatre on Friday April 26, from 9pm to 10.15pm. Tickets, at R110, are available from Computicket.