Adam Small honoured on stage

Director and performer Natalia da Rocha, during a performance of Adam Smalls work What About The Law. She said she organised the musical tribute to celebrate Professor Smalls life.

Afrikaans literary icon Professor Adam Small’s life was celebrated last week on the Artscape theatre stage.

The production was called Adam Small: A Celebration Of A Life.

The theatre was filled with family and friends including his wife, Rosalie, and children.

The poet and activist, who lived in Heathfield, died last month.

The show’s director, Natalia da Rocha, said she would be pushing for an Adam Small festival. “I’m a creative person and I have been in theatres where things can be boring and decided we need to celebrate Adam’s life. It’s very painful stories but the music lifts it up. What About The Law is a sad story because of apartheid (but the message is important.”

Ms Da Rocha recalled the production she directed last year on Adam Small in which Professor Small was in attendance.

“It was amazing, he was such a giving person. The opening night where Siphokazi Jonas did her poem he thought it was the end of the show and got up to thank everyone. At least we did that while he was still alive. It was important to pay tribute to him while he was still alive and he was a part of it. He came and spoke to the young kids during rehearsals and it was great.”

Ms Da Rocha said it was vital to continue Professor Small’s legacy, not only as a writer but as a poet but as an activist as well.

“It is important that children understand the poetry and that’s why if we do it in a jazz format, it will reach a completely different market.”

She said they performed some of his works in English so people who couldn’t understand Afrikaans got the meanings. “We needed to be able to do these things in English and Afrikaans on one stage. For me, what I want to see is an Adam Small festival and I’m really going to push for that because he’s done so much.”

One of the performers in the tribute, Keanu Harker, said it was an honour to be a part of the event.

“In high school we used to do a lot of his stuff but now I actually get to see who he was and what he’s done for South Africa. I don’t think I will ever forget being a part of this,” said Mr Harker who had met Professor Small at the show last year.

Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille said it was important to continue Professor Small’s legacy.

“It is an honour to celebrate a man who was a giant in Afrikaans literature. We can reflect fondly on a man who for decades used his voice and art to evoke consciousness and speak up against the injustices of our past.”

She said Professor Small was respected not only for his craft but for his activism. “His life’s work has reverberated through time and will continue to be a powerful message and reflection of our history. As a writer, poet and educator he used his craft to highlight the oppression suffered by the working class under the apartheid regime.

“He criticised apartheid policies and racial discrimination, while he also used his writing as a weapon in the struggle to free his people,” said Ms De Lille.

She said his poems dealt with issues such as forced removals and the socio-economic challenges that faced families living on the Cape Flats. “His work was distinctly characterised by the Kaapse vernacular, which resonated with many. While his passing has left a void, his work will forever be some of the greatest and most celebrated literature.

“We must continue teaching his work so that generations to come can know about the brave voices.”