A cultural treat at Kenton book launch

Patrons of Continental Restaurant in Kenton-on-Sea were treated to a unique cultural experience at the book launch of Plunderwoestyn, by Christiaan Bakkes, last Saturday night.

NATURE AND CULTURE: Christiaan Bakkes and Marcia Fargnoli performed poetry accompanied by flute at the launch of Bakkes’ new book , ‘Plunderwoestyn’, at Continental Restaurant in Kenton-on-Sea last Saturday night Picture: JON HOUZET

Rather than speaking about the book in any detail, Bakkes and his wife, Marcia Fargnoli, presented a rapturous combination of poetry and music that transported minds and spirits to other places.

Bakkes and Fargnoli are both involved in conservation work, and lived in Namibia for many years before relocating to Cannon Rocks this year, to live in a house they bought in 2016.

“We’re keen to be a part of the Eastern Cape,” Bakkes said.

“The Continental Delis the first restaurant we visited in the area and they made us feel welcome – we have loyalty to this place.”

Fargnoli is of mixed Italian and Native American lineage. On her mother’s side her roots are in the Iroquois and Delaware tribes.

“This side of Marcia plays a big role in her love for nature,” Bakkes said. “With my Afrikaans heritage I also have a love of nature. We were well-matched.”

Asked what drew her to Namibia, Fargnoli said she studied international environmental law and did a part of her studies in Israel. She was invited back to Israel and from there was motivated to do field work in Africa, “and that’s how I ended up in Namibia”.

She met Bakkes in 2011 and they were married by a Native American shaman in Arizona in 2015.

In their conservation work in Namibia they came across the scourge of poaching, including evidence of the Namibian government’s involvement in poaching, which is the subject of Bakkes’ book, although it is written as fiction.

Due to the exposure they gave the problem, they left Namibia under trying circumstances.

In Namibia, we taught rural youth – about 8,000 in total – about nature and wildlife crime, and we saw them understand. They feel powerless, but in their own way they can do something

Their call to conservation work has not ended, however, and since moving to the Eastern Cape they have become involved in training children from vulnerable backgrounds to be nature guides, through the Wilderness Foundation. The training happens at Kariega Game Reserve.

“In Namibia, we taught rural youth – about 8,000 in total – about nature and wildlife crime, and we saw them understand. They feel powerless, but in their own way they can do something,” Bakkes said.

Fargnoli plays an assortment of traditional Native American flutes, not to any written music, but just as the moment carries her. While she was playing one night around the campfire in Namibia, Bakkes began reciting poetry against the background of the music, and Fargnoli said it blended so well.

Now they occasionally perform together as “Cosmic Puffadder”, Bakkes reciting poems from memory to the music from Fargnoli’s flutes.

All the flutes are wood, from different kinds of trees, and Fargnoli has named them after birds.

“Native Americans believe birds are very spiritual, that they’re closer to God because they fly,” she said.

“My voice goes through the wood and it comes alive.”

Fargnoli remembers where she got each flute, and of the circumstances of her life at the time. She also explained how each bird for which the flutes are named has its own meaning in Native American culture.

The sounds emanating from the flutes are haunting and beautiful – and even familiar, though not commonly heard.

Fargnoli remembers where she got each flute, and of the circumstances of her life at the time. She also explained how each bird for which the flutes are named has its own meaning in Native American culture.

She first played from flutes made from cedar (sparrowhawk) and birch (kestrel), before choosing a flute with a deeper sound made from walnut (crow).

“It goes well with Chris’s deep voice reciting poetry.”

With an amazing recollection for lengthy poems, Bakkes began reciting The Stolen Child, by William Butler Yeats: “Come away, O human child! To the waters and the wild, With a faery, hand in hand, For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.”

Fargnoli played again while bakes recited two Afrikaans poems, In Die Hoeveld by Toon van den Heever, and Winternag by Eugene Marais.

He followed them with Robert Service’s The Spell of the Yukon and The Man From Snowy River by Banjo Patterson, all recited against the background of Fargnoli’s mesmerising flutes.

The audience loved it and Continental Restaurant owner Eugene de Witt said more people in Ndlambe would be delighted to hear them perform.

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