Glomag India:May2021 – My Name is Joe Shaffers

Joe Shaffers
© Kenneth Alexander

My Name is Joe Shaffers

 District Six Blues – Each windswept moonlit night, I hear the poignant echoes from the D6 Musical, “When the South-Easter blows, we will remember wherever we go, District Six!”

Proudly born in Bloemhof Flats Block C n° 133 with my dear twin brother, James lasting only a few more months survived by five brothers a sister and the dearest of parents. My life blessed with unconditional love camaraderie and lasting friendships. Parents guiding our path even gangsters had a heart!

Nourishing my eventual existential career as Health Inspector. No fears only tears for social neglect the bitter sting of a doomed divisive apartheid regime darkening our mentalities our realities – Our sanity preserved in the love of music my moment of entertaining –

Sounds of Change – My crooning debut at the entrance of Bloemhof finding my voice on receptive stages joining a band, let by master saxophonist Willie Jales how about that? Even got my own group ‘Rendezvous’. Sadly these golden moments destroyed by Apartheid machines.

It happened one sunny morning – Machines advancing trampling deleting our lives our cream screams! Forcibly removed to the sandy flea-infested barren Cape Flats. Our hearts punctured generations affected still neglected –

1976 to 1985 turbulent working in the Cape Flats amidst swirling ash the revolutionary clash no rest from unrest but my association with communities preventing destruction of clinics resulting in my Service Excellence Award – I was even at the Gugulethu 7 killing but turned away by gunpoint yet history would mention me!Appointed Guide at the District 6 Museum nominated for an Honorary Doctorate by Edinburgh University. Dankie

Appointed Guide at the District 6 Museum nominated for an Honorary Doctorate by Edinburgh University.

Dankie…

© Don Beukes

Who is Joe SHAFFERS?

In his own Words…

As promised a rather long brief resume of my life in D6 and thereafter.


Born in Bloemhof Flats Block C no 133 in 1939 when the cement was still wet as my dad used to say. One of a set of twins, my brother died a few months later. A family of five sons, my sister and my parents in a 3 bedroomed flat where I lived for 28 years. Here I experienced all the nuances of D6 that everyone speaks about:
Cameradie as neighbors, in religions, sports and in friendships that went across the board.

My parents always guided us in the friends we chose but never stopped us from having them and here I also mean the ‘gangsters.’
My brothers and I had friends in practically all of them, which taught me the reverse psychology of the lives of these gangsters, which stood me in good stead when I worked as a Health Inspector in the most depressive gang ridden areas of the City Council. A job that I did for 34 years. Unscathed, never mind being assaulted, I was not even sworn at because I could relate to all of them due to my D6 upbringing.

We were taught good manners and respect for everyone no matter who. Sport played a major role as did our childhood games, which you can relate to as well.

Then there was the music that was alive in every home, religious and other forms, dance, vocals, jazz etc. My parents and friends had sing-alongs as well as our soccer club.
Then there were the records and the musicals in the bioscopes (cinemas).

We used to sing in the entrances of Bloemhof Flats, on our bus trips etc.
I loved doing and still do impersonations of various vocalists.
The Langarm Era (Ballroom era) was my stepping stone to the big stages I was asked to join the band ‘Backchat’ led by Willie Jales one of our monster saxophonists for one week as the lead vocalist and stayed there for 11 years before I formed my own group ‘Rendezvous’, which operated until Covid took over.

In the jazz idiom, I performed with the likes of Henry February, Kenny Jephtha, the Godfrey Ulster quartet, The Four Sounds, Tony Schilder, Vincent Kolbe, Alvin Dyers trio etc and l was accompanied by Joe Sample at the Swingers Nightclub .

I was also fortunate to appear on the international Jazzathon stage with Rendezvous and being honoured at the Jazz Masters with Alvin Dyers quartet, Erica Lundi and Danny Butler. I was instrumental in the start of the Jazz Jam sessions which showcased our youth and is still going strong 20 odd years later.

During those turbulent years of the 76 to 85s Working in the Cape Flats was a nightmare due the unrests and on many occasions I was called upon to get our medical staff out of our municipal clinics in those affected areas. Because of my association with the community in these areas I could do this and save the clinics from excessive damages. For this I was given a SERVICE EXCELLENCE AWARD.

I was also at the Gugulethu 7 killing but was turned away at gun point by the security forces.
After resigning from the Municipality I joined the D6 Museum which was another challenge for me to be able to relate to the world the ills of the forced removals.

As a result of this, the University of Edinburgh saw fit to present me with an Honorary Doctorate, which due to covid, means I can only be capped in July next year, in 2022.

D6 Museum

There is also a lot to be said about my experiences and people that I encountered at the museum.

Kenneth Alexander (The Artist in Athlone) writes:

Joe Schaffers – the walking singing Encyclopaedia.

I was privileged to meet Joe the “smooth as vaseline” ballade singer a few years ago. When Joe has a mike in hand he changes the atmosphere with smooth dancing moves, taking the audience back to the days in D6.

What impressed me was his respect for others no matter how old or young. He seemed to know everyone of D6, every joyous occasion and every sad one which covered the area in a cloud of hopelessness,which followed the displaced persons to the sandy flea- infested, treeless Cape Flats.

Painting the portrait of Joe is an honour, expressing my respect to a larger than life entertainer and educator.

The fact that Joe has been awarded an Honourary Doctorate in the UK, cements the reality that people of colour is still seen as “unworthy” 25years post apartheid South Africa.

Joe Schaffers, Senior Education Officer of the District Six Museum in Cape Town, South Africa, to be Awarded Honourary Doctorate in the UK.

The 80 year old Joe was nominated by the University of Edinburgh’s Dr. Tom Slater and Prof. Julie Cupples, both fierce opponents of gentrification (which is a modern form of forced removal) Despite its problems with poverty, District Six was the kind of place where you could raise your kids and where there was a strong sense of community.

This is where Joe Schaffers was born and raised and it is where the apartheid government chose to enact its cruel policy of forced removals. As a Senior Educator at the District Six Museum, Joe has worked hard to keep alive the memories of those that were dispossessed. On the 3 rd of July 2020, his work will be recognised by being awarded an Honourary Doctorate at Scotland’s University of Edinburgh. Joe’s reason for doing what he does started in the Bloemhof block of flats, where everyone knew each other and where the sense of community was even stronger. It was in this block of Flats that Joe was raised, where he met his wife (who also lived there) and where they settled down after getting married. In 1967 however, the apartheid government came knocking and decided to destroy District Six…

RESUME / BIO OF: Kenneth Marshall Alexander

Also known as: The Artist In Athlone Kenneth M Alexander – Author, Artist & Activist

Place of work:

Art In Athlone

Email: theartistinathlone@gmail.com

Learn more about him & what he’s
passionate about: www.sahistory.org.za/people/kenneth-alexander

www.facebook.com/ArtInAthlone

https://www.facebook.com/theartistinathlone.kennethmalexander

www.southafricanartists.com/artists/kenneth-alexander-6666

Kenneth Alexander is a visual artist who uses various media on canvas, wood or chipboard. In addition, he often uses mixed media – e.g., twigs, cardboard,
empty tins, etc. – to create a 3D effect. He comes from a typical South African diverse historical background which encompasses an eclectic array of cultures, beliefs and experiences.

He endeavours to bring understanding and insight into the distinctive cultures
culminating in the melting pot which is South Africa. Thus, his art many times is a social comment on the history and politics of the country.

With Deirdre Alexander and Natalia da Rocha


As Cape Town is the Mother City, she only puts forward the best parts of South Africa. Whether it be our beautiful mountains, an old stone cottage or a face
covered in dirt- it is all part of him. And so, it is too, part of his art,
thus his photography captures these images poignantly


As Cape Town is the Mother City, she only puts forward the best parts of South Africa. Whether it be our beautiful mountains, an old stone cottage or a face
covered in dirt- it is all part of him. And so, it is too, part of his art,
thus his photography captures these images poignantly

Furthermore, Kenneth is the author of several
books published under the name Kenneth M Alexander which showcase his life
experience in Apartheid and post-Apartheid South Africa. His latest book – Man About Town – is his autobiography.

He launched his first 2 books – ‘Welcome to my World’ and ‘Pavement Special’ in April 2017. Since then, he published two
new books viz. ‘A South African By-product’ and ‘#Just4You’.

Most of Kenneth’s art strongly reflects his architectural experience of the past 46 years. He was born and now lives in Athlone, a typical Coloured township on the sandy Cape Flats inCape Town, South Africa. Thus, a lot of his paintings selected for this show
and his books depict life and culture as experienced in Athlone, but also
strongly speaks to the history of its people and their ability to rise above
adversity and excel in their chosen career, whether painter, poet, author,
musician.

Cape Town, South Africa. Thus, a lot of his paintings selected for this show
and his books depict life and culture as experienced in Athlone, but also
strongly speaks to the history of its people and their ability to rise above
adversity and excel in their chosen career, whether painter, poet, author,
musician.

Many of Kenneth’s commentary on social issues have been published in daily newspapers, such as the Cape Argus.


Photo Credits © KENNETH ALEXANDER

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