Introducing- ALVIE  J. January:Writer and Poet

Alvie J. January

Part One – An Ekphrastic Collaboration with Artist- KENNETH ALEXANDER aka THE ARTIST IN ATHLONE

The Last Supper
Photo Credit © Kenneth Alexander

The Last Supper revisited…

On this wintry evening time marches on,
In the distance a train running on memory tracks,
A weathered case tells the sad story of where we’re from:
A day well remembered, how we were ripped from  the purplish-blue mountain air into the black…
Our beautiful Cape of Storms.

A last supper I’d been invited to,
Of stilted conversations and silent truths,
Desultory words floating by:
A list of the who was and who is who, 
As we rub our simple ‘District’ shoulders against the well-to-do’s.
With locked jaws we tried to swallow or be consumed –
Try to bury memories of the many in need –
Seeing our children stalked by starvation
On our Cape Flats’ streets.

Sadness, oh you weighty old coat,
Your pockets hanging, carrying its load,
Of betrayal, loss and political disgrace.
The painter painted his story,
A heavy frown lined his face –
Our music legend walked away from honor and glory,
Having had enough of these political ploys and display.
The howling dogs of society, having a ball 
Of a time on the floor.
I ran out of words, the painter out of all,
The colors he could paint and
The Don eloquently monologued about his blog
The music legend called us, heading for the door,
We had to find a corner where we could voice our protest in song.
As the wheels of the train clacked on and on 
And  memories of the District and someone painting the Last Supper, nearly gone…

© Alvie J. January

Thank you Kenneth Alexander, Joe Schaffers and Don Beukes. You made The Last Supper most enjoyable.

Artist Explains the Artwork

What is the History of District Six?



Photo Credit © Alvie J. January

He spent time in District Six until the age of about 9 years. He settled in Elsies and from there grew up in Matroosfontein. He studied art at Zonnebloem Art Centre during his formative years and this brought him in touch with the District until its final destruction.
He worked as Graphic Designer for Lightbody Clothing Company, Solo’e’ and Paco Jeans Company. He spent a few years as freelance artist in the clothing industry. He taught classes at SHAWCO Elsies River for 3 years for the Triple Trust Foundation, in fabric painting, silkscreening and handmade cards. Personal loss turned him away from art for many years and finally back in his retirement, or ‘wonder’ years.

Thinking back on the day before our democracy, being a young student and active. Got arrested one night along with another student, spraying Mandela’s image on walls at stations. Somebody called the security police and before long landed at the police station. Not a word to anyone of who you are and why you are there, only a station commander in the know. What made it so special, the holding cells had about 8 ladies of the night, arrested for solicitation. Calls were made for fines to be paid and my mom was more concerned about me being at this noisy party. Fortunately the ladies were to be released at the furthest point and to my joy: A policeman that grew up with me. Checked the books, couldn’t find anything in there and then he made the quick decision after I alerted him about the security police. Nothing in the books about us, so he was releasing us all at the furthest point. That point being Ou Kaapseweg where De Waal drive met up in Tokai, at 4 in the morning and having to walk home to Matroosfontein. One of the lucky breaks in my life. Today I look back and still wonder: Was it really worth it? My first poems were radical and more angry but I have since rewritten so many of them by taking portions and using it somewhere else.

“Today I look back and still wonder: Was it really worth it? My first poems were radical and more angry but I have since rewritten so many of them by taking portions and using it somewhere else.”


The suitcase…

 Once upon a time,there was this heaven-on-earth little place,

there was this heaven-on-earth little place,had its ups and downs, like rhythm and rhyme:

had its ups and downs, like rhythm and rhyme:

One day it fell out of favor and like bricks, fell from grace.

The day the President looked worried,

but the Prime Minister just smiled,

as cunning had a way of messing with the mind.

The final stages set, everything became hurried.

The police went on alert, tensions ran high –

everyone looked grim, but the bulldozers came alive.

As the Bedford trucks started rolling, the hour was nigh;

the air laden thick with fear as far as you could see,

with so many other places we’d rather have been

Time left like a suitcase all on its own,

in our rush to be cast into forever;

meager belongings, discarded, alone,

when we became refugees, without a life, without a home…

As neither our history nor lives could fit in the suitcase together:

The one leaving found a place in archives and books

The one left behind came down tumbling: Eaves; rafters, every nook –

to be  blown around like autumn leaves.

The day we became the have-nots,

our hands just falling out of reach:

The day love turned to hatred and hatred into tears –

Tears became the collective wounds and memories;

scabbed over, one thing  the world was unable to fix.

And bitterness deeply engraved on the journals of our hearts:

The days that became our Ground Zero: February, 1966…


Today I realize –

No matter what happened;

we’ll sometimes feel betrayed,

still have our doubts and fears

and no matter who played what part;

we’ll always tell our children about the Wonder Years:

Of that place, that time, that  wrote HOPE into our hearts

 © Alvie J January 06.06.2021

Anker Diep Ons Hartseer

Klou teen die berghang,
Op hierdie wintersdag;
Om lewe en om dood in die nie-te-hittige son, bekoor –

‘n Plaat geel sierankies en wildeblomme,
Diepgroen van die varkoor,

As beskerming in die agtergrond, leliekelke wat diep betoor.
Staan op ons erfenis vandag:

Hierdie prag en praal,
Wat steel die komende lente uit die hart

En anker diep ons hartseer in die sand.

Voel ek met elke jaar wat ons verloor, die herrinneringe

En hoop van ons ouers, sypel deur die vingers van my bewende hand …
Elke jaar wat iemand ons verlaat,

Om nooit weer terug te keer.
Raak ons sirkel kleiner met die koms van elke nuwe dag.

Die tyd wat vinnig kort raak, soos ‘n knelband om die hart:

Ons mymeringe, gedagtes en die seer,

Dans spookpassies, binne ons sirkel van gedeelde smart …
Is ons bote wat rusteloos vaar,

Matrose sonder ‘n hawe van rus.
Steeds nog gebonde aan enkel-en armringkettings, swaar –

Aan slaweboom geanker, met kettings deur ‘n groter metaallus.

Gedagtes wieg heen en weer soos palms in die Verre Oostersmaan;

Lippe gepars deur sout en son … Ja, ons kom so ver vandaan!
Na soveel keer van koop en verkoop, 

Wis die liggaam nie meer oos van wes.

Met Zonnebloem as nuwe tuiste, die slaaf-verlede afgestroop,

Veel later herdoop te word na my geliefde Distrik Ses.

Sien ek nou al hoe meer my oupa, geslote blik van half-Sjinees,

‘wyl die trane spore van heimvee los, anker ons net dieper die hart se seer …
Soos die grond waarop ek nou staan,

En woorde en verse dwarrel deur my gemoed.

Jakarta, nou net ‘n miniatuur weerkaatsing in ‘n traan,

Binne my die laaste van die Covid-19 koorsdroom woed,

Wonder ek vir ‘n oomblik of ek weer Distrik Ses sal 
Sien herrys, hierdie laaste dae van my bestaan?

Die veldblommetjies, so kortstondig, om dan te vergaan, 

Ons siele met hul kleurvolle gesiggies aan te kla-

Liewer hulle om ons verlede te begraaf en te bewaar.

Is ons skimme saans wat oor hul skoonheid dwaal,

Sien hoe die wintersdag ‘n roesbruin blaar stort soos ‘n veer:

Hoe die nuwe huisies in Distrik Ses net dieper anker, ons hart se seer …

©Alvie January 17.01.2021


 District Six, ‘tis on your Streets …(where immigrants meet)


District Six,

How your soil, red and bloody,

Cries out to me:

The wilderness that you’d become –

Criss-crossed, well-trodden paths, streets:

Each empty space to tell its story …

Having found myself while

 Looking deep within your heart.

 If I can be the voice …

 Would you be my words?

 Having always been the heartbeat.

That shimmers between the darkness and the dawn:

 If only we could be the light,

Upon your empty streets, forlorn …

 Would my soul in anger

 And indignation rise?

Would I stand strong this time,

Against the winds of change,

 That blew our lives away?

Bitter ashes from your floor,

Rise like bile with rage …

And troubled sighs –

Remembering how our grandparents,

Never made it to the door,

That Kristallnacht when District Six lost its light:

When glass, the roof and rafters became the floor.

No streets drapered in the colors of love,

Or resound with the echoes of wellknown beats.

If our parents could once more dress

In gaberdine and woolen fines,

Be draped like mannequins, lost in your vacant sights…

Temporarily escape the sameness of their Cape Flats lives –

Would you recognize them by the longing,

 In their immigrant eyes?

Would they need  a barcoded wrist,

To show they belonged or once lived here?

 Hoarsely whisper as they recount their ghetto lives

One way in and one way out, as daily the staircases tremble in fear.

Joy came when voices blended

And your streets pitch-perfectly harmonized;

Every now and then the past come flooding in

And throats lump up and tearducts spill their stories:

 On our streets where the gun dictates …

And stipulates who will live…   and who will die –

Where even our babies fear to cry

And justice, blindfolded, look away

And time pass us by with hurried strides …

 © Alvie J January 03.08.2020.

© Alvie January 01.09.2020

• Kristallnacht (Crystal Night) Night of the broken glass 9/ 10 November 1938
*Starting February 1966 till present: The Holocaust of our lives.
lives ended and we became ghettorized numbers.

© Alvie January 01.09.2020
·       Kristallnacht (Crystal Night) Night of the broken glass 9/ 10 November 1938
*Starting February 1966 till present: The Holocaust of our lives.
lives ended and we became ghettorized numbers.

Die Doverstouf, vetkoeke en Golden Syrup…

 Dit is vroeg al winter,Die nag se donker vinger oor die ruite vee –

Die nag se donker vinger oor die ruite vee –

Die stukkie van die maan se geel,

wat oor die Welcome Doverstouf val

en diep binne oor my siel streel,

verjaag net bietjies van die skaduwees.

Die stouf was elke bruid se droom:

Yellow-green was een van die favorite color schemes.


Die nuwe dag, ‘n ligstraal,

waar die natuur ‘n streep trek op die oosterkim.

Mamma se arms tot by die elmboë in die meel staan –

knie die deeg dat die meel-dwarrels,

wolkies is wat verbouereerd opslaan.

Op Radio Suid-Afrika blêr ‘n liedjieskrywer

sy lied oor: ‘Daar  in die ou Kalahari,’ ver…

Sien ek hoe die rook lui-lui by die chimney uitsyfer.

Lag ons want die Kalahari lê miskien net hie’ anne’kant ou Tafelberg…

Skroei die vetkoeke tot goudbruin,

Op’pie stouf se top –

Was dit ‘n lied, sou die die moerkoffie in die ketel sing,

son’ner ophou of stop.

Lag-kraak die geel vlamme en die rooikranshout

se ente, wat soe sappig suis.

Ses stoele om’mie geskropte tafel in ‘n kring,

sit ôs al reg met’tie peanut butter en Golden syrup,

as Mamma die vetkoeke tafel toe bring.

“Sal jille  nou ophou met jille gejil?

Voor ek met’tie natlap onner jille inklim!”

Elke meal ‘n mission,

toe ôs maa’ net kinnes was.

word die blame van’nie

een na’rie anner gepass.

Staar Mamma goedig na haar kroos;

Ses mondjies en ‘n helse geraas!

Vlug die jare vinnig tot nou


Waar ek staan soes een in diepe rou –

Nog ‘n groep afgebreekte mure staan soekend rond,

in Horstleystraat, soos vrot tandjies in ‘n mond.

‘n Paar cracked tiles try om die res van’nie verhaal te ve’tel,

sê ‘n Boeta skielik: “Die fôkken Cape Flêts, is mos ‘n living hell!”

Wiet ek’anie waa’van die ouman praat,

as’sit rient en’nie water sypel deur’rie muur –

Dis wanne’ my ma vloek op’pie bliksems van’nie stadsraad:

“Ek he’te good mind om hulle my repair bill te stuur…”

Die District het sy bouvallige structures gehad,

maa’ dit was ôs en ôs was ‘it, dag en nag,

maa’ hie’ was ôs net gedrop in damn sak en as!”

Decadence was ‘n word wat ôs’sie baie gebruik’it ‘tie,

dit en bouvalligheid en whores was gelos,

vir’rie parlementarians se peppered District Six speech.

Die hart was’sie District en’nie District was in’nie hart.

Daa’ was trou gesweer tot in ’66

tot ôs forcefully moes beginne part.

My soeke in’nie District gat aan en aan,

want die flêts in Mountstraat se vloere,

Was’an nou gelyk mer’rie sand.

PMH lyk of ‘n stomheid daa’oo’ gesak ‘it’,

want die nursies se swart-rooi manteljies,

lyk of’it hulle teen’nie’ hartseer moet protect.

Die inhabitants het dan nou ge-disappear:

‘n Game blok-blok waa’ am’mal simply gaa’ wegstiek’it

Weggestiek ‘it uit total fear…

 Teen die voo’ste van’nie Dover loep’ie steamtrane af,

Die moerkoffie het vergete gestol in’nie sak –

Selfs die lou-oond wiet daa’ sal’lie wee’ ‘n bord ingaan,

want op’pie Flêts gan’nit maa’ net buite in’nie yard moet staan.

Hie’ waar’rie doringtak teen’nie ruit van my memories knaag,

sien ek hoe Mamma se betraande gesig

en’nie  smaak van’nie vetkoeke

met’tie vrot tanne ruins van’nie District vervaag…

Skrik ek wakker District Six, sal ek weet jy was lank gelede daa’     


© Alvie J January 05.04.2021


Home amongst the ruins…

The high rises and golden towers,

Reaching up towards the skies,

 Buried deep within the clouds,

Below we are just little men:

Beggars; orphans, lost and lonely in your eyes.

 Have some mercy, oh mighty ones,

Mention us in your prayers.

The jingling-jangling of coins are from

Busking with a guitar and drum.

 Once we had houses, where we posed for pictures,

In that wonderful place we were from.

We are lost by design, not by choice –

 The city preferred the old ones 

 And the young and dead, not to have  a voice.

One day the city came from the rises, down,

Instead of sharing love and salvation,

They spread like a virus, hopelessness and pain all around.

Empty pockets lined, with whispered promises of despair –

 The court jesters laughed as the king of the city,

Blinded us with twinkling eyes and flair

And a twist of jeweled fingers on both hands,

Gave us the great plains with our own castles made of sand.

Word spread faster than a sigh and the powerful agreed,

The wandering spirits should find a home  amongst the ruins,

Far less mouths for the city to feed.

Up on the mountainside, a few homes remained,

Happy to be far removed from the sandy plains,

From where the lost ones are seldom heard.

For memory moments the houses would be displayed,

May be watched, from a distance away.

Sometimes, only sometimes when it rains,

You’ll hear a lonely dirge, or a haunting melody,

While we lay somewhere in the night , intertwined like leaves.

Words escape your lips and with a dreamy sigh,

 I hear the secrets that you keep.

I cry into my pillow when I hear you gently moan…

After all that happened in our lives, you whispered:

 “I just want to go home…”

 “I want to go back to these empty spaces,

 ©Alvie J January 07.06.2021


 “I want to go back to these empty spaces,

 “I just want to go home…”

 “I just want to go home…”
The Last Supper
© Kenneth Alexander

I dedicate this article to JOE SHAFFERS, a well known ex resident of District Six, Guide at the District Six Museum and nominated for an Honorary Degree from Edinburgh University, Scotland, UK.

Artwork by © Kenneth Alexander

I look forward to this author getting published in South Africa.

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