Dr Ian McCallum of Marina da Gama, analyst, poet, author, lecturer and Wilderness Leader, was the keynote speaker at an event – ‘Landscapes and Identity’ – hosted recently by Princess Vlei Forum in Grassy Park on 29th April.
The theme of the evening, that identity is tied inextricably to place, threaded through all the presentations.
Linda Daniels, storyteller and broadcaster, stressed that storytelling is a way to restore memory and this in turn can restore both individuals and communities. Linda is currently collating local stories from the community surrounding the Vlei.
Patrick Dowling, Regional Head of Environmental Education at WESSA, whose talk was entitled Princess Vlei and the Wetland Kingdom, gave the audience an insight into the interconnectivity of the wetlands in the area. Describing historical control of wetlands and waterways which had been done by canalising, diverting and draining, even creating, as in the case of Little Princess Vlei, Dowling went on to explain that within the restrictions of current urbanisation, it is still possible to restore these areas. He cited Zandvlei as an example, a nursery for certain fish; and also the healthy sustainable condition of Zeekoevlei. In the past a number of our vleis were seasonal, fed by both aquifer and rain. Today they are largely permanent water bodies and careful maintenance is required. One particular slide drew gasps from the audience. It was of the lake at Lakeside – a full body of gleaming water. The photo taken in the late 1800s.
Dr McCallum stressed that in his work, when most people are asked to recall their childhood, they will nominate a moment or a place in the natural environment. This identifies them, places them, and in this way can be the starting point for healing. And so, it is important to know your natural environment. He told a story of a young man from Vrygrond who had been led on a walk up the mountain that he faces each day. Muizenberg Peak. On the way home he was asked if he could see the mountain from his home. His answer was “No, my house is too small.” But in fact, although his house was small, he had a clear view of that mountain. Until that day he had felt no identity with it, not even a recognition that it was there.
It is possible to change lives by assisting people to connect consciously and unconsciously with Nature. This was the message of ‘Landscapes and Identity – an evening of storytelling, listening and reflection.’
To know more about Princess Vlei Forum go to www.princessvlei.org
Photos and article by Mea Lashbrooke.