It’s some­thing spe­cial when it gets per­sonal

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

FOR two decades the Stel­len­bosch Farm­ers’ Win­ery (SFW) Award for En­ter­pris­ing Jour­nal­ism was the big­gest thing in the pe­ri­od­i­cals world. Once a year it brought the in­dus­try to­gether, col­leagues from across the coun­try and from across the lan­guages. It was The Gath­er­ing, al­right, and with the smell of money at that.

Crit­ics nat­u­rally dis­missed it as mu­tual mas­tur­ba­tion, un­til next year they got a prize and re­cal­cu­lated. In fact, the award and the ac­com­pa­ny­ing cheque were ter­rific boosts to the kind of ex­ploratory work that nudges the world im­per­cep­ti­bly for­ward but leaves your bank man­ager stony.

When SFW pulled the plug, the journos said we can’t be con­sum­ing enough of their prod­uct, we must try harder. Some said if it was the Stel­len­bosch Farm­ers Whiskey award there would be no prob­lem. But, soberly, clos­ing was off-key.

There are no brag­ging rights in a de­ceased tro­phy.

An­other gi­ant moved in, Mondi, and since they packed it in I think there’s been a merry-go-round of gi­ant names, though with one mod­est name shin­ing.

Taco Kuiper was just an­other guy, in life. Tall and thin and earnest, he fre­quented jour­nal­is­tic cir­cles. He did some­thing in fi­nance, we vaguely gath­ered. All I knew was that he cer­tainly wasn’t among the breed an­gling to get close enough to pitch an in­vest­ment pol­icy. He was into urgent deep dis­cus­sion on what you’d lately writ­ten and what you ought shortly to write.

Af­ter his early death, in the cen­tury’s in­fancy, it emerged that what­ever Kuiper did in fi­nance, he did it very well. First hint was his fu­neral, at the end of which mourn­ers were as­ton­ished to learn that a mil­lion rand was be­ing di­vided be­tween them.

The will fol­lowed, with a be­quest for jour­nal­ism awards and grants.

South Africa’s Al­fred No­bel – it’s beau­ti­ful enough when com­pa­nies do such things for strate­gic rea­sons, tax rea­sons, mar­ket­ing rea­sons, but there’s an ex­tra gloss when the sole agenda is bet­ter jour­nal­ism.

The Kuiper Awards won’t suc­cumb to higher re­turn com­ing up from T-shirts or horse-races.

Taco comes to mind, be­cause this week saw the theatre in­dus­try hand out its awards, the Naledis. Like the Kuipers, these echo to some­one’s name, Dawn Lind­berg’s.

I don’t know, but bet, that when Lind­berg set this ac­tiv­ity up in 2004, a cor­ner of her mind as­sumed that by … oh, give it space, a three-year warm-up? … by 2007 or so it would be all sorted. It’d have a per­ma­nent name spon­sor and a paid or­gan­iser and she’d be a friendly his­tor­i­cal link of­fer­ing oc­ca­sional ad­vi­sory elder-states­man words from a ham­mock on her stoep.

Whereas in truth, I’m told, the rea­son the Naledis have lived to 13 is one word, spelled D, A, W, N, a kind of mag­i­cal four-let­ter word that keeps shout­ing kick­ing punch­ing plead­ing beg­ging grab­bing yelling ca­jol­ing and nail­ing prospects’ ears to the ta­ble un­til they cough up.

The re­sult is the kind of thing I saw on Mon­day night, Joburg’s Os­cars.

The bet­ter part of a thou­sand of theatre-world’s bright and beau­ti­ful gath­ered at the Lyric Theatre in Gold Reef City. Since 995 of them had con­spic­u­ously obeyed the dress-code or­der, “Drop Dead Glam­orous”, the oc­ca­sional rene­gade out­siders tended to hover in the shad­ows a bit.

I mean, I thought that “glam­orous” meant aban­don­ing a favourite torn jersey for an un-favourite un-torn one.

So, lurk­ing in a cor­ner like the fire in­spec­tor’s as­sis­tant, I be­held de­tachedly and got proud of things that Jozi can get proud of, like cur­rent theatre’s quan­tity and qual­ity, I’d had no idea; like awards that cul­ti­vate class; and hav­ing peo­ple who make things hap­pen.

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