It’s something special when it gets personal
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.