With music by Cyndi Lauper, several Tonys and a Laurence Olivier Award
A Unique Insight into Life in Cape Town
Meet Hazel – matriarch, community figure, pillar of strength and host of the Cape Storytelling Route
It was a particularly cold night, the rain was torrential and the only place I wanted to be was snuggled up in bed with a hot chocolate. But when we visited our first host, Hazel Allies-Husselman, in the township of Bonteheuwel, we were ushered into an intimate living room, sat in a circle and handed a plate of hearty winter stew. It was a comfortable environment that I would liken to visiting an old friend, yet we were sat in the family home of a complete stranger. When I booked my tour, Coffeebeans Routes: Storytelling Route, I could not have imagined how welcome I would feel in someone else’s personal space, nor was I expecting to access such unique insights into life in Cape Town.
Once we had settled in with our warming plates of stew and Hazel had made sure everyone had a cup of coffee or tea, we were engaged in conversation. Hazel and her family were not only keen to converse openly about their own personal experiences, but were keen to learn more about mine. Through chatting to Hazel, I discovered that her work in the community and her sense of family is an inspiration to women.
Hazel is the youngest of 12 children and was born late in her mothers life, so she actually has nieces and nephews who are older than her. She told me that her husband, Sedrico, was once out shopping with her nephew, when he bumped into an old school friend. The school friend asked: ‘Are you married?’, to which her husband replied: ‘Yes, I married his aunt’. Of course, this caused some confusion.
‘Caring for children is the secret to eternal youth’
She now has two children of her own, Sethe Zion and Zacharie Alexa Husselman. She chose to stay in hospital for as long as she could during the birth of her first child (she joked that this was purely to escape her hectic household for some peace). There are 20 great grandchildren in her family at present, which is a handful. Regardless, all of these children have spent time living with Hazel’s mother, Catherine Allies, who says that caring for children is the secret to eternal youth. Sadly, Catherine was diagnosed with dementia last year and her mental health is rapidly deteriorating. Although the family are deeply saddened by this, Hazel still remains optimistic and even joked that she only wished she’d got the secret recipe for Catherine’s home baked breads and donuts before she was diagnosed. Her courage must be what is pulling the family together, during this difficult time.
Hazel is quite a poignant figure in the township of Bonteheuwel and has done a lot to help develop the local community. She works for a community newspaper entitled: The Athlone News, which is part of Cape Community Newspapers. The paper is read by residents of the coloured townships and aims to educate the local people in issues such as, early childhood education. Although the paper focuses on positive stories such as, racial integration, Hazel is not afraid to cover negative issues such as housing, crime and drugs. Hazel believes that the wheels are still turning in her township and things are starting to change for the better. She loves what she does because she is writing about real issues that would not ordinarily be discussed in the mainstream press.
Stories and valuable lessons from Cape Town’s people
Hazel thrives off the appreciation she receives from her local community when, for example, she writes a story about the development of a school or local children teaching others how to do the 2010 FIFA World Cup DISKI dance. Her work clearly hasn’t gone unnoticed – Women of Change recently decided to honor her amongst a host of women from the community. Most of the people that work in the community are women, so this recognition is an honour for Hazel.
At the ceremony for Women of Change, one gentleman remarked that women are ‘doers’. Hazel recalled his story: the gentleman was involved in a car accident. A group of women witnessed the incident and, in rushing over to help, found a baby trapped inside one of the cars. They proceeded to rip open the car with their bare hands, in order to save the infant. Hazel is certainly a doer – she’s caring for her family, educating her local community and throughout her mother’s illness, staying strong where others would crumble. She’s remarkable by anyone’s standards.
Coffeebeans Routes offers unique access to the stories of Cape Town’s people and there is a valuable lesson to be learned when viewing the world through another’s eyes.
By Lisa Nevitt
The Storytelling Route runs on Tuesday and Thursday nights and visits two storytellers. On Monday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday nights you can also find out more about Cape style jazz with the Coffeebeans Jazz Safari.