One of the joys of living in a remote part of the Overberg is that you get to hear again those often quaint and traditional Afrikaans sayings and words that are quite charming. Many of the older folk here speak with a slight “bry”. Not the harsh, guttural sound that is associated with Malmesbury and the West coast, but a soft yet distinct rolling of the “R’s”.
A word that is more part of the Western Cape vocabulary than further North is “hoeka”. I’m not sure what it means, and the “Tweetalige Woordeboek of Bosman, van der Merwe and Hiemstra is not of much help. It says it means “the way it is” or something to that effect. Well, then most are using it in a completely inappropriate context…and often. Perhaps like me, they are so enchanted with the word that they just utter it on every possible occasion, appropriate or not. Say “hoeka” often enough in one sentence and you are bound to end up in a trance and perform some gyrating dance that could match Michael Jackson on stage. It’s weird, but every time I hear the word I want to break out into a karaoke rendition of Johnny Preston’s “Running Bear”, or even more appropriately Carike Keuzenkamp’s “Hoeka Toeka”. Someone should suggest that they get the Springboks to chant the word in a Zulu war dance and intimidate the hell out of the All Blacks and their puny haka. Better still; combine the two into a hypnotic “hoeka-haka” and we could have the whole crowd going.
Equally enchanting, perhaps more so, is the more common “laslappie”. It leaps off the tongue like an impish elf and seldom fails to solicit a giggle from a 2 year old. It’s the perfect tool to mesmerise a rebellious tyke into swallowing some pulverised broccoli.
It means patchwork which, I am told, is an established handicraft with many followers threatened by Jeremy Gordin’s state of gerontophobia – a word that my spell check refused to accept. But laslappie has its roots in prudence and austerity. Most matriarchs of previous generation families were accomplished seamstresses and would make their own clothing, kids’ school uniforms, curtains, pillow cases and the like. The remnants and off cuts would be preserved, re-cut into squares and shapes and then sewn together to form a blanket sized laslappie. Of all of her accomplishments as an Amsterdam baker’s daughter, my mother did not possess the talent of a seamstress. This was obvious to even my pre-teen school peers who could identify me by my clothing as one of the untouchables from the mining camp on the other side of the mine dump. But the endearing quality of the laslappie was that once it was stitched onto a blanket to form a quilt it became one of the household’s most sought after comforters – the attraction being a nostalgic trip into one’s past with the examination of each patch.
I used to think that the individual patches were called “loslappies” and it took a number of loslappies to make a laslappie. But then I learned something from Kurt Darren. His hit single in certain circles told me that a loslappie is a wanton wench that you pick up in certain bars. You clearly can’t use a loslappie on a laslappie. Well…perhaps you can.
By now, anyone who has read more than one of my articles on this site is probably screaming: “Where’s the analogy!” I seem to be addicted to metaphors and analogies – a trait that I have been told is the mark of an unimaginative writer trying to hide deficiencies behind hyperbole.
But there is an analogy in my laslappie. It reminds me of the financial and other accounts that companies have to compile these days and stitch together to form a quilt called the Integrated Report. Even the most talented patchwork handcrafter in the form of a high flying public relations spin doctor will have difficulty in taking each lappie or patch and laying it out to form an artistic whole. It will always have the look and feel of conflicting colours and textures because the lappies themselves do not form part of a coherent whole at the outset. In any case, the most dominant message will come from the most seductive loslappie.
You can’t expect a coherent end-product if there is fragmentation and incoherence long before the accounting process begins – at operational level and even earlier at the planning and strategic level. The modern day corporation is rife with vested and often conflicting motives. There are shareholders, labour, executives, government and other social institutions such as environmental lobbies each with their own agenda that pull at the entity, often in separate directions. You cannot have a “shared” motive of getting something if that “getting” means less for another.
The only shared motive that works is about giving, where each is prepared to make a contribution to the whole and where there’s an overriding principle that no one compromises on. The only one that works for a company is service to society through service to the customer. All the rest are consequential.