(Written 19 Mar 2011)
Dear All,
On Sunday evening, 12th March, we attended Jeremy Taylor’s Ag pleez daddy show. It has been a good 50 years since the song had become popular in South Africa and as expected, the catchy Ag pleez daddy has lasted well, but the same cannot be said for the bulk of his material.
Taylor’s delivery – typical ballad performer picking at a guitar and singing protest stuff that seems important at the time – was unchanged from the style of the period; so much so that it reminded me of Herman Charles Bosman’s tale of the Picture of Gysbert Jonker.
According to Oom Schalk Lourens (the fictional storyteller), while sitting in the Indian store at Ramoutsa one day, the farmers of the Marico district note that one of their number, Gysbert Jonker, looks like the guy in the advertising picture on the bags of a popular brand of tobacco. With this praise Gysbert gets caught up in the picture, trimming his beard just so, wearing only lookalike shirts and holding his pipe at exactly the same angle as the person in the advertisement. As Oom Schalk tells it, there is even a change in the soul of Gysbert Jonker. Then, after a few years, the inevitable happens. The tobacco company replaces the picture of the man on the tobacco bag with that of a leaping blesbok and while Gysbert is finally relieved of the burden of being trapped in a photograph, he never really escapes. He becomes just as shabby and dilapidated as the corrugated iron sheet at the back of his pigsty that was once a large outdoor tobacco advertisement, upon which is a picture of a man holding his pipe just so.
While Ag pleez daddy was a pleasant wander down memory lane (made all the more enjoyable by being with good friends), one got the sense that Jeremy Taylor has never really escaped what was always irrelevant* white liberal anti-apartheid politics; and in the back of the mind the limited lifetime of protest art is confirmed.
*At the time of writing, my friends pilloried me for suggesting that white liberal anti-apartheid politics was irrelevant. But in speaking to black people subsequently, my impression has always been that the majority of them considered our white liberal efforts irrelevant. I wish it were not so.