It occurred to me yesterday, as I was tucking into a particularly delicious Chicken Breyani at the Solms-Delta Oesfees, that I could at that moment have been at Taste of Cape Town. There I would have had the ‘opportunity’ of eating top chefs’ prized creations; food largely influenced by current global trends, styled to within an inch of its life.
The guests would almost all be white, unlike the mixed audience at Solms-Delta, which included several hundred farm workers (and their families) from the Franschhoek valley. I definitely wouldn’t have needed to explain to my kids, as I did upon entering the festival area, that they shouldn’t expect the bands to be playing ‘popular’ music.
I explained to them that the owner, neuroscientist Mark Solms, has committed the operation to keeping Cape cultural heritage alive, as well as empowering his workers by enabling them to participate in the success of the business. The Oesfees (harvest festival) is inclusive, in the sense that free tickets – including food and beverage tokens – are given to a large number of farm workers from surrounding farms. As if this wasn’t already unusual enough, the core of the festival is a line-up of traditional music featuring the distinctive sounds of the largely Coloured musicians.
Featuring in the line-up were three different groups of Solms-Delta farm workers and their families: the Delta Langbroek (long pants, which are generally worn by older people) band, the Delta Soetstemme (sweet voices) and the Delta Bluestars. In fairness, they sounded somewhat like a school variety concert, but their inclusion says a lot for the Solms’ commitment to creating opportunities for different life experiences amongst a group of people who have historically had extremely limited life expectations.
Unfortunately I couldn’t stay for the star attractions – Robbie Jansen and Emo Adams – but I was charmed by Tannie Grietjie, who at 85 has more ‘life’ than most teenagers.
The event also illustrates how modern consumers insist on having their experiences packaged in a predictable and familiar fashion. The Solms-Delta Oesfees consciously walks its own path, which makes it a refreshing – and very necessary – event on the annual winelands calendar.
Professor Mark Solms is operating outside the profession for which he trained, but I’m sure that this festival will go a long way towards influencing the way that wine people’s neurons fire (which is really just a long and contrived way of saying that the Oesfees will change the way people think).