13 March 2011 by Chris Marais

Pella Cinderella

It’s a Sunday evening in the springtime of long ago. Jules and I sit outside our matjieshuis in the Northern Cape oasis of Pella with a modest single malt and water to hand. I find myself in a great mood. The light is rich, the people are hospitable and the whisky hits the spot.

A small, shy but triumphant procession arrives at our front door. Pushed to the front of the crowd is a little girl in a smart dress with a plastic tiara on her head and a sash proclaiming her Miss Junior Pella. She holds onto her prizes: a packet of those cheesy curls, a banana and a small wrapped present. She sidles up to Jules and whispers, every inch the beauty queen:

Ek het gewen’ - I won.

‘What’s your name?”’, I ask, scrabbling for the appropriate camera.

‘Beulah’, she softly replies.

‘And how old are you, Beulah?’

She holds up her tiny hand and uncurls four fingers. This is indeed her day of glory, and I am the photographer on hand to record it.

I do the honours, and Jules sits down with Beulah and the lovely little girl sails through her first celebrity media interview. Everyone, including Beulah’s mom, Jacinta April, looks quite pleased by the proceedings.

After the proud little procession leaves, I sit outside amongst the Madagascan periwinkles, the wild figs, the mother-in-law’s tongue and the Namaqua daisies in the garden, have another whisky and listen to the Pella soccer team doing a raucous victory drive around the village, while the Games Tavern down the road pumps some kind of trance music out into the desert.

Later, Jules and I lie flat on the ground next to our hut and look up at the starry canopy above Pella in awe. I often wonder what happened to Beulah, our little Kalahari beauty queen…

Category: Culture & History

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