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Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Story of Koos Hout

It was a couple of years back that my sister and I visited the small fisherman’s village of Velddrif on the west coast of South Africa. Velddrif is well known for its bokkoms (small sundried fish). Among other things we spend quite some time in the Bokkom lane. It is a short gravel road on the banks of the Berg river. It is there that you find thousands of bokkoms hanging in the sun to dry. It is also there where you can watch pelicans and many other bird species from the banks of the river or from a boat. It is there that you can enjoy the best ever calamari steak at the Vishuis. But it is also there that you can meet the local fisherman and enjoy their dialect which is so unique to that area.

It was during that visit that we met Koos Hout, just an ordinary fisherman busy at work, hanging out bokkoms in the sun. He made such an impression on us with his unique and strong facial features. We stopped and spoke to him. We asked if we could take photo of him. We chatted some more, and then went our way and Koos went on working.

Last year when I wanted to enter the SPI Portrait Competition and I had to decide of whom I am going to paint a portrait, the first face that entered my mind was that of Koos Hout. By that time I had forgotten his name but I had not forgotten his face. I did the painting and while I was doing it I have decided I was going to give this painting to him as a gift.

Yesterday a friend and I went to Velddrif with the painting in the back of my bakkie. Our mission was to go to the Bokkom lane, find the man and give the painting to him. We arrived there and looked and asked around, but no one knew the man I was describing. Then I saw a young man at the smallest bokkom house. I showed him the painting. He said he is not sure, it looks like Oom Koos, but maybe it is Gert! There was another larger building and he said I must take the painting there, maybe they will know. I showed it to them and as one they said: “Maar dis mos Kosie”. Yes it was Koos Hout. 

The young man took us to the humble house of Koos Hout. I cannot say for sure if he recognised me. Maybe he did, because when I shook his hand and gave him the painting, if felt like we knew each other. Never in his life will he forget that moment that someone blessed him with something that he did not expect. I do not think that the thought of obtaining an original oil painting would ever have entered his mind. Never in my life will I forget that moment when I had the privilege to witness such gratitude.