oa South African Journal of Cultural History - Die wederwaardighede van Meliengo Hoi en sy liedjie 394KB)

Volume 8, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1011-3053



When Estelle van der Merwe started puppet making in the 1920s, she created, among others, a black character named Ta. The main scene enacted with Ta concerned a story in verse about a domestic servant being sent to buy some fish, but buying liquor instead, and in the end receiving a severe thrashing. The story in fact represents a version of an old Afrikaans folksong about a man called Meliengo Hoi, but- as has been the fate of the majority of these songs- it is nowadays virtually unknown. Yet it must have been quite popular during the early part of the century as versions were recorded in the Cape, the Free State and the Transvaal. As has happened with numerous folksongs, 'Meliengo Hoi' served as the basis for a new, in this instance satirical, script. It concerned the capers of Mr Vitlorio Carpio who, as Chairman of the United Nations' Special Committee for South West Africa, visited the region in 1962, and was eventualy signatory to a very favourable report. When a furore broke out, he claimed that his coffee had been poisoned and that he consequently did not grasp the contents of the communique. Rumour had it that in truth he had become too fond of South Africa's KWV brandy. Estelle van der Merwe immediately created a puppet called Carpio and she adopted Ta's script for him to enact. The song about 'Mallengo Hoi' faded further and further into oblivion. When in 1987 a newspaper reader enquired about someone he vaguely remembered called 'Mafienkahoi', the response was that 'she' was identified as some or other girl or woman, perhaps even a vicious British queen of yore.

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