Miskien, vir jou is die plek lelik Maar vir my is die plek mooi Hoekom sal ons nou hier bly Want die Here het ons hier gegooiIn 1951 Martha and John Apollis started their married life in Kouboegas, a community situated on the right-hand side of the N14 road to Pofadder, near the old Hoyts mine. During their stay in Kouboegas, their daughters Louisa, Annie and Betsie were born. As a result of the Apartheid laws, Martha and John's land was seized by the government in 1957, when Betsie was still a baby, and they were forced to leave their beautiful 'muurhuis' – a brick and mortar home they had built from scratch.
~ David Kramer
Soon after their displacement, the Apollis family was awarded land, which would become known as Homeb No 6. No structures existed on this land, therefore upon arrival John had to build a 'kraalbos kookhuis' for the family to sleep in. This structure consisted of a semi-circle of interwoven bushes reaching about thigh height. For the first few weeks, the family slept on the ground with only the kraalbos kookhuis providing some relief from the overnight frost. It was during the family's time at Homeb No 6 where Outys, Lelie, June and Vona were born.
During the 50's and thereafter, John, who was employed at the copper mines, worked tirelessly over weekends to build the 'kamertjie', a one-roomed structure made from corrugated iron plates, for the family to live in. Martha, Annie and Louisa helped to put a roof on the kamertjie, which served as the family's accommodations while John and Martha planned to build something more permanent. Eventually John and Martha decided to make their dream home a reality and created a plan to build. John used a wheel barrow to haul rocks from the surrounding area for use in building the house. Annie remembers watching John, his muscles flexing and sweat pouring from his brow, as he carried what would become their permanent home. Some of those rocks now form part of the braai area at the Apollis Cottage. The Nababiep Mine Museum provides a vivid account of the life of a miner during those years, and it is truly a feat that John could work in such extreme conditions during the week, and then work on the weekends to build a home for his family.
John's sense of industry did not end at home construction. In fact, one might argue that his construction skills were surpassed by his gardening abilities. Now as you can probably tell by looking at pictures or by your own experience, the land in and around Homeb No 6 is not conducive to growing much. It is the arid land of the Karoo, yet somehow John was able to grow fruit, vegetables and flowers. The Apollis family, their children and grandchildren have beautiful memories of eating fruit straight form the tree, picking pumpkins for supper and climbing trees while playing hide and seek. The family also shared this bounty with their neighbours. The Community Garden of Homeb was honoured in 2008 for the participants' outstanding farming and gardening techniques. When asked about the award, the participants were very eager to explain that they had learned the planting, irrigation and maintenance skills from John Apollis. It is sad that since John passed away in 2007, he was not able to make the trip to Pretoria to receive this honour. We know however, that his legacy lives on in each one of us who plays our role in caring for the garden at Homeb No 6.
One would not want to overlook the contribution which Martha made to the progress of the Apollis family. She worked as a maid for various 'boere' families for many years and even had a working stint in Cape Town where she learned to speak English. While working for the boere in the various areas near Springbok, she would walk to and from the bus stop barefoot every day, in order to spare her shoes, given how the family was struggling financially. She knew how to make the little money that the family had stretched! Martha, although having only completed Grade 5, was an avid reader, who placed a high premium on education, and instilled in her children a love for learning. She was very strict, certainly the disciplinarian of the family, and if you ever run into one of the children, they would be able to tell you some stories. However, her close relationship with God meant that she also imparted love and grace. A very spiritual woman, Martha served as an elder in the church for many years where she ministered to the community. Both Martha and John were held in very high regard within their community for their work ethic and integrity, and the community also marveled at the fact that they walked over the mountain to church in Concordia every Sunday.
Annie, who eventually qualified as a teacher was the first of the children to go to Cape Town and she welcomed her siblings into her home when some of them followed her there. Once Annie was established, Martha and John visited regularly during school holidays providing many memorable moments for the family. The children and their families also visited Homeb No 6 regularly, especially during the festive season. The tranquil setting always allowed everyone an opportunity to recharge before heading back into a busy new year.
It was these memories, along with the deep love and respect which she had for her parents, that generated in Annie the vision to create a place, which could capture the beauty, tranquility, but more so the legacy, of Homeb No. 6. On 4 October, 2011, the construction of the Apollis Cottage was started. The construction process was often fraught with difficulties, and it was easy for Annie and Bernard to become despondent. However, if you ever meet Annie, look at her carefully, you will see a look of steel in her eyes. She just won't give up! That determination, coupled with her belief that her mother should be part of the process and be around to witness the finished product, gave her and Bernard the drive to deal with difficult vendors, faulty products and nature's whiles. On 4 March 2012, the opening ceremony of the Apollis Cottage was attended by dignitaries, including the Mayor Frank van den Heever, friends and family. Although she was very sick at this point, Martha Apollis lived to see the vision become reality, and she cut the ceremonial ribbon after having said the opening prayer.
In overcoming the many obstacles they faced, Annie and Bernard were able to build, not only a beautiful cottage, both inside and out, but also to give us all the opportunity to share in a legacy dating back to 1957. A legacy of of hard-fought battles, of milestones reached, of heartbreak and triumph....of our family. Of a farm nestled close to a mountain, opposite the wide expanse where earth meets sky, of a place of love, grace and peace.
Written with love by Andrea Francis