Day 55 of South Africa’s lockdown and I am in my private study with a cup of rooibos tea, while Lo-Fi jazz sets the mood. As one of three public clinicians serving the community of Pampierstad, South Africa, this is a far-cry from what I have been bracing myself for, or what I would normally be doing. Seeing that I am not only a Rural Medical Doctor, but a Reiki Practitioner, Philosopher, Artist, and passionate advocate for Mental Healthcare, I tend to keep a busy schedule. Nonetheless, in a time of global crisis I am having a cup of tea.
I have been tracking this virus since January 2020, witnessing how its devastation was mushrooming all over the globe. Terrified, I would lay awake at night ruminating on how to be ready for something so rare yet so devastating. In addition to that, I had to consider how this would affect the fledgling project I had undertaken with my brother, Vincent “Chicco” de Koker. Thus, my story goes far beyond just being a doctor during a pandemic. Vincent “Chicco” de Koker, is an actor, writer, director, and a Khoi San activist, we had teamed up to produce content in rural Hartswater. We worked with other local artists and film school graduates, some with a history of Mood Disorders and some with substance dependency. We had set out to create content exploring issues experienced by the local youth and to bring Mental Healthcare in Rural Areas into the Overton Window. Our content is still available for free consumption on YouTube on the Barweng Television channel.
We were about to conclude the first phase of our project, where we were creating short pieces of work sporadically while learning how to balance group dynamics and the production process. We had set out this year to do two major pieces. The first being a full-length feature film set around livestock theft. Our second piece being “Siek Manne” is a solo piece for the stage; being an adaptation from a piece I wrote in 2016, from my anthology Vertical Slits (or Words Made from Letters), it is a tale exploring gender-based violence from the abuser’s point of view. However, with the pandemic looming we cannot commence with our projects. Our projects have operatives and stakeholders spanning three provinces, and with the lockdown in place…. Everything has come to a stop.
Yet, I assure you that I am not complaining. I live in an area where the first few cases in South Africa were concentrated, and through the efforts and wisdom of my colleagues, we have managed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and avoid mortality. So, what! My schedule has gone from a frantic crusade for improving the Human Experience to a mild philosophical pause; COVID-19 is still an ongoing threat. Thus, we all need to exercise patience and do what is asked of us to spare human life.
Humanity will prevail!