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Clear your mind for future inspiration and preserve vital personal information safe from cellphone technology

– Caroline Smart, artSMart, 12 December 2011


Evita Bezuidenhout has long been established as the most famous white woman in South Africa. For many years, she was the ambassadress of the (fictional) bantustan Bapetikosweti in the old South Africa.


A creation of writer, performer, satirist and playwright Pieter-Dirk Uys, she has swanned in and out government circles since he introduced her in his column in the Sunday Express in 1978 as “the tannie in Waterkloof who says...” and then in real life as Evita in Adapt or Dye on stage in 1981.


Always elegantly dressed in designer outfits by Chris Levin, Errol Arendz and Francois Vedemme, she has also been known to support the local SPCA shop and the Oriental Plaza in Johannesburg. She admits to having “a solder (wardrobe) full of the dresses since 1980, thin clothes, medium clothes, fat clothes and shoes that would make Imelda Marcos melt.”


She does her own beautifully-manicured nails and supports a “great hair stylist” called Ella in Pieter-Dirk Uys’ hometown of Darling.


Close on 20 years ago, I was part of the film crew covering the event at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre when Evita "retired". She stripped herself down to the nearly-bare image of her creator to gasps of astonishment and horror — as in “she’s committing suicide!” — from the audience. "I was forced to retire from the diplomatic corpse because of the advent of democracy and the colour of my pigmentation,” she says. “But as we say 'boer maak 'n plan'. A good cook doesn't have to audition for party or place. Good food is good food."


Evita has written a number of books but one of her best-selling to date is Evita's BlackBessie. This was produced in response to the situation earlier this year when BlackBerry users across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Americas were hit with service disruptions to their smartphones.


Evita's BlackBessie works as a back-up file on paper — a book/diary/dossier, as it were — where you can enter important personal information and other vital networking details. It provides the opportunity for people to take their archival information back into their own hands, without reliance on cellphone technology and the risks that this entails.


As she explains, this information “… cannot be wiped out when the magnetic field misbehaves or somebody trips over the wire of some supercomputer. My grandchildren are trying to drag me out of the 60th century while I keep reminding them that civilization is thanks to the paper it was written up on.”


Evita's BlackBessie charts Evita’s fashion journey —as well as some of the high profile people in her life — as she advocates the importance of making lists to prioritise things that need to be done. The idea is to clear your mind of clutter, knowing that vital information is stored somewhere safe, leaving it clear to absorb new inspiration and develop new ideas.


There are blank pages attached to each chapter to add information relating to medical prescriptions, tax guidelines, service providers, valuable contact numbers etc. In the section on pets’ history, she quips: “Dogs have owners, cats have staff”! Another amusing comment is “Love your enemy — it will ruin his reputation”!


To the suggestion that the book seems to be "tidying up" her life, perhaps as a prelude to retirement, she firmly responds: "No, it just means that my days can be spent creatively and not trying to find out what must be done next. A list is 50% of the job. Work can be a pleasure."


Die boek is ook in Afrikaans gepubliseer as Evita se BlackBessie — maar NIE in elektroniese formaat nie.


Evita's BlackBessie retails at R180. ISBN: 978-1-4152-0158-9 It’s a delight and I’m about to start using it myself!


For a frank interview with Evita and Bambi, click here




Evita’s BlackBessie: One Part Organiser, Two Parts Personal

– Matthew McDonald, LitNet, 8 September 2011


The thoroughly well-informed man — that is the modern ideal. And the mind of the thoroughly well-informed man is a dreadful thing. It’s like a bric-a-brac shop, all monsters and dust, with everything priced above its proper value.” (Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray)


How far we’ve come. Is it now a truth universally acknowledged that a (wo)man in possession of a large fortune must also be in want of a smart phone? The appearance of Evita se BlackBessie certainly suggests this is so.


When she’s not on stage, it appears South Africa’s “most famous white woman” (her words) is also trying to corner the market on lifestyle-accessorising your bookshelf. Her previous opus, Evita se Kossie Sikelela, was a resounding success, and this year the Grande Dame of Darling follows that culinary page turner with her own take on the personal organiser, Evita se BlackBessie, published by Umuzi earlier this year in both English and Afrikaans editions.


Her theory is simple: people trust too much of their lives to too many small, blinking gadgets — BlackBerrys for some, iPhones for others, and on the other end of all of them sit the bloody agents of the technological revolution listening in for all your secrets. The same holds for the internet, opines The Divine Mev E: Facebook is for berating the grandkids, Twitter for reshaping the English language, and YouTube for those nights when there’s simply nothing at the DVD store.


What the modern person needs, she continues, is a private, easily accessible space to jot down the thoughts, lists, reflections and questions that clutter the mind, a place that Bill Gates cannot hack, and Steve Jobs cannot read, and Mr Video cannot molest with horrible track lighting — voilà the good old-fashioned notebook.


So, that’s what you get: a beautifully bound edition full of the thoughts and reflections of Mrs Mzanzi Most Fabulous herself, with plenty of additional pages in between left blank for your own musings. Handily, the blank pages are arranged in sections encompassing such diverse real-life scenarios as “Remembering”, “Happy/Mad”, “Twitter-Taal” and “Emergencies”, to name just some of the many that there are.


Each of these sections is book-ended by reflections and anecdotes from Evita herself — and most magically (to me), the entire edition is peppered with wonderful, campy photographs of the once HE Ambassador Bezuidenhout in her different walks of life — entertainer, diplomat, mother, grandmother and thorn in the Nat government’s side. The whole thing is just soaked in the humour and irreverence that have made Tannie Evita the national treasure she is.


Part Filofax, part nostalgia trip (“Thorn in my side, my sister Bambi, but reconciliation must start at home!”) and part ZA and the Art of Modern South African Lifestyle Maintenance, I foresee three places this latest Bezuidenhout creation will land: for the Evita-philes this will be a must-have addition to her growing canon; for the Evita-phobes it is just another glossy, pricey, but largely empty gift book propped up near the cash registers in Exclusives; and for those of us who love Tannie E, but still shudder a little at the thought of writing in a proper hard-bound book (ag nee, sies!), it’s an intriguing slice of South-Africana, whether you decide to fill it with your shopping lists or not.


Evita’s BlackBessie and Evita se BlackBessie are available at all good book outlets.