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
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
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.