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cliff richard lives here BETTIE COETZEE

about the author In stead of playing Bingo or knitting baby shoes, Bettie Coetzee has plunged into student assignments of a one year Higher Certificate in Photography course at Vega School in Cape Town. A late interest in a long career of mostly writing about other’s art, wielding the camera has become a fulfilling and meaningful activity. In addition she delights in playing granny to her daughter, Liezl’s eight Huskies and four Appaloosas.

contents about the author thank you to love imagination dream come true happy face noddy bed with noddy transported cliff richard rhythms cliffie with cliff moist fenced cliffie room at adams farm home postcard at constantia home noddy book noddy on pillow

puzzled cliffie id fantasy lucky packet my drawing happy drawing vir bettie magic scotty pie with mommy happy whole egg my cake cliff richard lives here he lives here too copyrighted cliffie story

first published in 2016 by bettie coetzee photographer Copyrighted published edition Photographs Šbettie coetzee photographer asserts the moral right to be identified as the author/photographer of this work. All Rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the copyright holder.

thank you to cliffie botha and frances hills

gerhardt coetzee

for sharing your story with me

for your endless patience

love imagination

dis solves ab solves

fragment into

whole ness

got myself a cry’in

walk’n sleep’n talk’n

live’n doll

all things are so beautifull’, ‘


cliff richard lives here explores the contradictions between fragmentation and wholeness through the prism of the life of someone who suffers from cerebral palsy and has spent most of her life in institutions under the loving care of her sister, frances hills.

cliffie’s story The pages of the Noddy book are upside down between her wrinkled fingers. Her words slur as she tells me about her hero, Cliff Richard. Moving on to her imaginary stage, she belts out the words to all his songs from the Sixties. They seem to tumble in random fashion past an obstructing tongue. This doesn’t deter Cliffie from chanting in chorus with Cliff’s voice in the background. The little CD player beams his voice into a room packed with happiness. Every inch, including the large double bed, is filled with stuff. No other word than ‘stuff’, can describe the arrangement of plastic shopping bags from which scraps of paper, string and the miniature creatures from Lucky Packets peep out. Her favourite soft toys - Noddy dolls of every size - languish alongside a tiny tin guitar. “Will you sing for me?” I ask, discovering the tone of my voice changing to a high note at the end. With a furtive glance at the picture of her hero on the wall, she slings the guitar across onto her shoulder. Identical to his. Hers however rests above the stomach, not cool on the hip. Fingers clenched, vigorous strumming follows. Who cares if, what should have been a Cliff Richard melody, fits into no known tune. On one note Cliffie’s voice trails through the air, fingers hammering up and down in one single rhythm. Up and down. How many listeners in her invisible audience would notice when some syllables get sucked into the back of her throat, instead of emerging through an exhale. I avoid the empty eyes of the singer. It is not difficult because her face IS turned to the ceiling. Any moment the real Cliff could descend from the heights of fame. “Yes, I sleep here,” she answers my question, whilst parting with her stringed ‘magic wand’. A broad smile softens the wrinkles as she switches the CD-player off. Two chubby arms scrum away the assembly of bags and dolls on the bed. An opening appears, just large enough for her to slide into. Two heads meet on the loving pillow: Cliffie’s and Noddy’s. My thoughts return to the institution for the Cerebral Palsied, Adam’s Farm Home where we’ve fetched her to spend the weekend at her second home, her sister’s house in Constantia. In Adams’s Farm Cliffie shares a hall, partitioned into six units, with other mentally disabled woman. She walks us down the central aisle between two rows of beds, all with colourful personal decorations, soft dolls, pictures, and other odds and ends. It seems a happy home. Cliffie’s section consists of a neatly made up bed, a cupboard, a desk. Functional. Bare. But the sun flows through the windows. Right now, I’m in her Constantia weekend home. Here texture and sound colours her life. “Cliff Richard Lives Here”, on a poster on her bedroom door, welcomes me. This is where I hear the 64-year old Cliffie’s voice, addressing her slightly older sister, Frances as “Mommy” in the voice of a pre-schooler. Two rooms, the one clinically bare, the other a feast of possessions. Here I meet the two in one: Marie Opperman from her ID-document and Cliffie. A woman a man. A child an adult. Fragmented. And Whole.

a blessing

baruch atah adonai eloheinu melech ha-olam m’shaneh habriot

blessed are you the eternal our g-d ruler of the world who makes creatures different