A Cape Flats talent is no more.
John Fredericks, the man who wrote the story that became the movie Noem My Skollie, lost his battle against cancer on Sunday.
I didn’t know Uncle John personally, but I was fascinated by his achievements.
You see, I do what I do, because of a chance encounter I had as a boy with the notable author Adam Small.
I met him during a short story workshop I was lucky to attend at UCT in the late 1980s.
I was so taken by the man, that through circumstances I made sure I ended up at St Columba’s High in Athlone, the same school where he matriculated.
Writers and academics from the Cape Flats have always inspired me.
Fredericks comes from the other side of the scholarly spectrum, which is why I revere him almost more.
He lived his life differently and used that experience to show our community that your circumstances do not have to dictate your future.
It’s a story that resonates with me strongly.
I wrote about Fredericks a few months ago.
I was privileged enough to get a direct Facebook message from him a few days later.
He wasn’t happy with everything I had said and made that clear.
But he was also complimentary and encouraging.
Here is an edited version of his message: “Hi Bobby. I always read your Voice page. So for that matter everything that I know about you comes from there.
"Today for the 1st time, I read what other people have written. Please listen to MY story before you label me. I’ve been labelled before. I am a storyteller and I describe my characters. It is easy to create a character with green eyes, blonde hair and pink cheeks, but you can’t go on a writing journey with such a fake character. Maybe someday I will finish what I started and take you on a journey to show you how I’m turning this negative into a positive.”
Sadly I will never know what that journey was going to entail.
But I do believe a lot of positive has come out of the negatives of his life; and I feel honoured to have had the brief interaction and the consideration.
R.I.P. Uncle John.