Telling the stories of SA’s fisherwomen

The women behind Beyond the Blue, from left, Ingrid Jones, Tracey Dennis and Professor Moenieba Isaacs from UWC.

A new book, Beyond the Blue, will be launched this weekend in Hout Bay, telling the stories of women who fish the ocean to survive.

The book is a snapshot of the world of fishing-rights complexities, entrepreneurship, motherhood, and making a living from the sea, according to the author, Professor Moenieba Isaacs.

“It’s a story of overcoming a legacy to preserve,” she says.

The book is the result of a project Professor Isaac led at UWC’s Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies project at UWC (UWC-PLAAS).

Women from fishing communities along the South African coastline participated in workshops about alternative livelihoods and were provided with training and skills to create sustainable livelihoods for themselves and their families.

Professor Isaacs says this training process took place over many years and culminated in a week-long stay at The Grail Centre in Kleinmond, where interviews and discussions were conducted with 17 women, mainly from the areas of Arniston/Waenhuiskrans, Buffeljagsbaai, Hout Bay, Kleinmond, Langebaan, Ocean View, Pearly Beach, Port Nolloth, Saldanha and Struisbaai.

“The institute has developed a strong national, regional, and international reputation for doing in-depth research and providing high quality scholarship and training. Its theory of change puts UWC-PLAAS research at the centre of its work,” says Professor Isaacs.

“Through its research, UWC-PLAAS teaches, trains and nurtures young black scholars from the sub-Saharan Africa region; it also engages in many policy and community platforms.”

Adele Marx, from Hout Bay, has been fishing since the age of 12 and now has two sons also out at sea, operating some bigger boats to support their families.

While they are away, Ms Marx cares for her elderly grandfather and mother, using what she catches from the ocean to help make it through another day.

“My parents never had jobs, but all they did was fishing and they managed to keep us fed and a roof over our heads. My father would catch and mother would stand and clean, and sell too,” she says.

When she was old enough, she started “flekking” her first fish just before her 11th birthday.

She laughs, saying: “My mother was actually angry with me and made me clean my own fish for my birthday. My father saw this and then taught me how to do it, and then I wanted to know more about what they were doing so early up every morning.”

Ms Marx now heads out early each morning to Hout Bay Harbour with the hope of a good day at sea.

“Every day I pray before I board the boat. Every day I ask and every day I receive. Whether it’s one or two fish, I know I got my family covered,” she says.

Beyond the Blue is to be released on Sunday November 20 at The Space Cafe in Hout Bay, from 2.30pm. Copies will also be on sale.