There are incredibly special people that come in and out of our lives and Mam Es is one of those ladies. Just scroll through our social media videos and find our team dancing “Jerusalema” and in the middle Mam Es makes a gorgeous appearance. Dancing outside Room 66 with that special spring in her step and her unique style.
Eslina Hadebe grew up on the Oliviershoek Farm in the Cavern valley and as a youngster she hiked far to school at Obonjaneni Primary near Royal Natal National Park. In the early part of her working life she helped out on the Everitt’s dairy farm which is now Alpine Heath and then she moved to Harrismith where she worked for the du Toit family, first cooking and then helping to take care of their eldest boy.
In 1990 she arrived at The Cavern and began working in the playroom. Minding children and then helping service rooms and finally keeping sheets washed, towels sundried (as only Cavern towels are!) and ironing a million serviettes for three meals daily. She retired at the age of 60 and is now the Gogo of the house, tending the children, helping cook for the family and weaving her magic by creating beautiful baskets.
Mam Es’ baskets are sold in our Cavern Hlolela Store. Each is intricately woven and no-two are exactly the same. It’s a skill she learnt from her husband’s mother and she too is concerned that the younger generation are not taking up this local craft. But, it’s not just basket work that keeps her busy, during the hard months of Lockdown Eslina was industrious and made scatter cushions from donations of fabrics. And, presently she is assembling the most beautiful bead and button hanging curtain. This is a lady who is not idle. Her hands are busy and she says that she can create a medium size laundry basket in 3 days so long as the children don’t “hlupha” her!
Eslina began building her home in the amaZizi Village in 1994. We were welcomed warmly, shown around and had the best coke and lemon creams on a toasty March afternoon. My parents accompanied me for the drive and we shared stories. My old man comments about my mum’s lack of cooking skills to which Mam Es replied that he could probably get his Labola back!
Life in the village is not without its hardships. Monthly supplies are sourced in Bergville, 50kms away and the one challenge is getting fresh water from the taps. As Es mentioned, we have nothing if we have no water. On days when the taps are dry she has to go further to pump water from the boreholes. But, she admits that she is happy here and so grateful for the space. The mealies and veggies haven’t done so well this year because we have had too much rain but she is surrounded by her family and she’ll be popping back into our valley, once Jack Frost has been, to collect her weaving grass so she can continue to make and create all baskets beautiful.
This marvellous month of March we are giving away lekker, local goodies. This week it is a laundry basket crafted by Mam Es. When you visit us next, do pop into our store and see what’s on sale. It’s a wonderful keepsake from our area. These are sure to be more treasured possessions in time!