Hilton Frank Biscombe, friend, writer, filmmaker and keeper of memories in Stellenbosch, born in 1953 in what is now called Ryneveld Lodge, passed away on 26 April 2022.
As researchers at Africa Open Institute, we remember Hilton Frank Biscombe for the significant impact that he had as a keeper of memories in Stellenbosch. When Hilde Roos and Wayne Muller initiated a group-written account of the Eoan Cape Town opera group, it was Hilton’s compiled book about Stellenbosch’s histories of forced removals, In ons Bloed (2006), that provided the model for the Eoan community-written book, published as Eoan – Our Story (2013).
Also, when musicians Esther Marie Pauw and Garth Erasmus presented a music curation at the Rupert Museum to remember the racial evictions from ‘Roesdorp’ in 2015, it was Hilton Biscombe who pointed the way to meeting and walking with (Uncle) Wallace Adams, whose memories of 37 years of living in Aan de Wagenweg’s ‘Kuyperhuis’ (Roesdorp) until 1971 were included in In ons Bloed.
In addition, Hilton was the person who pointed the institute’s research to Pieter Okkers (1943-2021) and his wife, Sarah Okkers. Pieter’s grandfather, Pieter James Andrew Okkers (1875-1952) inherited the properties from his father, Piet Okkers, and built the houses and lived with his wife Rosina Catherina Daneel and children at Joubert Street numbers 5 and 7.
Hilton Biscombe’s swift connection between a 1903 map indicating the name of P. Okkers in Joubert Street, and the current generation of Okkers family who reside in Erasmus Smit Street, helped fill in the stories that Pauw researched. A significant thread in filling in the life writing of 7 Joubert Street was possible due to family relations that surrounded Hilton Biscombe, notably the memories of his mother-in-law, Rosina Cathrine ‘Sinnie’ Gordon.
Rosina had been born in one of the houses in Joubert Street – no 5 – and her daughter, Hilton’s wife, Colleen Biscombe, recounts how her mother had hoped to visit the houses once more. Sadly, she passed away before doing so. Sinnie’s daughter, Colleen, and granddaughter Monique (Biscombe), however, since visited 7 Joubert Street – Africa Open Institute – for tea and concerts and attended the inauguration that also named the house as Pieter Okkers House.
Hilton Biscombe once remarked that researchers and historians need to remember to say from whom they receive stories. At Africa Open we wish to honour the memory of Hilton Biscombe, and to thank him for his stories, regular publications in Eikestadnuus, books, poetry, photo exhibition at Lückhoff School in Banhoekweg, and films. We bid farewell to this scholar, historian, artist and friend.