KZN’s own calendar girls

2009-12-19 00:00

THE village of Underberg in KZN’s southern Drakensberg is known for its pictu­resque landscapes, and it’s true that you can point a camera in virtually any direction and be sure of capturing a breathtaking image of natural beauty. But recent photographs of beauty in its natural state are causing ripples of discord in this quiet village, and residents are split on how they view the issue.

It started as a fun idea to raise funds to heat the local school swimming pool, but the calendar they chose to produce has landed 25 Underberg mothers in hot water.

“In Underberg, there is really only one month a year for children to take swimming lessons,” says Christy Murray, a Gauteng events organiser and mother of two, who relocated to the area three years ago and who is the driving force behind the calendar. “The rest of the year is just too cold.”

“At a recent birthday party, three mothers had to jump into the pool fully-clothed to rescue kids in trouble in the water.”

The moms decided something had to be done to get their children more swimming lessons, so mother-of-two Sue McKenzie suggested that they do as the women in the Calendar Girls movie did, and take their clothes off. The 2003 Calendar Girls movie is based on the true story of Yorkshire women who produced a nude calendar to raise funds for leukaemia research. And just like the movie, local reaction has been mixed. Underberg primary school, for which the funds are destined, has balked, headmaster Mike Corlett saying “although their fundraising drive and initiative is exciting and different, the school can’t be seen to be associated with this calendar”. Letters to the local newspaper show the community is divided between glowing praise, uncertainty and anger. Various concerns have been voiced.

Jenny Grinwis, a local photographer, life skills and Bible education teacher, who turned down invitations to work on the calendar, is not a fan. “Images of sex in the media bombard our children every day. If we expect our children to make godly decisions, we must lead from the top, not topless.”

“Residents in the community had heard the ladies were almost nude in this calendar,” says John Pearce, security co-ordinator for Underberg Community Watch, “and told us they were concerned what the effect in the community would be if the local work force had these pictures up on their walls, for instance.

“This is a small community and everyone knows everyone. But no one knows how some men might react — whether it’s a black labourer or a white guy full of ink [drunk].”

But the models say it’s been a positive experience. Calendar model Arthie Singh, a 34-year-old mom, says she was initially very nervous.

“As an Indian woman, I was shy to do this. But it was so much of fun; I’ve grown as a person and feel better about myself and my body now.”

Her co-worker, Pauline Mofokeng (34), who also appears in the calendar, echoes Singh’s sentiments. Interestingly, although both have their husband’s blessing, just as all the models do, neither Singh nor Mofokeng has told extended family. They think they’ll like what they see however.

“Those against it don’t know what they’re talking about,” says Sam, calendar model Candice Kynoch’s husband, “The photos are tasteful and nothing like some people imagine.”

A follow-up is already being suggested.

“We husbands might do a 2012 calendar,” he says, “Because rugby World Cup tickets aren’t cheap.”

Calendars go on sale in the new year. For inquiries or to sponsor the Underberg NUD(e) calendar, call 082 994 2068.

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