Connecting passion with purpose

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With an encyclopaedic knowledge about the West Coast, Felicity Strohfeldt has found her perfect fit.

Super-charged and highly communicative, Felicity Strohfeldt not only focuses intensely on the history of West Coast fishing in her job as South African Fisheries Museum curator, but also is active in promoting regional tourism. To give these passions starring roles in her life, she rearranged her priorities accordingly and has become one of the leading figures in Laaiplek. “It’s been the best move I’ve ever made!” she said.

Based in Hout Bay until 2008, the museum closed its doors as a result of affirmative action and the Velddrif heritage organisation negotiated for the collection to move to Laaiplek harbour. Felicity’s job entails researching the fishing history, taking stock regularly, working with visitors, tourist groups, school children and school outreach programmes.

The SA Fisheries Museum highlights the West Coast fishing history from whaling to pelagic fishing and rock lobster catching, interweaving local history from the past to the present. It’s housed in a building that dates back to 1850 when Carl Stephan established his lucrative trading empire at Rooibaai in front of the building. Because this area has retained so much charm of yesteryear, it’s easy to visualise the scene when his fleet of 60-plus boats sailed up and down the Berg River to trade dried, salted fish to Moorreesburg farmers in exchange for their grain. The grain was then transferred onto the ship Alabama and transported to Cape Town where slaves in the harbour greeted the arrival with the Afrikaans folk song Daar kom die Alabama.

Felicity explained, “Exhibits in the Fisheries Museum include a rare collection of artefacts, old photos, processing methods, trawler models, as well as interesting tales of the ocean and the intrepid seamen who sail on it.

“The best part of my job is working with history on a daily basis. And it’s a privilege to live and work in peaceful Laaiplek – just another day in the office!”

Born and bred in Paarl, Felicity taught English and Art in Milnerton and Bonnievale before she and husband Willie moved to Laaiplek to both teach at the Velddrif High School. Believing that the joy of pursuit lasts a lifetime, she ‘retired’ to her current job in 2009.

Wanting to add value to her community, she also serves on the West Coast Tourism Committee and is chairperson of the Afrikaanse Taal & Kultuur Vereeniging (despite being English-speaking!). In the former role, she contributed generously to the recent successful West Coast Makietie at Laaiplek/Velddrif themed ‘Unity in Diversity’. Riel dances, traditional Xhosa dances, entertainment, stalls and boat trips were at the order of the day.

Serial animal rescuers, Felicity and her husband live a charming life in Laaiplek with two cats and three dogs, while a third cat resides at the museum. And when there’s a need to escape, camping is their holiday of choice.

FAST FACTS
I veg out with Zen drawing
My sport is swimming
My pet place on the West Coast is Laaiplek
My favourite restaurant is Die Vishuis in Velddrif
I love eating harders on the coals
My signature drink is red wine
On TV I enjoy historical programmes
The sports I like watching are cricket and rugby
My favourite reads are historical fiction or non-fiction

Felicity can be contacted on seaquiz@mweb.co.za