M’hudi: My Other Family

Malmsey and Diale Rangaka are causing me to consider seriously topics like reincarnation, fate, and destiny. I find the couple so eerily similar to my own family, I am in awe that life has allowed me to make their acquaintance. Why am I so drawn to this family that grew up in a bush 10,000 miles away and many decades ago?

Finding the answer to those questions has defined my life for the last two and a half years. Telling their story has become an obsession. So much so, that anyone who speaks of my story must now include the Rangakas in the narrative.

In 2003, Malmsey and Diale became the first black family to own a vineyard in South Africa.  The only thing more shocking than it taking 350 years for this to transpire is that they knew nothing about wine. Nothing!  Do you know how difficult it is to cultivate dirt into a moderately adequate livelihood for a family of five? Do you know that it takes at least three years before you can even begin to sniff at the notion of a “return on investment” from estate vines?

There is a famous saying that goes, “If you want to make a small fortune in the wine industry, you should first begin with a large one.”. An absence of capital and technical knowledge in the wine business is grounds for psychiatric evaluation. In fact, I wonder who could’ve let this happen!?

Like some black people, I am quite sensitive – dare I say paranoid – and frequently see conspiracy theories.  Selling the Rangakas a wine farm under the aforementioned conditions is what I would call, “the okey-doke”.
{White Farmer}: Can you believe these guys are buying a vineyard!? I mean, they’re not even from the Western Cape!! This is going to be gooood…!

That was seven years ago. The Rangakas did not beg mercifully for retreat back to their professional lives as a physician and aprofessor in Johannesburg, and in fact, quite the opposite. M’hudi (with the help of their mentors and neighbors at Villiera) has paved the way for blacks in South Africa’s wine industry, and are an inspiration to people of all colors worldwide. They are now accompanied by their close friends the Klenyhans family (Seven Sisters), as the sole black families that own any dirt in the entire Western Cape Winelands. They’ve captured my imagination, and ignited a quietly defiant spirit within that believes I too can change history.

So, as a first entry for Africa.com, I would like to take the opportunity to raise a glass to my “other” family for helping me find my other self. And, to toast all of the courageous pioneers, “firsts”, and the audacious revolutionaries who have made a better world for us all. Thank you.

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