When my friend Kerry casually dropped 6 books on a table amongst friends, she said “Oh, I have a few books of my mom’s story, if anyone wants to read it.” I’m pretty sure I elbowed our other friend Robin out the way to be one of the first ones to read it. Sorry Robin.
The book Colours of Africa – The Alexa Kirsten Story was written by Debra Hunter and published by Hunter publishing, New Zealand, in 2013.
“We shall not cease from exploring, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time” – T.S. Eliot
The books goes into detail of how this family started their African journey back in 1938. When Alexa’s mother, Lexie, and her best friend Faith arrived in Cape Town, South Africa from England, to start their epic adventure travelling and hitch-hiking through Africa. The British pair had very little money, but a whole lot of heart, and this was my first insight into the strength and character of the women of this family.
During the war in 1943, Lexie was a qualified physiotherapist when she met South African solider, Charles Campbell Elliot. It was love at first sight and the pair were married within 2 weeks in Tripoli, Libya. On 27 July, 1952, Alexa Helen Jessie Elliot was born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa to this remarkable couple. She was their 3rd child, and first daughter. Tich, Alexa’s younger sister followed 18 months later.
When Alexa’s family moved to Knysna she met her would-be-husband, Steve Kirsten. In 1973 the couple got married in The Holy Trinity Church in Knysna. Fun fact: this was the first building to be designed by a female Architect in Africa.
From Knysna the couple then settled in Wellington after the birth of their first child, a daughter, Kerry. Once there they went on to have a second child, Ben, and 10 years later Luke made his appearance.
“God, send me anywhere, only go with me. Lay any burden on me, only sustain me. And sever any tie in my heart, except the tie that binds my heart to Yours” – David Livingstone (1813-73), explorer
Monday morning, 7 February, 2005
Alexa heard a scream coming from the neighbours house and ran over to investigate. She entered the house calling out, but there was no reply. And then she saw him. A short dark male figure emerging from the shadows. He said nothing. Alexa slowly turned around and walked back towards the back door and then she felt it. She has been hit alongside the head with an old iron door stopper. She staggered and then fell to the floor. He then went on to stab her in the back of the neck 17 times. She was left for dead.
But she was not gone. She very clearly recalls herself leaving her body and rising up above the scene with a complete sense of freedom and peace. She was completely calm and pain free in that moment. But she felt something holding her down, she describes it as the Hand of God, not allowing her to rise any further. But it didn’t last, she found herself back inside her body once again, the fear and pain returning, she could see the figure running away. Her neighbour had been killed in the attack. Alexa was taken to hospital and began her very long road to recovery.
She ultimately testified in court along with many witnesses and her attacker was sentenced to life in prison. Alexa, has chosen to live a life free of hatred, filled with forgiveness and overflowing with courage. She now does public speaking, helping women who have been through crisis to bring comfort and support and she also speaks at prisons, helping to shed light and conform (I can only imagine the courage it must take to go there).
Alexa has always had a love for art, but even more so since her attack. Her colours are even more vivid and her illustrations even more charismatic. She is also a remarkable story teller. The biography features letters she has written to her neighbour since the attack as a form of therapy. It’s through these letters that you start to see the true artist behind artwork. She is a very talented writer and painter.
You can view her cloth work on her Facebook page Colours of Africa Cloth or via her website.
I can’t wait to commission her to create a memory cloth for my own family; it’s a beautiful way to hold onto our stories and memories.
My thanks go out to Alexa Kirsten for sharing your story with such strength and grace. You are truly an inspirational woman and one simply cannot come across your story and remain unchanged.
Debra Hunter, for writing Alexa’s story.
My friend Kerry for boldly sharing her mother’s story with us.
” I begin to understand a little more of why God allowed me back and gave me another shot at life – this is indeed a violent, fearful and angry land. With so much bitterness and hatred, it is so easy to become part of the negative talk and situation. I was able to put this to these men, the fear and hatred that abounds outside the prison walls – from people who have been violated and traumatised by the things that they had done – their crimes. The ordinary people live in fear – fear for themselves and their loved ones, people who are shocked by the terrible, unbelievable awful things that happen these days.I pray with all my heart that my story, told to these, the most unlovely of men, might touch their hearts and that they may turn from their old lives, that they may make restitution with those whose lives they have destroyed, with themselves, and ultimately with God himself.” – Alexa Kirsten
The Kirsten family still lives happily in South Africa and cherishes everyday, even Great- Grandmother Lexie is doing well at 103.4 years old!
I hope this story has inspired you as much as it did me.