Portrait of an Adderley Street flower seller

The iconic Adderley Street flower market in Cape Town is a colourful highlight for locals and tourists alike. RA’EESA PATHER spent a dreary Thursday morning there and spoke to Sandra Bosman about her life and her work.

Sandra Bosman

I’ve been selling flowers for 20 years now. My mother was still alive when I started, but she’s gone from us seven years now. I’m here every day, even when it rains. What can I do? Nobody’s working for me.

I wake up 7 o’ clock, my husband wakes up at 6:30am. I don’t make breakfast. I must come home from work and make supper and breakfast also? No ways. After I get ready, I get onto a train at Retreat Station. I was born in Retreat. I don’t want to stay other places. The CBD is very different from home.

You see the signs on the shops? My husband does that. I’ve got three kids, but not from him. I’ve only been married three years now. They’re my ex-boyfriend’s children. My youngest child is 25-years-old.

My boyfriend drank a lot and I left him. He was abusing me and my children. He hit me, he stabbed me in my arm with a knife. I lived with him for five years. I came to work even when he beat me, I couldn’t stay at home. After five years I said “Go, I can’t take it any more.” I haven’t seen him in 25 years.

I wanted to sell flowers, even when I was younger. I grew up with flowers. My mother, my grandmother, and my aunts sold Proteas. My mother didn’t sell fresh flowers, she sold dried flowers. I started with fresh flowers here.

The flowers come in boxes from Jo’burg, the trucks bring them. We order, then maybe we get one box of flowers. There are flowers from Cape Town, but not a lot.

I like roses, the red and white ones. A rose is a beautiful thing. God made it beautiful. God gave us every colour.

I sit here from 9am until 6pm but sometimes my first customer for the day only comes at 1 o’clock or 2 o’clock. I look at the time and I think, “I’ve only sold my first bunch now?” I sell about ten bunches a day: R30 for one bunch, and two bunches for R50. I’m satisfied with what little I’ve got. Some days, I might make more money if I have lilies or tulips.

Flowers are my bread and butter. I work for the food, and I pay my debts, and my husband works for the rent.

You know, when I was 18, I worked in a factory in Woodstock, making clothes. That time, when I worked there, I got R32 a week. But that was a lot of money, hey. Now, every Sunday I go to Shoprite, and when I go in there and I go to the till, the stuff is R300 or R400.

We don’t make so much in winter with the rain. Then I just go home with nothing. I pack my flowers away, and there’s a guy here for 24 hours who looks after them. I take the train to Retreat Station and I get a taxi home.

But tomorrow morning I must come early, the flowers are coming.


* As told to Ra’eesa Pather


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