Verna Barbara Robertson Vels was born on 13 June 1933 in Reitz in the Free State. She also matriculated there in 1951, after which she attended the University of Pretoria. In 1954 she completed a BA Degree, majoring in Afrikaans and Dutch, English and Art History. She started working at the SABC in Durban in December 1954 as a radio presenter. She would be involved in the radio and television industry for the rest of her professional life.
She was transferred to Johannesburg in 1963 where she was responsible for the SABC’s women, childrens and art programming. In 1968 she worked in Hilversum in the Netherlands for Radio South Africa’s foreign service. In the mid-1970s she shifted her attention from radio to television. She started out in television as a director, but by the time of her retirement in 1993 she was the woman with the highest executive position in the South African television industry.
The Liewe Heksie stories started out on the radio and the first one was broadcast in 1961 on the children’s programme Siembamba. Two years later, it was launched as an independent series of radio programmes, and in 1964 the first book was published by Human & Rousseau. Liewe Heksie was later made into a television programme. It was also released on video, as well as on LP, cassette and CD. In 1999, Liewe Heksie en die rekenaar was published. It was awarded the Tienie Holloway Medal, the ATKV Children’s Award and the C.P. Hoogenhout Award.
Did you know?
||The idea of Liewe Heksie's charachter occurred to Verna when she saw the Walt Disney movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and in particular the scenes where the nasty witch intimidated Snow White. Many years later, she thought it would be a good idea to write about a little witch who is somewhat slow and forgetful, while Blommeland with its valuable silver rose was inspired by the Richard Strauss opera Der Rosenkavalier.
||Children's programmes such as Kraaines and Wielie-Walie were conceived under Verna's guidance. She was also the voice of the character of Bennie Boekwurm in Wielie-Walie.
|| Liewe Heksie made her debut on South African television in 1978 in a series of 26 episodes. A second season followed in 1981.
||Verna was also the voice artist for the characters Blommie, Heksie and Klein Kwaaitjie in the Liewe Heksie TV show.
Books still in print
Die Liewe Heksie Omnibus, Human & Rousseau (2002)
Liewe Heksie en die rekenaar, Human & Rousseau (1999)
Awards and Honours
Rapportryers (1985) – For the Liewe Heksie series
Artes Award (1993) – For her contribution to broadcasting
FAK Prize (1996) – For the advancement of the Performing Arts
Tienie Holloway Medal (2000) – Liewe Heksie en die rekenaar
ATKV Children’s Book Award (2001) – Liewe Heksie en die rekenaar
C.P. Hoogenhout Award (2002) – Liewe Heksie en die rekenaar
Children’s and youth books
1965 Liewe Heksie, Human & Rousseau
1965 Liewe Heksie kom weer, Human & Rousseau
1968 Liewe Heksie en Matewis, Human & Rousseau
1969 Liewe Heksie in die pekel, Human & Rousseau
1973 Liewe Heksie gaan maan toe, Human & Rousseau
1973 Liewe Heksie vang vis, Human & Rousseau
1978 Alet, Perskor
1978 Liewe Heksie en die silwerrroos, Human & Rousseau (TV-uitgawe)
1978 Liewe Heksie en die sterretjieskombuis, Human & Rousseau (TV-uitgawe)
1979 Liewe Heksie in die helikopter, Human & Rousseau (TV-uitgawe)
1981 Liewe Heksie maak ’n plan, Human & Rousseau (TV-uitgawe)
1983 Liewe Heksie Stories, Human & Rousseau
1983 Die Groot Liewe Heksie Storieboek, Human & Rousseau
1988 Liewe Heksie en die rugbywedstryd, Human & Rousseau
1999 Liewe Heksie en die rekenaar en ander stories, Human & Rousseau
2002 Die Liewe Heksie Omnibus, Human & Rousseau