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Bettie Cilliers-Barnard

The well known South African artist Bettie Cilliers-Barnard is very much part of the Blue Bulls family since she started to date and later married "Bags" Cilliers.

Bags Cilliers played for the first ever Northern Transvaal team in 1938 after captaining Tukkies from 1934-1937 and later served as a member of the Executive Committee for numerous years.

Cilliers was one the Board of SA Rugby from 1958-1961 and worked at the University of Pretoria where he was involved at various levels for the biggest part of his life. Unfortunately Bags passed away in 2001 but his 94-year-old wife, Bettie, is still healthy and strong and she set aside a few minutes to talk to the Bulls' website in her house in Menlo Park, Pretoria.

Where did you and Bags meet?

Bags was playing for Tuks' first team in the 1930's and while I was still a junior at University he asked me to come and watch one of their games. I remember I couldn't go to the game he initially asked me to, but he did not give up and asked me out again. I did go to the second game and that is where we started to get to know one another. We married in 1942 and two children, Jana (Jana Cilliers is the famous actor) and Wimcar, were born out of the marriage. We had a wonderful marriage and he was always very good to me and we always respected one another.

Tell us about the early days with Bags?

After I completed my studies I went on to teach at Learskool Innisdal and later on I was a lecturer at NKP. We stayed in a house in Lynwood Road, opposite where the Lynnpark Butchery is, and he built a hut for me in the back of our garden where I was able to work on my paintings.

What was the most important lesson that you told your students?

I told them over and over again that they must be themselves. One should be honest with oneself. I told them to learn from other people, but I stressed that they must become who they are. They must not try to be a copy of any other person.

Do you still enjoy following rugby?

O yes! When I started to watch Bags play I fell in love with the game and I learned everything there is to know about rugby. I also followed the Bulls as well as Tuks through the years and I must say that I was quite impressed by Peter de Villiers' Springboks in 2008. I studied the new laws and I know what's going on in the modern game.

Rumour has it that you never miss a game

That's true. I either watch it on TV or listen to it on the radio. I also read the daily newspapers and follow what is been said in the Sunday papers.

Who was your favourite Blue Bulls player?

It is difficult question but I loved our dashing captain Naas Botha. Bags had the highest admiration for Naas and always told his friends what a humble and shy person Naas was. People use to say that Naas was arrogant but Bags said he did not like the limelight and withdrew when he was surrounded by lots of people, but that should not be mistaken for arrogance. He is a lovely person and he came to visit me the other day.

You are one of the best artist in South Africa. Are you still able to paint?

Yes, I enjoyed it since I was young and to this very day I am able to paint and to be creative.

Where did your interest in the arts come from?

I think it must have been from the Art History classes that I took at Tuks. I always wanted to be a writer but I also enjoyed Mathematics - although I wasn't able to combine Mathematics with Literature at Tuks. Therefore I took Art History instead of Mathematics and I loved it from day one. I have always had a longing for space and spirituality and through my art I am able to express it.

Tell us about life at 94

My memory is still fine and it is a privilege to be able to paint, but my hip tells me that I am not young any more. I accepted the fact that there are going to be a few ailments at my age but it does not frustrate me, I learned to live with it.

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