On 20 February 2005, Dalene Matthee died unexpectedly of heart failure in Mossel Bay. Her last resting place is Krisjan-se-Nek, one of her favourite spots in the Knysna Forest. Her ashes were also scattered here. After Dalene’s death, Mr Kitto Erasmus, former regional director of Environmental Affairs, suggested to the Matthee family that they should erect a memorial for Dalene in her beloved Knysna Forest. Mr Erasmus assisted Dalene with her research for Kringe in ‘n bos (Circles in a Forest), Fiela se kind (Fiela’s Child) and Moerbeibos (The Mulberry Forest).
On 23 February 2008 Dalene Matthee’s memorial was unveiled at Krisjan-se-Nek. The memorial was a joint undertaking between the Matthee children, SA National Parks (Sanparks) and Tafelberg Publishers. The memorial was designed by Trevor Clift and manufactured by artisan Dawid Augustyn of
JA Clift (Pty) Ltd of Paarl. The inscription on the stone was done by hand by the only artisan in the Cape who still does “V-cut” chiselling: the Italian Mick D’Aquanno.
At the unveiling of the memorial, the enormous Yellowwood tree of over 880 years at Krisjan-se-Nek was named after Dalene Matthee. Hence, it is now called the Dalene Matthee Big Tree. The name of the hiking trail starting at Krisjan-se-Nek was renamed and is now called the Circles in a Forest Trail.
Dr Razeena Wagiet, Sanparks’ director of People and Conservation at the time, said it was an honour for Sanparks to host the memorial as it fitted in perfectly with the department’s mandate to conserve the country’s cultural heritage.
Through Dalene Matthee’s books, the stories of the Knysna Forest took on a new life. We followed Saul Barnard and Old Foot on the forest footpaths in Circles in a Forest. We got to know the people of the forest in Fiela’s Child and The Mulberry Forest. And we got a glimpse of the magic of the forest through Karoliena Kapp in Dreamforest.