It is a sad time in the Karoo. Richmond’s annual BoekBedonnerd Booktown, the longest continuously running live literary festival in South Africa, has been cancelled. This announcement was made by organisers Darryl David and Peter Baker in Issue No 55 of the New Richmond Reader. After 15 years the Northern Cape Government has stopped its sponsorship. “Sadly this year we were planning to honour Athol Fugard, one of the Karoo’s most famous sons – a man who is hailed as the world’s greatest living playwright,” said Peter. “We had the support of the Fugard fraternity, the Market Theatre’s world-renowned actor/producer James Ngcobo as well as from former Fugard Theatre directors Greg Karvellas and Ben Du Plessis. They were all ecstatic that a wee Karoo dorp was aiming to honour this humble man by dedicating a festival to him, his plays and the stage.” Peter added that neither Darryl nor he had taken this decision lightly and that the Karoo would be poorer for the loss of Booktown. “Over the years Booktown has been central to our lives. It led to countless new friendships, introductions and experiences. It gave birth to two new, highly successful events – the Children’s Literary Festival and Madibaland World Literary Festival. Both are on line events, which perhaps is the way to go to get huge participation from people around the globe, but sadly it lacks intimacy and warmth. No one can enjoy sitting and chatting with one of the presenters. Some literary events charge entry fees, but we preferred small, intimate gatherings. This ensured non-elitist events. Sadly commercial sponsorship evaded us for the entire lifetime of the festival, though it wasn’t for lack of trying. We were thus completely reliant upon the Northern Cape Provincial Government. Perhaps, now all we can hope for is a miracle.”


Plans are now in the pipeline to establish the Rose Willis Reading Room in Loxton. The idea was born when Rose met Afrikaans journalist, Christo Volschenk, who was returning to South Africa from Germany and had managed to buy a house virtually next door to his grandfather’s old home in Loxton. Rose was looking for a home for her library of Karoo and other history books. These had been collected over the 30 years during which she has been involved in researching the Karoo and its peoples. Rose wanted to keep the library “together” and Christo offered to “adopt” it, take the books back to the Karoo, where both felt they belonged, and create a reading room for researchers interested in the ecology of the dryland, the Anglo-Boer War, items of general history of the interior and so on. After that the idea took off. Several people in Loxton became interested and joined Christo in his planning. Then it was decided to incorporate the room into the plans for a new heritage route. Everything is still in the planning stages, but it’s an exciting project. We’ll keep you posted.


The Biodiversity & Development Institute (BDI), in association with the Karoo Research Centre and Khoisan Karoo Conservancy at New Holme Guest farm near Hanover, is hosting some interesting courses for birders. Enthusiasts are invited to join Professor Les Underhill, Dieter Oschadleus and Tino Herselman from July 15 to 19 for a Winter Bird Atlas Bash to mark the start of regular monitoring. Its aim is to capture high quality data on bird distributions in this area. Then there are two opportunities bird ringing. These sessions, led by Dieter Oschadleus, bird ringing coordinator at SAFRING, will allow enthusiasts to contribute to an important long-term citizen-science project, ring birds, interact with local ornithologists and conservationists. A special site has been selected to maximize the number of species that can be netted and ringed. The courses are scheduled for September 1 to 7 and October 31 to November 6. More from Those who wish to stay longer can enjoy New Holme’s 8 000ha Khoisan Karoo Conservancy which includes the Karoo Gariep Nature Reserve the only venue with hippos in the Northern Cape, the Hanover Aardvark Nature Reserve. Or Seekoei Conservancy. These offer a wide range of accommodation. More from


Researchers are now seeking a “forgotten” highway – the north-bound route of the old explorers, missionaries and migrant farmers. To celebrate this a 20-day Forgotten Highway Horse and Wagon Expedition, is scheduled to take place on the road between Sutherland and Griquatown. “The Expedition will consist of a horse-and-cart team, and about 10 other people travelling along the route together. We also invite other interested horse-and-cart enthusiasts, donkey-cart drivers, cyclists, runners, or simply Karoo lovers, to join from the start or from anywhere along the way,” says Doreen Atkinson, secretary of the Karoo Development Foundation which is planning the route. A ‘”test” expedition, organized by Piet Coetzer of Vreugde Vlaamperd Breeding Stud in Senekal in the Free State, rode from Hopetown to the Karoopoort Pass, south of Sutherland in September 2020 and received widespread publicity. “Organising such an expedition is complex,” added Doreen. “The horses have to be cared for, stabled, and fed and the safety of the participants is important.” More from WhatsApp 071 401 2583 or The route will be extended to Kuruman during this year.


Between the mid-1700s and mid-1800s, an increasing number of people travelled from the Cape Colony to the new frontier along the Orange River. In the 1780s a route went northwards from Tulbagh, through the Karoo, via Sutherland, Fraserburg, Carnarvon, Griquatown, or Blinkklip (later called Postmasburg) and Danielskuil to Kuruman. Now, by tracing this old routethe Karoo Development Foundation aims to re-discover the cultural heritage of the many different people who lived in this far-flung part of the country, coupled to key historic events and happenings throughout the area. “This will be an intrinsically multi-cultural experience and we will provide travellers, who wish to explore, with on-line information, as well as pamphlets,” said Doreen Atkinson, KDF secretary. “The whole area is an important crucible of South African cultures because the people who developed it include Basters (coloured farmers) fleeing repressive Colonial practices; run-away slaves; missionaries; explorers; hunters; traders and migrant farmers commonly called trekboers. As they moved northwards they met up with San, Khoi, and Xhosa people, who were based near Prieska. Then, there was a Tswana presence in the Langberg and in Danielskuil. In addition to these indigenous settlements several mission stations sprang up at places like Fraserburg, Carnarvon, Niekerkshoop and Kuruman itself. To facilitate communications and trading with the Cape, the lingua franca was Dutch, but soon a local distinctive dialect evolved and this later developed into Afrikaans.”


The “Forgotten Highway” will run from Cape Town to Tulbagh, Matjiesfontein, Sutherland, Fraserburg, Loxton, Carnarvon, Vanwyksvlei, Copperton, Prieska, Niekerkshoop, Griquatown/Campbell, then either via Postmasburg/Witsand or via Danielskuil to Kathu/Kuruman. In the earliest days the final stop, along this difficult desert route, was Reverend Robert Moffat’s mission. The little house and church, just north of the current town of Kuruman can still be visited. The little dirt track which led to it still exists, Once there travellers could replenish their supplies before heading off into what is today Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi. Beyond Kuruman lies intriguing villages such as Dithakong. The new route will seamlessly link with Go-Ghaap! a largely an east-west route which lies to the north. The full vision for this highway – an inter-provincial link between the Western and Northern Cape – will be complete when the new route reaches Kuruman.


The Go Ghaap! Tourism Route was launched on October 30, 2018, at a Heritage Conference at the Red Sands Guest Farm, west of Kuruman. In its day, it was once little more than a rugged, rocky, dusty track. In the late 1700s and early 1800s brave men plied this path to spots which became the present-day places like Kuruman, named for an early chief called Kudumane, Mothibistad, Kathu (formerly Sishen), Deben, meaning first drinking place, Postmasburg, Olifantshoek, Danielskuil, Griquatown and Campbell, originally Knovel Valley, later Groote Fontein, and later still named to honour of the Reverend John Campbell, who visited the Cape in 1813. The area is rich in Khoi, San and Griqua history. The Ghaap is a heart-shaped region that nestles in the valleys of the Orange and Vaal rivers and falls within the Savannah and Kalahari biomes. During the colonial era, this area was known as Transorangia – the area across the Orange River. The river, then the northern border of the Cape Colony, was known to the indigenous people as the Gariep River. Beyond it, was a vast unknown area where no-one was in control. Missionaries, Tswana, Griqua, and a variety of roaming bands competed for resources and living space and all contributed to the cultural heritage of the area.


Way back the Ghaap was a wild, restless, dry, inhospitable place. The legacy of the Stone Age people lingers at Kathu and in the Wonderwerk Cave, the history of the San, the Thlaping and Rolong people dates back to the 1700 – the Tswana occupied only the northern parts because there was surface water. Then, in the 1800s, came the Griquas, migrant farmers, explorers, missionaries, some colourful outlaws and vagabonds. The Anglo-Boer War left its mark and so did the 1914 Rebellion. After 1800 settlements like Griqua Town and Danielskuil were created and governed by Griqua communities. By 1884, the land which was not occupied was declared Crown Land. Then on November 16, 1895, the Cape annexed British Bechuanaland. This led to discontent among the Bathlaping and Batlharo people who were suspicious of the Cape Colonial government’s intentions. They feared they would lose land and become marginalised. These fears were justified Then, on November 27 1896, seventeen head of cattle, all infected with rinderpest, strayed out of the Taungs Reserve in the south western corner of British Bechuanaland and were shot. This led to a series of revolts in the Langeberg Mountains, led by chiefs Kgosi Luka Jantjie, Kgosi Galeshewe, and Toto Makgolokwe. These revolts broke out between December 1896 and January, 1897, and were only suppressed after a long, costly and arduous campaign in August 1897. After this Langeberg Rebellion the Griqua towns were absorbed into the Colony. The economy of the Ghaap developed, better roads, railways and boreholes were introduced. These made underground water to rural and urban people. This region has a rich history coloured many people.


A group of archaeologists are ”tuning their ears” to the past to “hear” the music of a long-gone world. “No aural records of the sounds created by hunter gatherers remains,” say researchers from School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand, and the Centre for Early Sapiens Behaviour (SapienCE), Department of Archaeology, History, Cultural Studies and Religion, at the University of Bergenin Norway. Among these researchers are Neil Rusch, Susah Wurz, R Rust and Joshua Kimbani. They are studying four rock art scenes, from the Attakwas and Ezeljagdspoort sites in the Klein Karoo, and Cederberg, where figures seem to be playing flutes,. They describe these in an article entitled Flute playing … a potential link to ancient sound, in Elsevier. Thy say that although music is inextricably part of the social fabric of the past it has not received any in-depth attention in South Africa, particularly in images depicting trance dance and musical bow playing “We are now focusing on flute playing in rock art in the Klein Karoo, as well as the Zimri and Procession Shelters in the Cederberg,” See


Neil Rusch and Sarah Wurz, are also studying a range of other instruments. In an article entitled How the music of an ancient rock painting was brought to life, in The Heritage Portal of June 29, 2022, they say: “Despite the fact that instruments either no longer exist or are extremely rare, these people did dance, sing and clap. They struck rock gongs, known as lithophones, to produce purposeful, percussive sounds and used unfamiliar musical instruments occasionally depicted in their rock art. A study in the Cederberg shows human figures holding fly-whisks and doing a trance-dance. These were previously interpreted as healers because fly-whisks were regarded as an important accessory to keep the arrows of sickness at bay. Now research suggests that the fly-whisks were in fact a !goin !goin musical instrument This name now only exists in the extinct ǀXam language of the hunter-gatherers. The !goin !goin is an aerophone, used around 2000 years ago. It produces sound by creating vibrations in the air when spun. The hunter gatherers associated the sound with honey bees.


Neil, Sarah and their research teams combined digital image recovery techniques with instruments created from life-size templates. Eight instruments were played and recorded in a Cape Town sound studio. “These recreated a convincingly similar sound to the 19th century model of the !goin !goin aerophone, which is archived in the Kirby Collection of Musical Instruments, at the University of Cape Town’s College of Music,” they say. “The !goin !goin generated a distinct pulsating sound due to the circular rotation of the player’s arm and the twisting and untwisting of the cord that attaches the rotating blade to the stick. Speeding up and slowing down the rotation changed the sound. The Cederberg image studied is painted in the fine-line technique, a style that disappeared with the arrival of the pastoralists around 2000 years ago. This Cederberg painting is one of only four known examples of aerophone playing depicted in rock paintings in southern Africa. Our findings suggest that some rock paintings and fly-whisk depictions should be revisited with a ‘listening’ ear,” they say.


Two high-profile Karoo-born legal experts, both Jewish, were involved in the sensational trial Daisy de Melker trial in 1932. One was the judge, Calvinia-born Justice Leopold Greenberg, considered to be one of the greatest South African jurists; the other was her defence attorney Beaufort-West-born Harry Hyman Morris, said by his biographer Benjamin Bennet, to be one the greatest cross-examiners that the South African courts have known. Daisy de Melker, (who was born Daisy Louisa Hancorn-Smith in the village of Seven Fountains, 27 kms from Grahamstown on June 1, 1886) was a South African nurse who married three times – all the men were plumbers. She allegedly used strychnine to kill her first two husbands, who both left her large sums of money. She was convicted of poisoning her son with arsenic the reasons for which still remain unclear. There was insufficient evidence to convict her of the murder of her husbands. She was the second woman to be in South Africa – Her sentence was carried out on December 30, 1932. Daisy might well have been a far more prolific serial killer than her convictions reflect. In an auto-biography Harry Morris, rote that she was suspected of having poisoned seven persons even though she was charged with three. Other cases were being investigated by the Rhodesian authorities at the time of her trial. “Some Rhodesian policemen remained in Johannesburg for the duration of her trial to arrest her in the event of an acquittal,” he said


Born on March 21, 1885 Leopold Greenberg was educated in Bloemfontein and at the South African College School (now the University of Cape Town). He was a brilliant scholar During his four years at SACS he came first in both in the Matriculation and Intermediate examinations. He later obtained a BA Honours Degree and his exceptional ability in English resulted in him being recommended for a literary career, but his heart was set on law. He attained his LLB in Johannesburg in 1907. The characteristic of his work was its thoroughness. He had a keen intellect, clear conception of finer points, great sense of fairness, the ability for pitiless analysis, sound reasoning and a keen sense of humour. His briefs were always meticulously prepared. This enabled him to present cases in a most convincing manner states the SA Law Journal Vol XI of 1926. His resounding voice and presence in the court room served him well. He handled many of the Rand’s biggest cases. In 1924, at the age of 39 he was the youngest South African jurist to be elevated to the bench. Known for his erudition, humanity, and caustic wit, he was acknowledged as one of South Africa’s ablest judges. He became Judge President of the Transvaal in 1938 and he was raised to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, the highest judicial body in South Africa in 1943. He served as acting Chief Justice in 1953 and as officer administering the government in the absence of the governor-general. After his retirement in 1955, he sat on a judicial commission of inquiry into African disturbances in Johannesburg in 1957. He was a distinguished leader of the South African Jewish community, honorary president of the Israel United Appeal and of the South African Friends of the Hebrew University, from which he received an honorary doctorate. The Leopold Greenberg Institute of Forensic Medicine was named in his honour states The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.


Daisy’s defence lawyer, Beaufort West-born Harry Hyman Morris KC, subsequently also defended the Earl of Errol in 1941 in Kenya when he was accused in the infamous White Mischief murder trial. Harry’s life story was captured by Benjamin Bennet in Genius for the Defence. He states that Morris was one of the greatest cross-examiners the South African courts have ever known.” Harry was born of a German-Jewish father and a German-Dutch Gentile mother and he inherited the characteristics of both. Like his father he was dedicated, patient, hardworking and thorough and from his mother’s side he inherited volatility, and a nimble mind coupled to steady reliability. He was born on April 14, 1878. The family moved to Johannesburg where he attended Marist Brothers College. By 1892 he had moved to SACS and from there he went home with a first-class matriculation certificate.” The Anglo-Boer War saw him in Natal. He joined up, became one of the Commander-in-Chief’s bodyguards, but was averse to shooting Boers with whom he had no quarrel, so he became a stretcher- bearer at Colenso, but while performing his non-belligerent duties, he was sniped at. This did not suit him, so he resigned as soldiers could do in those days and he was discharged on May 14, 1901.” He practiced across the country. His puckish grin, unruly hair and thick spectacles were considered his “trade mark”.

Life is like music – some high notes, some low notes, but mostly a good song – Anon