Are you a Karoo connoisseur or would you simply like to know more about this vast, arid zone? Whichever it is, the UCT Summer School, from January 28 to February l, 2008, is the place for you. A series of special lectures on various aspects of the Karoo and some of its treasures will be delivered by natural history educator, specialist field guide and palaeontologist, Dr John Almond. “Karoo for Connoisseurs has been specifically designed to appeal to Karoo-lovers and enlighten those who have dismissed the Great Karoo as an abominable desolation infested with cactus and desiccated dinosaur remains,” says John. “The Karoo is the curator of the history of some intriguing creatures. It also harbours a little-known, under-appreciated natural wealth and during the lectures I will reveal some of its secrets across a broad range of natural phenomena from extra-terrestrial impacts to recent extinctions. Lectures will also include absorbing information on rocky koppies, dry riverbeds, ancient sediments, fossils and the region’s resilient desert fauna and flora. And, there will also be some stories of comical and courageous characters who visited the area as early travellers and naturalists.” The five lectures in this series include: Koppies, floods and vlaktes: unravelling the ‘timeless’ landscapes of the modern Karoo; Bidentals and the beastly Blinkwater monster: bonanza of bones from the reptiliferous strata of the Cape; Kambro, kannip, ghaap and kanna: fat plants for thin people; Sticky willies and hairy nipples: outrageous vegetable characters of the Karoo, and Quaggas and goggas – where’s the beef? Karoo wildlife, past and present. They promise to be entertaining and popular, so early registration is essential. If there is sufficient interest Natura Viva will organise a three to four-day excursion into the Great Karoo after the course.


Entrepreneur Laetita van Dyk has created a theatre, cinema and conference centre in Prince Albert to honour Jans Rautenbach, a pioneer of the South African film industry. Known as the Jans Rautenbach Schouwberg, it is at 12 De Beer Street, the first home of Gawie Beukes, which Laetitia recently renovated. During the late 1960s and early 1970s Jans made several groundbreaking films which examined South African socio-political realities. Among these were his debut as a director, Die Kandidaat (The Candidate), a milestone in the industry, Katrina, acclaimed as one of the most innovative films of the ‘60s and Jannie Totsiens, South Africa’s first avant garde film. The release of this film caused a sensation. Many felt South African audiences were not ready for this type of psychological drama. While some cheered Jans’s efforts there were circles where they were less than popular. This was mainly because they examined the Afrikaner psyche, exposed hypocrisy of the beaurocratic system, the horrors of apartheid and the race classification system. In fact, some considered the films so controversial that Jans received death threats. His walk along the road to gain recognition and respect for the South African film industry was a lonely one fraught with battles with officialdom and censors for the right to have his films screened. However, as a true pioneer Jans allowed nothing to deflect his course. His entire career as a pioneer film maker was honoured in Prince Albert on September 29, when the theatre, named in his honour, was officially opened and when he was presented with an award from the S A Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns for his achievements and his contribution to the S A film industry.


Beaufort Westers were treated by The Karoo National Park during Heritage Month’s National Parks Week (September 17–23). They were allowed to visit free of charge and they loved it. Many residents and school groups picnicked at Bulkraal, swam in the pool, enjoyed walking the Fossil and Bossie Trails, where they discovered a great deal about the Great Karoo, its pre-historic creatures and the medicinal plants. They discovered more about the region’s cultural heritage at the Interpretive Centre. Keen walkers tried out both routes along the Pointer Hiking Trail and the less energetic drove along the Lammertjiesleegte Loop or up the Klipspringer Pass. There was also visitor’s photographic competition for the camera conscious.


The Koup, said to be the driest part of the Great Karoo, is now producing some top-class garlic products. They come from a project which provides employment for 10 to 15 previously disadvantaged and semi-literate men and women, some of whom are disabled or single parents. This group grows the garlic, packages it and markets it as Koup Knoffel. The range includes some unusual and delicious products, such as sun-dried Garlic Flakes for soups and stews and pickled garlic with mild spice, chilli, pepper or herbs, an ideal product for adding a special zing to sandwiches and cold meats. Then, there’s Garlic Mustard Spread, Chocolate-Coated Garlic and Special Garlic ‘Snoepjes.” Koup Knoffel also sells a Garlic & Sherry Health Marinade, guaranteed to add a touch of magic to chops at a braai. “Garlic is more than a flavouring, it’s a health product,” says co-ordinator Jacolese Botes. “Our main aim is to make South Africans more conscious of this.”


The Koup tales its name from the Khoi word “ghoup,” which means “caul fat.” This is the stringy, lacy fat found around organs such as the stomach of sheep or game. It is widely used throughout the Karoo for wrapping pieces of liver, sometimes with interesting fillings, for braaiing. Experts say the Khoi gave this area its unusual name because the brown earth, surrounded by little patches of golden yellow grass reminded them of this fat. In the earliest days, farmers struggled across this very arid part of the Karoo in search of water and grazing, which they found at last in the vicinity of the mountains near Beaufort West. This led them to name these mountains the Nuweveldberge, (literally New Veld). They were previously known as the Bosjemansberge, because they were a stronghold of the San. They also offered succour to many vagabonds, evil-doers and law-breakers resulting in this area having a colourful and exciting history. At one stage the area around the Nuweveld was one of the most blood-stained in South Africa. Today, the Koup plays a vital role in the economy of the Great Karoo. Known for its ability to survive the severest droughts, this region produces some of the best mutton in the Karoo, as well as fruit, olives and now garlic.


Tiny Karoo towns were like large families. Residents all shared their happiness and grief. And, when a new baby was on the way everyone wanted to know when it arrived, what it was and what it weighed and so on. In Williston, in the 1930s, they had a novel way of announcing new arrivals. Anna Estherhuizen and her sister, Tullie, ran the town’s first maternity home in a little tiny house in Mulder Street. In today’s terminology, they were proudly on call 24/7. In those days the village had its own power station and like others dotted around the hinterland, it switched off at 21h00, until someone in Williston went into labour, that is. Then Tant Annie or Tullie called the power station manager and, believe it or not, the staff went back on duty and started up the machinery so that there’d be sufficient light for the baby to be delivered. The engines ran until the baby arrived. So, in the dead of night the entire village knew the arrival was imminent. The power station machines sometimes chugged on for hours, but as soon as they coughed to a halt, locals knew there was a new member of their community had arrived. By early morning many were streaming to the Mulder Street to welcome it with flowers, jackets or bootees. Tant Annie had another tradition. While she waited she always prepared a delicious sweet samp pudding for the new mom.


SANBI’S new CEO, Tanya Abrahamse, was introduced to nature at the age of three when her father, a keen naturalist, hiker, walker and cyclist, took her to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. This early visit was the first milepost on a road which led to many exciting posts in South Africa’s environmental and tourism sectors and her recent appointment as chief executive officer of the South African National Botanical Institute (SANBI). Tanya started climbing Table Mountain at the age of six. This sparked an undying interest in biology and led her to university. She obtained her first degree at the University of Zambia, went on to do a Masters in Applied Entomology at the University of London and later obtained a PhD from the University of Westminster. She then worked in Zimbabwe for a while before returning to South Africa to take up a post at the Environment and Development Agency and joining the President’s Reconstruction and Development Programmes, concentrating on rural development. When she took up an appointment as Deputy Director General for the Department of Environment Affairs and Tourism the National Botanical Institute was part of her portfolio. She says: “The organisation no longer has a purely botanical base. It now concentrates on everything from ‘man to microbe.’ The big challenge now is to expand and gain a visibility for what we do.”


During the 19th century two men called Taylor sailed from England for South Africa. They were unrelated, unaware of each other and bound for different places, yet in a strange way destiny was to link their families. Both John Taylor and Robert Barry Taylor were ministers. Both arrived safely and each went their separate ways, but 50 years later they met when John Taylor’s granddaughter married Robert Barry Taylor’s son in Cradock. Rev John Taylor also has a link with early Beaufort West. He became the town’s first Dutch Reformed minister. A Scot, born at Scone, on June 5, 1788, he wanted nothing more than to become a missionary, writes his great-grandson Robert Taylor in Family Tree Magazine of August 2003. John, 26, completed his theological studies in Gosport, in Hampshire, in March 1816, and was ordained. In October that year he and seven other missionaries, attached to the London Missionary Society (LMS), sailed for South Africa. They discovered two homeward bound, Dutch-speaking ministers on board and this enabled them to practise their new language en route to their new posts. On arrival these men found they could not proceed to their posts because these were beyond the borders of the Colony, so they helped out at missions within the Colony in temporary capacities. In January 1817, John moved to Bethelsdorp and later to Paarl, where he met the pretty Ceylon-born brunette, Antonia Francina van Geysel. She was of Dutch/Portuguese descent and she had come to the Cape with her sister and brother-in-law, Rev M C Vos. John and Antonia were married by Rev Vos in Caledon in April 1817. The following year he and two colleagues, John Evans and George Thoms, resigned from the LMS, but informed the governor, Lord Charles Somerset, that they wished to continue working as preachers. Lord Charles was delighted. He saw a way of serving the far-flung Dutch-speaking communities in the hinterland who were starved for regular church services and religious instruction. He sent all three to distant outposts. John Evans was dispatched to Cradock as its first Dutch Reformed minister and John Taylor, who in Somerset’s opinion spoke Dutch with “great fluency,” went to the fledgling village of Beaufort. It had been established in 1818 to maintain law and order on the troubled, blood-stained northern frontier.


Reverend John Taylor was a dynamic and energetic young man. He had great courage and determination. His first church services in the fledgling village of Beaufort were held under a tarpaulin spread between thorn trees. He also rode to the furthest outreaches of his parish to baptize, marry and bury members of his congregation, as well as to preach and to give them communion. Three of his children were born in Beaufort – Jane Agnes Mary arrived on September 9, 1819, Johanna Christina followed on April 12, 1821 and Nancy Antonia was born on February l, 1823. But he was not to settle here permanently. On December 5, 1823, John was notified that he had to go to Cradock because his friend, John Evans, 31, had died. The parish of Cradock stretched across 15 000 square miles and consisted of 10 000 members. Once again he rode from one distant farm to another to serve his flock. In 1825 he christened a boy on an outlying farm who was destined to play a major role in South African history. He was Johannes Paulus Kruger, who in time became president of the Zuid-Afrikaanse Republic (ZAR). In this part of the Karoo John’s life was filled with the tension of border clashes and skirmishes. By 1835 the situation had deteriorated to such an extent that he could no longer ride out to do house calls – it was simply too dangerous. The church council reported that because of “barbarism on the border” church attendance was poor. Many men were unable to attend services, they said, because they had to “stand guard at their farms” or were “out fighting on commando.” By 1851 the situation was so bad that preachers in border parishes could not attend presbytery. John had a tough time supporting beleaguered parishioners and as treasurer of the Border War Support Committee.


Despite these problems John and Antonia were happy in Cradock. She was devoted to him and supported him in every way. Four more children were born – John Michael was arrived on September 26, 1824; Elizabeth Magdelena was born on January 23, 1826; Francina Hendrica Helena on February 20, 1828, and David Christiaan on May 26, 1831. Harassed by border battles and British policies, Eastern Cape farmers became discontent and decided to move northwards. John condemned The Great Trek, yet never neglected the spiritual needs of the Trekkers. He visited them regularly and many rode back so that he could christen their children, while others brought older children back for him to confirm them. Many pleaded with him to join the Trek but he declined. When John’s beloved Antonia died on November 4, 1859, he was devastated. He lasted only six months without her and died on May 21, 1860. Both he and his wife, as well as their daughters Elizabeth Magdelena, Hendrica Helena and Jane Agnes, are buried in the churchyard at Cradock’s Dutch Reformed Church. It is a replica of London’s St Martin-in-the-Field and was completed in 1868.


Penguin’s newly published Springboks on the Somme is a lively account of South African’s experiences during WWI. Written by Bill Nasson, Professor of History at the University of Cape Town, this is the first general study of the complex ways in which South Africans experienced the impact of the Great War of 1914 – 18. It is a well-told story of the efforts of South Africans in France and on the “fields of Flanders.” It tells not only of how South Africa fought the war, but also of the miscalculations and illusions that surrounded the country’s involvement. Springboks on the Somme is available from booksellers at a cost of R180.


A talk entitled “The U-Boat Commander who shopped at Stuttafords” eventually led Jochen Mahncke to write a book, U-boats and Spies in Southern Africa. It is a collection of the tales that sprang up across South Africa after U-boats were spotted along the coast during WWII. “Some are serious, others amusing and a few quite hilarious,” says Jochen, who spent six years collecting these tales. The book, which costs R145 plus postage and packaging, is available from Johan van den Berg, Military Bookshop.


Loxton-based photo-journalists Brent and Steve Moseley have created a website for their Karoo photographic library. Designed by Brent and based on the many requests they have had over the years for photographs of various platteland places, it is a magnificent portrayal of the Karoo in the Eastern, Northern and Western Cape, as well as the Kalahari and Namaqualand. Their love of the area and the enjoyment that they have had photographing and writing about it are evident throughout the site. It’s a must for anyone searching for a good picture of the Karoo, and for anyone who’d simply like to take a “photo-journey” through the arid zone.


Ralph Anderson’s suggestion to record farmyard cemeteries (Round-up No 47) has been hailed as excellent. “When I lived in Calitzdorp we did quite a number of drives looking for farmyard cemeteries,” writes Bridgette Pacey-Tootell. “They’re dotted all over the place as it was the custom of the Afrikaans people to bury their relatives on family farms. Such a register is vital, so at one time with the local archeological society, I tried to draw up a register of farm graves. I don’t know how far this went, but I agree such a register would be an excellent source of information for genealogists and historians. Sadly, many farmers cannot supply historic details because they are not the original farm owners, so I feel that your Round-up article should be sent to every historical and genealogical society throughout SA to spreads the request more widely.” Ingrid Patterson in Scotland also “thought it was wonderful idea.” She wrote: “It would prove invaluable to folk tracing their ancestors, particularly when they are as far away as I am. I am quite sure my great great grandfather James Daniel Symington, born Scotland 1796, is buried on a farm somewhere in the Boland. I would give anything to be able to find his grave.” Joan Wright, in Natal, also thought the idea was brilliant. “Every municipality should make an effort to follow up on it. Such a list could supplement the National Archives lists and guide people who often fruitlessly search for ancestors in town cemeteries to the farm where they perhaps once lived and so give a whole new aspect to research programmes.”


Richmond resident Darryl Earl David has a new idea to put Richmond on the map. His aim is to create a “Booktown.” In the village “Tourism is often punted as the answer to declining economies of the hinterland, but little apart from accommodation is offered as a moneyspinner,” said Darryl, a freelance journalist who claims to be the youngest and only Indian lecturer of Afrikaans in South Africa. . “Creating a ‘Booktown’ is a novel form of tourism. The basic idea is to get a high concentration of booksellers, specializing mostly in second hand, rare or outdated books to come to town or twin themselves with coffee shops, internet cafes, bakeries, arts, crafts and antique shops, as well as artisan enterprises, such as paper production, book design, illustration and even bookbinding. The initial idea thought up by Richard Booth, way back in the 1960s, has proved to be a most successful way of bolstering rural tourism in other parts of the world. Richard’s dream was to turn the tiny Welsh village of Hay-on-Wye into the world’s largest second-hand bookselling centre. And he didn’t do badly. Today this village attracts over a million visitors a year all interested in books.”

None of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding until he listens to a whisper that can be heard by him alone.Ralph Waldo Emerson