Richmond celebrates the seventh anniversary of Booktown this year from October 24 to 27. As ever the programme for this immensely popular “Boekbedonnered” festival, as it has become known, is jam-packed with interesting talks, presentations and launches. The programme (on page 2) includes exhibitions and outings. Among these is an early afternoon “walkabout” conducted by local resident, Dave Clemens, an authority on Karoo architecture, as well as a short walk up Vegkop conducting by Anglo-Boer War experts, John Donaldson and Chris Sheldon. This stroll trails off from the Supper Club at 17h00 and culminates with sundowners at the top of the koppie.


A highlight on this year’s Booktown Programme will be a presentation by Grant Leversha of his award-winning book Within an African Eden. This pre-sold, full leather, hand-bound opus, features 59 of South Africa’s most beautiful and challenging golf courses. It is a “sumptuous tome” – a work of art – weighing 13kg, opening out to one metre in length and endorsed by Johann Rupert, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Ernie Els, Nick Price, Peter Matkovich and Ronald Fream. Booktown organiser Darryl David says: “Aesthetically, this book has no equal. It swept the boards as far as accolades and awards are concerned and scooped up virtually every gold award in the world. I was totally impressed, I have never seen anything quite like it in my life.” Stuart McLean and John Botha, two of South Africa’s top golf writers, contributed the text. Grant, who has been photographing golf courses since 1997, started working on this book about 10 years ago. He wanted to produce something special that would set a new standard for publishing in this sport, so he commissioned many leaders in their fields to help make this possible. Among them were Create Design, who developed some unique illustrations, top international bookbinders in Toronto, Canada, and South Africa’s best fine book editor, calligrapher and fine art illustrator. The book won the 2013 Independent Publisher Book Award for the Outstanding Book of the Year against 5000 entries; the Art & Craftsmanship Gold Award; the Benjamin Franklin Coffee Table Books Award; Gold Ink Fine Editions Award and the Chicago Print Industries of America Award of Recognition for Print Excellence. “It is the best golf book I have ever seen,” said Dale Hayes


Other highlights at the book festival will include a talk on artist Gerard Sekoto by Barbara Lindop, a recognised authority on this man and his works. Well known Afrikaans journalist and author Elsabe Brits will talk on Emily Hobhouse. Antony Osler, highly acclaimed for Stoep Zen, will introduce his newly launched new book, Zen Dust. According to reviewers this is set to become a South African classic. Boris Gorelik will be discussing his immensely readable biography of acclaimed artist Vladimir Tretchikoff. This is book has also been extremely well received by the book critics. Well known English academic, Craig Mackenzie, an authority on the works of Herman Charles Bosman, will be paying tribute Patrick Mynhardt, one of the people who made Booktown a reality and who brought Bosman’s Oom Schalk Lourens to life. There will be more Bosman when Francois Griebenow delivers his talk. He felt this man and his works deserved a wider audience and so translated the stories into Afrikaans.


Gordon Froud will present Alice 150 – a talk on Alice in Wonderland as seen through the eyes of illustrators, in collaboration with Map-South Africa. This talk will focus on interpretations of characters, scenes and events by famous illustrators such as Sir John Tennielle, Arthur Rackham, Salvador Dali and Sir Peter Blake. This talk celebrates the 150th anniversary of the telling of the story to Alice Liddel and her sisters on a boating trip in Oxford. Gordon will also present a range of books and objects from his vast collection of artefacts and artworks on Alice.


Map-South Africa will also present an exhibition entitled “Sketsboek”. This will feature selections from the pages of the sketchbooks of well known South African artist, Minette Zaaimen van Rooyen. She will conduct a series of drawing workshops on the “Stoep” of the Richmond Artist Residency House. Also, on show will be a selection of works from Willem Boshoff, Jacques Coetzer, Happy Dhlame, Abrie Fourie, Gordon Froud, Neville Gaby, Cecile Heystek, Aryan Kaganof, Titus Matinya, Seretse Moletsane, Andrew Munnik, Thabo Pitso, Johan Thom, Jan van der Merwe, Claude van Lingen, Diane Victor, Jeremy Wafer and Sue Williamson.


Proudly South African singer / songwriter Luna Paige will present interpretations of famous novels and short stories on Thursday and Saturday. Well known as “the singer with a sultry voice”, she has the ability to mesmerize her audiences into a world of beautiful emotions and images. This event, scheduled for Booktown Richmond Headquarters and costing R100 per ticket, promises to be popular, Luna’s love for song writing and the piano started in her teens when she was heavily influenced by the great songwriters of the 70’s. She went on to study social work at the University of Stellenbosch and, after graduating, she decided to combine her passion for people with her love for music. She completed a Masters Degree in the therapeutic use of music in group therapy as a treatment for substance abusers. While at university Luna started performing her songs at poetry evenings, and so built up a loyal following.


The ever-popular, annual book binding workshop hosted by the National Library in Cape Town is again on the Booktown programme this year. It will be held at the Map-South Africa Artist Residency Gallery. Festival organiser Darryl David says: “Map-South Africa will also be presenting a public intervention by artist Gordon Froud titled ‘VW’ (Corner Pienaar St & Blake St). A long-time collaboration between Richmond local resident Hoggie Viljoen and Map-South Africa will culminate in a ‘Black Box Booklet’ launch and an on-site walk-about. This will be led by Harrie Siertsema. This is something a bit different and Harrie will guide guests to the site.” This presentation will highlight ways of using public art as a conversation starter and message conveyor Dana Snyman, an entertainer par excellence, will put on a show the Museum Hall and as usual the village churches will be providing catering for teas and snacks in the quadrangle beside Booktown Richmond HQ. In addition, pre-frozen and packaged packs of Karoo lamb will be available made up to customer specifications. To order call Andries Bezuidenhoudt at Cell No 082-557-0227


From the writers of yesteryear


In the early 1900s the Karoo inspired Victoria West solicitor, Lambert Hendrik Brinkman, to write two novels – The Breath of the Karoo and The Glory of the Backveld. Both were highly acclaimed. Born in Clanwilliam in 1870, Lambert moved to Victoria West shortly after he qualified. He loved the Karoo and the tiny village. He died in 1933, aged 63.


The Great Karoo “framed like a painting in the window of a railway coach,” mesmerized Estella Cave, the British Viscountess who, in 1919, accompanied her husband Lord High Chancellor, The Rt Hon Viscount Cave GCMG, to “the territory called Rhodesia”. Estella’s notes on the Karoo were among stories published in 1928 as Three Journeys. “We left Cape Town and soon found ourselves travelling through hundreds of miles of dry country covered with short, stubby bushes. This is the Great Karoo, tranquil, peaceful, eternal, magnificent. Here and there is a farm, but so few and so far between. Where water has been found the sun-scorched earth becomes green and fertile. In places the division between barren and irrigated land is so narrow that you can stand with one foot on hot desert soil and the other in a field or orchard with pink blossoms against a matchless blue sky. Here brave souls have compelled the veld to give them a home and a living.”


In the late 1800s Photographic Scenery of South Africa was produced to honour the South African career of Sir Henry Bartle Edward Frere. It described the Karoo as a huge tract of land without a single tree. “The herbage consists of short bushes on which sheep flourish, while the remainder of the Colony can barely support a few head. The drought may wither and blight elsewhere, but the hardy Karoo bush defies its great efforts at annihilation. Throughout the Karoo there is no river that does not cease to flow, but there are springs and farmers use these as they wait for rain.”


“Look up when travelling through the Karoo.” wrote Charlotte Mansfield in Via Rhodesia. “Those who travel northwards into Africa look at the earth rather than the sky and so refer to the country as a dust heap on which herbage sprouts. Certainly the Karoo gives visitors this impression, but while looking down people miss a wonderful kaleidoscope of magnificent colour.” Charlotte travelled through the Karoo in the 1900s and found its monotony disturbing. “The sameness is frightening until its fascination grips you. It is full of colour. It has eternal blue skies, and golds, browns, rich red rocks and earth. True health is in the air and wealth in the ground.” A fellow American traveller was not so awed. She expressed disgust at the endless little bushes and yellow grass. She said, “It’s a good thing the Lord put plenty under the ground for there is little on top of it.”


“The dust bin of creation,” was author Julian Ralph’s opinion of the Karoo. “In Towards Pretoria, he described the intense heat and the air “as full of dust as London’s is of smoke.” He wrote: “Our throats are dry and caked with dust. The ground is loose dust, the air flying dust. The vegetation and insects are all differing shades of dust.” Travelling on a train one day near Orange River Station, he described a transport column raising such a dense cloud of dust that troops, wagons and horses merged into one dust-painted portrait. “Our uniforms have become dust-coloured. We breathe dust, drink dust and eat dust. Very often we are out of sorts, because our internal organs rebel against the dust.” Ralph writes of sitting in his dusty tent, boots buried in dust, and using a dusty pen to write with a solution of dust. “Every line is dusted and dried as soon as written – just as our grandfathers dried their manuscripts with sand.” Then, to his amusement “a dust-coloured cat strayed onto the dust covered veld and began watching a dusty hole in an effort to catch a dust-caked mouse.”


American freelance journalist, Frederic William Unger came to South Africa during the Anglo-Boer War in “search of adventure and history in the making.” In With Bobs to Pretoria, he wrote of travelling by train at about 20km an hour, sitting in “a hot oven with wind blowing in through the open windows like a blast from a furnace. “We were in the Great Karoo. The country stretched flat, dry and grey, the only vegetation being a few dried-up bushes. Now and then we rattled over a bridge crossing the dry river bed. Far away on the horizon the faint outlines of mountains shone whitely against a grey-blue background. By afternoon we passed a few conical kopjes. Evening closed in – cold and chilly. We reached De Aar, Kipling’s ‘the land of lies’. Here we were ankle deep in fine, powdery, slightly alkaline dust. It penetrated everywhere – into our food, baggage, collars and clothes, intruding into the most inappropriate places. It made men dirty and profane.”

Note: Dust often also seriously hampered operations at the Imperial Yeomanry hospital at Deelfontein near Richmond. Doctors also constantly bemoaned having to work in dusty conditions.


In October 1907 Olive Schreiner moved permanently to De Aar. She loved the wide-open spaces of the Karoo, but she did not like the “dust, dirt and stink of steam engines.” She described De Aar as a place if terrible dust storms. “It once was the largest military centre in South Africa. For miles the ground is trodden bare, not a bush will grow; they have been killed at the roots. Grey sand flies about everywhere and the earth is full if broken whisky bottles and empty tins. If you kick at something in the sand, it turns out to be an old soldier’s jacket or boot. They had vast camps here where the prisoners died, and horse camps where horses died; so the dust is pretty organic.”


Cooper Chadwick, who came to South Africa in 1885 with Sir Charles Warren, lost both his hands in a gun accident. He was sent home after several “unsuccessful operations in Africa,” and in England had both arms “re-amputated.” He wrote a book “to amuse his father” with a pencil tied to the stump of his right arm. He described the Karoo as “an unimpressive, very large, flat desert with a few houses and covered with thorn bushes and coarse scrub. At one place officers told us to lay our blankets on the warm sand as “it was not worthwhile pitching tents”. My blanket was instantly covered in small black ants, but I was so tired I lay down and slept. The ants didn’t seem to bite.”


South Africa’s first acknowledged Khoi-khoi linguist was Georg Frederich Wrede, a student of Latin, Greek and classical languages. He made history in 1663 when he completed a compendium vocabulary of Dutch and Khoi-khoi. He wrote all the Khoi-khoi words in Greek script says Bill Malkin in his Book of South African Trivia: It’s a Fact. Wrede was drowned in rough seas off the coast of Mauritius in 1672.

It took me 15 years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous.” Robert Benchley


by Andrew.A. McNaughton – (Copyright)

Arid, ancient landscape, once an inland sea
A continental jigsaw sent masses drifting free
Molten magma spewing, a crucible of fire
Preserving remnant forms captured in the mire

Long gone lakes, drained to a treeless plain
River-gouged gorges and sculpted rocks remain
Spawning life designs more resilient than the norm
Adaptations, meeting ice and sun and storm

Freezing winter grips, and tortures in its hold
Brittle iron boulders, splitting from their mould
Relentless summer heat, drought a constant dread
Dead and blackened stems crackle under tread

Sun in rising fury, retreating shadows fly
Rims of purple mountains, delineate the sky
Faintest puff of wind, or touch of passing air
Brings scents of summers past in memory to bear

Swirling dusty spirals, dancing in the distance
Soft-imagined sounds, accentuate the silence
Stately castles loom, shimmering water shines
Mirages of the mind false imagery defines

Sweet smell of early morning, perfume to the senses
A carousel of seasons, diversity dispenses
Rose complexioned day, transforming into gold
Uncounted bright arrays and galaxies unfold

Exploding storms of thunder, sudden pounding rain
Releasing earthy fragrance, relieving all our pain
Muddy rivers roar, chirping crickets sing
Joyful springbok pronk and insects on the wing

Greening and forgiving, a kaleidoscope of colour
Flower fields emerge, more exquisite than each other
Immeasurable arena, endless open space
Time does not imprison, nature does not haste

Spirits rise beyond, acquired worldly ways
Purpose comes to thought and meaning to the days
Shedding all pretension and rid of self-taught lies
We stand in awe-struck wonder, at this cathedral of the skies

Visions of the future, how we might arrange
The making of a better world, through unselfish change
Jealous of its secrets, still disfigured by our greed
The Great Karoo lies silent, pleading for our heed