Karoo Diary – One Man’s Scrap…
There’s something deeply adventurous about rootling around an old Karoo farm junkyard, clutching a camera and a very big stick. The camera is for when the morning light falls softly on the red rump of an ancient, pensioned-off Massey Ferguson tractor. The very big stick is for the Cape Cobra – the dreaded geelslang – […]
There’s something deeply adventurous about rootling around an old Karoo farm junkyard, clutching a camera and a very big stick.
The camera is for when the morning light falls softly on the red rump of an ancient, pensioned-off Massey Ferguson tractor.
The very big stick is for the Cape Cobra – the dreaded geelslang – that might be lurking behind the back wheel.
Jules and I have been on a Karoo guest farm mission this year, racking up nearly 20 visits from way across in the Nieu-Bethesda area in the west, to deep in the Baviaans River Valley near Bedford in the east.
The 100-odd dorpies and settlements of the Karoo have their appeal, but the real magic of this dry country (although you wouldn’t believe how green it is right now – it looks like Ireland with an Afrikaans accent) lies down on the farm.
And for me, the good oil is to be found in the old shed, where history lies embedded in the rust and decay.
My friend Mark Ingle of Philippolis says I’ve been bitten by the Karoo Wabi-Sabi Bug. He explains:
”Put colloquially, ‘stuff sticks around longer’ in the Karoo due to a combination of poverty, uncertain supply, a habit of ‘making-do’, and inherited values that were forged in periods of drought and hardship. This has never been a culture that took kindly to the luxury of ‘planned obsolescence’.
“The upshot of this is that relics of the past are scattered all over the Karoo, especially in its settlements, to a far greater degree than is the case with more modern, industrialised landscapes. These relics add a dimension of charm to the Karoo mise-en-scène that has remained largely subliminal.”
Wikipeda runs this quote on the Japanese philosophy of WabiSabi:
“WabiSabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.”
OK. So is that why Peet van der Heever of Doornberg Farm keeps those enormous donkey posters in his open-air workshop?
There is also a middelmannetjie path on his farm lined with very old cars, tractors and farm implements going back centuries.
“That’s not junk,” he assures me. “My staff and I know exactly what’s out there. That’s our official spares department. And I like my donkeys”
That must also be why Johann Minnaar of Groenvlei keeps a dusty old road warrior safely locked away in one of the farm hangar-sized sheds.
“No,” he says, not sure about this Wabi-Sabi stuff. “It’s a 1963 Studebaker Lark, one of the all-time classic convertibles. And we’re busy restoring it.”
My habit of junkyard photography has not gone unnoticed by the farmers’ wives, who are mostly in charge of the tourism side of the business. They would prefer me to snap away at the rooms instead of the broken old machines.
I have to explain to them that if I was a city kid out here for a visit, I would rush off to clamber about the farmyard “spares department”.
But first I would find myself a bloody big stick – for just in case…
Visit Chris and Julienne in the Karoo via their website www.karoospace.co.za