Words and Photographs by Julienne du Toit and Chris Marais
The windswept little Northern Cape village of Philipstown was the Centre of the Universe this week.
For three marvellous days it became the quilting capital of South Africa, the 2013 venue for the Karoo Parliament and the racetrack for the annual Philipstown Wire Car Grand Prix.
Hundreds of skilled quilters came from all over the country to display their incredible fabrics and teach beginners the finer points of this age-old craft.
The Karoo Development Foundation brought together a long list of tourism operators, municipal officials, scientists, stock farmers and specialists in all things Karoo. Most of them made passionate presentations on their subjects, discussions were held and bonds were forged.
There weren’t enough beds to accommodate everyone converging on Philipstown, so a number of delegates had to sleep over in surrounding towns like Vanderkloof, Hanover and De Aar. It was the largest event ever held here, and the town was in a mild uproar.
But the local women got together, spruced up private rooms and cooked up a storm for everyone.
“I love this place – the people are very friendly,” said Katrin Allemann of Nieu-Bethesda – which basically summed up the visitors’ views on Philipstown.
The Karoo Parliament – more ‘parley’ than political – was organised by the Karoo Development Foundation and brought together all types of interested parties from the vast heartland of South Africa. Some people came to tell success stories from their regions, some presented papers on sober topics like foetal alcohol syndrome and others simply came to learn.
This is the only public gathering that brings together the dry land segments of four provinces: the Northern Cape, the Western Cape, the Free State and the Eastern Cape. It’s also the one opportunity that role players have to set their parochial differences aside and discuss matters of common good.
One of the major subjects was the establishment of tourism routes across all provinces.
On Friday evening, however, the serious business of the day was set aside and it was time for the Philipstown Wire Car Derby. Hundreds of very excited youngsters gathered outside the Bokskryt (Boxing Ring) building in the centre of town as their heroes lined up on the pavement with their custom-built wiremobiles.
The making of wire cars (draadkarretjies) is a major Philipstown craft and a lot of time is spent in getting the detail just right. A good car, sturdy tyres and a fleet pair of legs is what you need to win such a race, which took place through the streets of the town.
Defending champion Wesley Thile (13) was up to the task. By now, Wesley has built a sizeable fan club and they cheered him on as he whipped past all the other competitors to win handsomely.