By Chris Marais & Julienne du Toit
On our travels across the Great Karoo, we often get asked this question by people who see the Karoo Space livery on the side of our bakkie:
“What do you do?”
Sometimes they will venture:
“Are you on a space mission?”
To that one, we’d love to say yes. We’re an alien recovery team and we’ve come to pick up survivors from the UFO that landed outside your town last night.
But the real answer gives us an even bigger kick:
“We grow tall poppies.”
That’s right. We’ve all heard about the Tall Poppy Syndrome. In different countries, it means different things.
In Britain, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa it’s a term used, according to Wikipedia, “to describe a social phenomenon in which people of genuine merit are resented, attacked, cut down, or criticised because their talents or achievements elevate them above or distinguish them from their peers.”
Well, here in the Karoo we love our tall poppies. They make the world a brighter place, they give the kids hope and they make the shepherds sing with delight.
And because the power of networking is so strong in the Karoo, it’s a pleasure to slip their stories into the communication system of the Heartland.
People need to network across this vast space to survive.
Our job here at Karoo Space is to move around the 101 towns, villages and little settlements of the heartland, their farms and their communities, looking for poppies to write about.
And even if they’re short poppies, no matter. We’ll help them grow by exposing them to people who read our books and magazine articles. And when a light shines on you, who knows what good things can happen?
The Graaff-Reinet chef who writes his own books, hunts his own protein and has taught his ten-year-old son to cook, who connects small local food suppliers with wider markets at every turn, he’s a Karoo tall poppy.
The Cradock hotelier who saw a derelict street and built it up into 30 fabulous guest cottages with a Victorian-era hotel on the corner, she’s a Karoo tall poppy.
Her daughter has brought her amazing networking skills to town and can organise a pop-up festival – even from a long distance away.
She and a duo from nearby Bedford, a journalist and local estate agent who have combined to raise the village profile to stellar heights, they’re true Karoo tall poppies.
The Beaufort West herbalist and her jackal hunter mentor who have turned their backs on the material world and heal people from near and far, they are Karoo tall poppies.
The Jagersfontein artist who has spent more than a decade teaching local crafters how to make world-class French wire keepsakes for the travelling market, she’s a Karoo tall poppy.
The team of dedicated Colesberg women who run an incredible school for farmworkers’ childen and an outreach programme for pregnant mothers, they’re all Karoo tall poppies. And what’s more, they’re running a Karoo tall poppy factory out there.
The Zen Buddhist writer, lawyer and singer and his teaching, farming wife who live their lives with love and lots of thought, making a retreat for those who seek peace, they are Karoo tall poppies.
The Karoo cook who runs an eatery in Nieu Bethesda’s township and who feeds hungry children from the soup kitchen next door, she’s a Karoo tall poppy.
We could go on. And we often do. Because we’re finding plenty of Karoo tall poppies as we go from town to town, face to face.
And because we write books about these people, they are firmly fixed in the narrative of the Karoo. Their stories will remain long after we’ve gone off to the Great Newsroom in the Sky.
The Karoo Space Ebookstore can be accessed HERE