When Chris Marais and Julienne du Toit started their career as Apostles of the Karoo, I suspected their professional life expectancy to be low.
Sometimes it’s more of a pleasure to have been wrong than other times, and this one is a definite sometime. To have made the Karoo their meal ticket is triumph enough, but we have all benefitted from the way they have made it into so many other meal tickets, co-creating and enthusiastically fanning the Industry of Karoo-ism.
Karoo Activists Deserve Big Thanks
It took me half a life to stop seeing the Karoo as the big empty space between the cities. To my children the Karoo has been precious since birth. I reckon theirs are going to see it as practically holy. Karoo activists deserve big thanks. Chris and Julienne’s Karoo Keepsakes II strikes right chords from the start.
Their distinctive and possibly unique little fat square format works exactly right for this book, in fact uncannily right. Inter alia it leads to their second right-chord which is an uncommon unity of approach. (Almost) every entry is a spread in identical formula – full page picture on the right, three mini-pictures in the outer left column and 6-8 paragraphs of story between.
Words and Pictures Balanced Just Right
One achievement of this approach is a balance between pic and printed word. In my view, this balance is hardly ever achieved. Your standard coffee table book induces you to look at the pictures, and maybe the captions, but to bypass the text. And few books in which text genuinely prevails get their pictures right – if they aren’t in glossy clusters nowhere near the relevant text they are probably obstructing the read. Well, Keepsakes hits this problem right on its head.
Additionally, this pattern presents marvellous freedom to the reader. Each vignette is self-contained. The index will take you to the dorp you choose, if you have one to choose, or you can read at total random.
They’ve Met Half the Karoo!
As to the range of topics, to say that the authors must have met half the population of the Karoo might be a stretch, but it’s not hyperbole. Few people on this planet can personally know as high a proportion of people across as large a land area.
From the Calvinia traffic cop’s Elvis weekends to the Professor of Water to the Silver Creek Mountain Band to the Nama Riel to the Cango crocodile cage to some 130 other tales, the reader is introduced to a wider catchment of people and practices than I think you’d think possible. Tall stories there are – sometimes you see the wink in the author’s eye – but on the whole we here have real tales of real people, made plausible by avoidance of shouting and overstatement, with low-key deep-chuckle humour and a prevailing flavour of respect.”
- Denis Beckett was one of the judges at the 2015 Coetzee/Fugard Literary Festival Awards in Richmond, Northern Cape. He judged Karoo Keepsakes II to be the winner in the Travel – Pictorial section.