Eksteenfontein, Northern Cape

Oom Koos Joseph, stockman from Eksteenfontein.
Back in 2008, Karoo Space interviewed the 89-year-old Ouma Kowie Uys of Eksteenfontein, who has since passed away. She still remembered well the hardships of the Baster people when they first came to the Richtersveld nearly 60 years ago.

The Basters mostly originated in Bushmanland, in the general area of the present town of Pofadder, many of them from a farm called Bo-Sluis (Above the Sluice). They were of mixed blood, mostly white farmers having intermarried with Khoikhoi women.

By the late 1940s, the situation had become untenable for the Basters, as they were called. The white community wanted them to leave. A Reverend Eksteen negotiated a home for them in the Richtersveld, then classified as a ‘coloured reserve’.

It took a month for the Basters to trek there, with their oxwagons, donkey carts and livestock. They came out of those naked dunes and flat lands to a world of mountains, stones and kloofs, to a place with the off-putting name of Stinkfontein. The Basters renamed it Eksteenfontein for the kind Reverend who had found them a new home.

Today, Eksteenfontein remains a poor little village where, if it rains, you might fall into a pothole. But it’s set in a deep mountain cleft and in the spring, this is where you want to bring your city soul. The flowers that bloom out between the white rocks on the hillsides and the succulents guarding them all year ‘round are simply mesmerizing.

And when the kids begin to dance the Nama Stap, which is like a Richtersveld Line Dance, it looks like something from a movie set in Macedonia as the girls’ dresses billow in the wind, their doekies flap and the boys lead them stiffly in that “I’d-rather-be-playing-football” manner so perfected by teenagers the world around…


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