By Chris Marais & Julienne du Toit
The late Jan Schoeman, AKA Outa Lappies, was a ramshackle philosopher-artist who inspired travellers from all over the globe.
With his gnarled hands he fashioned little carts, coaches and cryptic signs out of recycled glass and tin. His glinting outsider artworks would catch the eye of passing motorists, many of them foreign tourists, who would then stop, chat and purchase his creations.
When we met Outa Lappies on the Prince Albert road he had built a large bottle-and-cement wall at the entrance to a farm called Botterkraal.
His central philosophy, taught him by his sheep-shearer father, was this:
“Every day, make something out of nothing.”
In 2000, Outa Lappies was voted Tourism Personality of the Year. He used to keep this framed award displayed under a thorn tree near his work space.
His festooned hand cart stood a few metres away. There was a time when an incredibly strong, younger version of Outa Lappies harnessed himself into that cart and dragged it way across the Great Karoo.
“I have eaten the main meal of my life,” said Outa. “Now I’m living on pudding – I’m outspanned.”
For many years, on his daughter’s birthday, he would seat her in his hand cart and pull her through the streets of Prince Albert village in a ceremony that would steal the heart of any princess.
Outa Lappies died in 2011. He was true Karoo Royalty.
- For an insider’s view on life in the Karoo, get the Three-Book Special of Karoo Roads I, Karoo Roads II and Moving to the Platteland – Life in Small Town South Africa by Julienne du Toit and Chris Marais for only R720, including courier costs in South Africa. For more details, contact Julie at email@example.com