From the Archives: Karretjie People of the Karoo Face Extinction
This article from the Mail & Guardian‘s archives looks at the Karoo’s cart people and their imminent extinction. Anthropologist Michael de Jongh was interviewed for this report and has since written a book on the topic, Roots and Routes: Karretjie People of the Great Karoo.
Something about the word “verge” best defines the life that Johanna Ackerman and her family live under a bridge on the Seekoei River. She is among the oldest of a few thousand nomadic sheep-shearers, relics of an ancient Bushman society, whose history has scattered them around the roads and riverbeds of the Karoo.
The word describes their physical conditions and it captures their fate: Ackerman’s family live like gypsies in donkey carts on the edge of a gravel road that crosses the river near Colesberg; the men trek from farm to farm searching for work on the margins of the agricultural economy; women and children find food by scouring the side of the road for animals killed by passing cars.