Issue 24 ~ March , 2020
I guess we are all back in the saddle contemplating the coming of winter but lets not wish our days and weeks away and enjoy the wonderful summer we have had with some very much needed rains in the Karoo; the dams are in the most full and rivalling the Great Lakes….a tab muddy but still it’s all water!
With the seeming success of Booktown Richmond and BoekBedonnerd and the concomitant growth of dorp Richmond to reach towards that elusive critical mass required to see a village come into its own, we have decided to look to a novel project just to fill our days. Our wives are overjoyed to hear this !!
Richmond lies in the middle of the Great Karoo which is a renowned wool area and does have a quantity of Mohair production. South African produces almost half of the Mohair grown on planet earth, and most of that is produced in the Eastern Cape part of the Karoo. It is one of the wonder natural fibres which has a vast application.
I have long had a small Karoo wool shop at the Karoozing Gallery on Loop Street but sadly since the death of Darryl Conolly, it has been closed, notwithstanding my keenness to get it up and running once again.
I was telling Darryl …..Booktown Darryl that is….that I was thinking about another festival to run when we had the Coetzee Fugard Festival in April May and was working on something to do with storytelling and oral traditions, which are in many ways a dying (literally; sadly) art form and which contains so much of South Africa’s rich history. And then I mentioned that I was seriously going to re-open my wool shop and looking at promoting wool sales in the heartland where it is produced. I have long hucked the farmers for wearing polyester sweaters in the winter….they must all be wearing Merino and Mohair woollies…only wool locally produced…no Pringles!
So, we decide on a joint storytelling and wool creations confluence at the same time and then out comes “Spinning a Yarn” ….. “A Festival of Story Telling and the Oral Traditions of South Africa”.
I had already managed some sponsorship of Mohair products from SAMIL, formerly South African Mohair Spinners in PE. Done deal. Now we just have to get some local ladies trained in the art of knitting and we can locally produce home grown Karoo products.
In addition, it is on the cards that well know Karoo Chef Annatjie Reynolds will be holding cookery classes over the same weekend, still to be decided in the next while, so pencil in the last weekend of April 2021! It’s around the corner.
Things are progressing very well, bar a commitment from the Northern Cape Government to financially support the project, we continue notwithstanding. We have already lined up some really great speakers including a Canadian Profession from McGill….where I happened to have studied, to speak on some aspects of the Boer War as well as a Wits Architecture Prof who runs the Heritage Foundation here in Johannesburg…..and much much more to come.
Below following is a brief introduction to Spinning a Yarn.
Peter Baker (co-director of Bookbedonnerd, alongside Darryl David)
Website: Booktown Richmond
BOOKTOWN RICHMOND PRESENTS:
Spinning a Yarn
A Festival of Story Telling and the Oral Traditions of South Africa
And we will be pulling the wool over your eyes
To be announced at BookBedonnerd 2020 with first edition in April...May 2021
Richmond shot to prominence in 2007 when it became the first Booktown in South Africa, and to this very day, still the only Book Town on the African continent. Our BookBedonnerd Festival is considered one the best literary festivals in the Karoo, if not the entire country. The town is today considered the literary jewel of the Karoo. The town is fast approaching that critical mass when there is a net inflow of new people; builders, artisans, writers, artists, investors and a new life and spirit has settled in the dorp. We have reached a point where retired folk are choosing to retire to Richmond. Over the last five years, some truly stunning guesthouses have opened up in Richmond, and the newly opened Richmond Karoo Padstal is considered by travellers to be one of the best Padstals in SA. The town is now in need of a second festival to maintain momentum for our rural generation ideals
To this end, we plan to launch one of the most unique festivals in SA, building on the undisputed strengths of the town and the region. It is a common joke that Richmond has more sheep than human inhabitants. Indeed, Richmond and the Karoo are one of the largest wool producing regions in the world. Moreover, the Karoo is the largest Mohair producing region in the world.
Thus, in order to build on the towns unique selling points, we plan to launch a winter festival focussed on wool and the craft outputs associated with this fibre – quilts, scarfs, socks, bedding. However, we plan to focus on a very rare type of craft – HOOKING
Rug hooking is both an art and a craft where rugs are made by pulling loops of yarn or fabric through a stiff woven base such as burlap, linen, or rug warp. ... When using the hand-torn technique the rugs are usually done in a primitive motif. No such festival exists in SA. We plan to exploit this gap in the market, and moreover do it in the place where the fibres originate.
But a ‘wool festival’ on its own would not be unique. We plan to conjoin a STORY TELLING FESTIVAL to capitalise on the phrase – SPINNING A YARN. To spin a yarn means to tell a story, usually a long, imaginative, colourful and unlikely story. South Africa has countless book festivals – we should know – we all but invented the genre. But no festival exists in SA today that foregrounds the oral tradition in SA. Yet South Africa can boast one of the strongest story telling traditions in the world. Think of Gcina Mhlope; think of Oom Schalk Lourens; think of Diana Ferrus whose story telling skills were responsible for bringing Sarah Baartman home.
And so, we plan to host the great, unsung storytellers to Africa’s only Booktown. The unsung storytellers who cannot lay claim to having a book to their names. But people with an innate gift of the gab. But we want to go much further. We want to be able to document and promote Griekwa Afrikaans. We want to be able to promote the Nama language and the culture of the First People of this country. If we can’t do it in the province of their birth, where will it be done. With funding, we could become the figurative Tower of Babel. In the heart of the Great Karoo.
And with the visitors we will no doubt attract, we must promote a self-spun brand of VOLUNTOURISM in our town. Knitting socks for school children and the poor, scarves, sweaters and hats. We have already secured sponsorship of wool from SAMIL Natural Fibres, (Cape Mohair Spinners).
This two-pronged approach to yarn will yield, we believe, the most unique festival in the Northern Cape, if not the entire country. The possibilities are endless.
Spinning a Yarn will be introduced during BoekBedonnerd XIV in October and the first Yarn Festivals be held in April or May 2021 over a three day weekend to be decided in the coming months.
Watch this space!