national Arts Festival Banner

Friday, November 15, 2013


Very interesting, easy to read and elegant hardcover publication. (Review by Keith Millar)

The vast arid hinterland of South Africa, known as the Karoo, is to many no more than an area to drive through on their journey to and from the Cape.

However, if they would pause for a while and take a look around, they would discover a land of extraordinary splendour and of considerable historical and cultural significance.

Chris Schoeman’s impressive book The Historical Karoo serves the purpose of educating and informing readers of the towns, buildings, places of interest, events and fascinating characters that are part of the history of this fascinating and hauntingly beautiful part of South Africa.

The Historical Karoo is a very attractively presented book, with high quality glossy pages  tinted with a subtle brown colour to give them a distinct look of antiquity. The book has an abundance of fascinating photographs, both new and historical, which illustrate the content perfectly and bring the subject matter to life.

However, I did feel that some of the photographs were printed a bit too small and result in a loss of their impact and significance.

Chris Schoeman did widespread and significant research for this book. Other than his own extensive travel and interviews,  he has included no less than ten pages listing his sources of information in the Notes and Bibliography sections.

A total of 46 towns, villages, hamlets and districts from right across the Groot (Great) and Klein (Little) Karoo are included in the book. Intriguing insights are given into the origins, historical architecture, pioneers and events which shaped the towns of the Karoo and the area as a whole.

The Karoo has attracted a host of famous travellers, writers, statesmen and scientists over the years. Amongst those influenced by the area have been Olive Schreiner, Rudyard Kipling, Winston Churchill, Paul Kruger and Dr. Chris Barnard.

It is also the birthplace of many of South Africa’s leading literary figures such as Athol Fugard, Guy Butler, N.P. Van Wyk Louw, C.J. Langenhoven and Nobel Prize winner J.M. Coetzee. Brief biographies of all these luminaries as well as those of many other interesting and famous people are included.

There was serious conflict in the Karoo during the Anglo-Boer war and as a result there are many British block-houses, forts, grave sites and memorials from this tragic time to be seen.

Other than its significance as a concise history of one of the lesser-known but captivating areas of South Africa, The Historical Karoo is a very interesting, easy to read and elegant hardcover publication. It is a must for anyone visiting the Karoo or just interested in the history of our diverse and fascinating country.

The Historical Karoo is published by Zebra Press (Radom House Struik), and the ISBN number is 978 177022 568 8. Suggested retail price is R250. - Keith Millar