10 October 2010 by Chris Marais

Big Old Ben Dekker

The first time I saw Ben Dekker in the flesh, he came trudging up the beach hotel steps like a giant hippie Goth, beads and blonde hair and blue eyes and, according to my delightfully blushing wife Julie, “an obscene amount of exposed thigh”.

I followed him into the bar, to order some beers. He took a long sip of red wine and said to me:
“The stars are out tonight. You should show them to your lady.” What a charming man, I thought. I must be sure to watch him like a bloody hawk when he’s around my other half.

We’ve become friends, over the years, Ben and Jules and I. He lives in a cliff hollow, sculpts with driftwood, works with AIDS orphans around Port St Johns, clears alien plants from his environment, occasionally befriends ladies who might drop in and, all in all, does a pretty good job of being the last real Robinson Crusoe of South Africa.

For a guy who’s pushing 70, Ben’s still in good nick. I wanted to shoot a portrait of him some time ago at a place I had found. No, said Ben, I’ve got a much better spot for you. And so he took me off to a clump of wave-washed rocks, waded over and assumed a reflective, nautical pose. There’s only one Ben Dekker in this world…

Category: Culture & History

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