23 October 2011 by Chris Marais

Frans Boekkooi - Country Artist

We often cross the plains of the Karoo Heartland to the tiny little village of Nieu Bethesda, deep in the Sneeuberg ranges.

The Gats River bisects the village where world-renowned South African playwright Athol Fugard keeps his Karoo home. Water, however, sweet and fresh drinking water, comes from a strong spring that has fed Nieu Bethesda since its inception.

This is a place of creative spirit. Artistic innovators either live here full-time or have weekend homes along its shady lanes. The road that passes the famous Owl House is a dirt road - and everyone likes it just like that.

Across from the Gats lives Frans Boekkooi and his family. Frans is a sculptor who has found his mojo in the dry Karoo lands. While still based in Port Elizabeth in 2006 he came to finish off some work and fell in love with this peaceful little place.

“I spent three months here, in the quiet. My head space changed. There’s something about the Karoo. The feeling, the history, the people who make you feel so welcome. The light, the stars at night, the silence.

“It’s like you’ve come home. It’s a place that feels familiar, even though you may not have been here before. And it seems to bring out a creativity in so many people.”

However, if you’re not careful, you can get lost in the Karoo. Out here, no one can see your talent unless you market it - or have a wife like Heidi Boekkooi, who promotes her husband’s fine work like he was the best, the last, artist on Earth.

So you’ll find Frans and, more importantly, his sculptures, all over South Africa - and, one day, the international art world. But, like Athol Fugard, part of his being will always belong to the dusty dirt roads of Nieu Bethesda…

Category: Culture & History

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