Thursday, December 24, 2009

Purple Aliens

The Jacarandas in the Langkloof are blooming. Their Gentian Violet heads are visible from a distance, glowing amongst the various greens of the other trees. They lay their blossoms down in a carpet of purple around their feet. My husband remembers Pretoria, and when we drive over them they pop and he recalls his childhood.

We have a Syringa tree in front of our house. It is our outside room. Recently it was laden with berries, light lilac buds and green leaves. The buds held a most heady fragrance, especially released at night, and I often sat beneath it in the dark, and drank that sweet aroma in. But they don't belong here actually - like we don't. We are called 'inkomers'.

There are many of us, and Lex and I are getting to know this group that we - by force of circumstance - belong to. Firstly, there are the motley crew in Twee Riviere: The family up at Bethany, the seven singing children, bringing the cows in. The large, hearty Dad with a voice like an arch angel with sandy hands - forever in shorts - conceding to add army boots in the cold. The blonde, willowy Mom, dreaming up prose whilst stooped over steaming pots of berries, apricots, peaches...

Then there is the other family, with six children, all of various skin tones, who live together in a jolly yellow house. Their sweet faces appear from bushes, peek out from between floral curtains, skipping and jumping like their happy goats when I arrive to visit.

There are the two 'bushbillies' who emerge smiling from their low wooden house like two Tolkien characters, bearded and long haired, in the winter cloaked and hooded. They live in a wooded clearing and their home inside is fragrant with herbal essences, ground coffee and spices. The wooden walls are lime washed, cosy, the light dappled and at night lanterns and candles glow.

A family with five children moved into Twee Riviere years ago, and now live in a house made of river rocks. They are a group, tousled haired and blonde, carrying chickens, large bunches of vegetables from their garden, or a baby on their hip when they greet you.

There are others who I know not so well, but are here, adding their shades of colour to the landscape. The artist who lives in Krakeel, with long, flowing greying hair, long dresses with gold brocade. She shares deep painterly thoughts whenever I meet her, often shrouded in smoke and also smiling.

Everyone knows the other artist, well known in art circles, now living deep in the Kouga. He paints Jesus with chalks and pigments taken from Khoi sites. He walks into town, like an old hobo, to share insights and have conversations about a past life surrounded by other artists and writers and South African characters now quite famous.

There is also the 'inkomer' Dominee and his wife and children who extend their home and hands in particular to outsiders, allowing themselves to be agents of change. They are a lighthouse to many, helping us to navigate  rough seas as we adapt to life here.

I have met other 'inkomers' too - from other parts of Africa. The Malawians are here, sought after for their labour, they are cheerful, hardworking and friendly. In town a Somalian woman sits cross legged and shrouded on a carpet of bags, bandannas, cheap underwear and headgear. 

In Joubertina there is a house just like Karen Blixens in 'Out of Africa'. Two other 'inkomers' live there. He is a true African, like a great white hunter, gravel voiced and leather hatted. She small and Dutch, trailing a little blonde child from one hand. We talk with them over black coffee, surrounded by cigarette smoke and they share their enthusiasms - the environment, the mountains, photography, art.

It is she who tells me about the wild orchids. Her eyes light up as she talks , first about the wonderful fynbos, and then, about the orchids, lying, contained in their bulbs beneath the soil, and then pushing up and revealing themselves in their abundant variety. Those who belong here are, of course, very beautiful.

But here now is my Syringa tree and over there I see two round Jacaranda heads. Next door are two oak trees that I adore, behind their stone wall. They don't belong here either.

More and more outsiders are coming - strangers fleeing the city, flying in on the wind like so many seeds, to find a better life. We are not always received with openness and friendship, but we are here to stay, and in the meantime , Langkloofers, why not enjoy the variety and colour that we bring.

 ....for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; .... Matthew 25:35

For the many in this beautiful Kloof that have blessed us so abundantly, Thank You. We are so looking forward to 2010. We are so grateful to be here, what a gift!
Have a Blessed Christmas!


  1. Hey, hey you forget so quickly the "soap makers", the inkomers in the Kouga another extension of the beautiful Langkloof. Another wonderful article. Merry ...merry..quite ....contrary.,Ho ho ho merry christmas,show me your stocking please.

  2. What wonderful colour and discription of folk living there. Truly a place to find a little peace. Best wishes for the new year.