The name Karoo is believed to come from the Khoi-khoi word garo meaning desert. The region justifiably can be called dry, but that would not be doing it justice either. It is a vast region of contrasts. Sometimes there are floods, snow, extreme heat, but also blessed with abundant underground water. Some parts are so lush that you would not believe you are in semi-desert countryside.
The Karoo is vast. Over 400 000 square kilometers. Roughly divided by the Cape mountains into the Little and the Great Karoo regions. It is not surprising that such variety can be found in this vast area. I recall visiting Nieu Bethesda in the Eastern Cape. Parts of the village are lush and green from borehole water furrows that feed the small holdings on one side of town. Go a bit further and the land is bone dry. Not a place for softies.
I suspect that the romance of the Karoo has won over most South Africans, but only those who live there can truly understand the place. There are many stories to add colour to the Karoo. Some true, others old yarns. As always it is the people who live there that weave the tapestry of this romantic place. It is not an easy life when nature brings on the extreme heat and cold. Making a living in certain parts must be difficult at times.
Still the attraction remains and there are popular tourist venues all over the region. Since I am a coastal boy at heart you would think that the Karoo would not be a popular painting subject for me. Yet I do enjoy the landscapes very much. The serenity, peace and history all work together.
The structure of the landscape too. By this I mean the vegetation, colour of the soil and uninterrupted views. There is a solidity and economy to the scenery. This translates to shape and structure on the canvas. Both important qualities to landscape painting.
Looking back on my paintings I can see that the Karoo has featured strongly. Almost as often as seascapes. It does seem that I am being called onto another Karoo trip to fill up on painting inspiration. Where to go next?
Malcolm Dewey: Artist. Country: South Africa