Once Upon A Town… in Garies

Posted on 19 June 2015

Internationally renowned street artist, Falko, is road-tripping around SA, painting dorpies as he goes. The more obscure the place, the better. His mission: To change the locals’ perception of value. Along for the ride that is Once Upon A Town, is photographer Luke Daniel. This is Luke’s dispatch from Garies in the Northern Cape…


Once Upon A Town

Garies, Northern Cape.

Following the Olifants River – which resembles a beach oasis in the dry Northern Cape – the highway stretches beyond the horizon, in a dead-straight line. The scenery repeats itself and a five-hour journey feels more like ten. Forlorn, long-since-abandoned farm houses scatter the landscape, breaking the monotony of red desert sand and bossies. The town of Garies appears after kilometres of nothingness, nestled between rocky hills and the N7. It’s late Saturday afternoon, the sun hanging in the distance, and the town’s quietness is disturbed only by freight trucks heading to Namibia, a couple hundred kilometres away.


Garies, Northern Cape

Reuben with his two children; Troy (left) and Maya (right).

Rueben is a well-traveled Rastafarian, who’s settled in Garies. He’s a painter, and as such, has a keen interest in Falko’s murals, which began to manifest and decorate the RDP houses on the outskirts of town. Rueben’s house stands modest – he’s been building his home for the past five months after relocating from an area further out of Garies. He explains how hard it is to build something from nothing. His two dreadlocked children play on the rocky ground which Reuben has tried to adorn with various plants. He’s a proud and loving father – spending the evening with his kids, picking thorns out from under their feet. The pink evening sky slowly fades to black, and the crowds who have gathered to watch Falko work, stagger back home.


Once upon a town - Garies

Johannes Cloete on any given Sunday morning.

Waking to the sound of trucks grunting past on the nearby highway – the smell of fresh moerkoffie filtering through the hotel’s hallways. It’s not light outside yet. Across the road a dog yelps and an old lady swears. Church bells ring, and a few sharply dressed kids dodge potholes down the dusty road to Sunday service. Mister Johannes Cloete sits inside his small corrugated iron home, meticulously tearing strips off an old newspaper and rolling cigarettes. Chain-smoking his way through Sunday, just like every other day, he seems unperturbed by the nearby commotion – the neighbours out in their pajamas, watching Falko paint. A quiet and composed true Garies gentleman, born and bred in the heart of the Namaqualand, the searing sun and red dust has etched the landscape into his skin.


Once upon a town - Garies

Falko at work as the locals look on.

The weekend comes to a slow end, and while most locals spend their lazy late afternoons in the cool shade, two old friends, Jericho and Mister Juice, brave the heat stumbling over rocks and bushes looking for their next drink, which is found at a dimly lit, desolate shabeen. They call me Lucas Maree and sing the chorus to ‘Ek sou kan doen met ‘n miljoen’. I’m offered something to drink by Roslyn – she insists – Garies hospitality is something beautiful.


Once upon a town - Garies

Tys Schreuder.

To the west of town a megalithic grouping of rocks overlooks the highway, hills and distant houses. The formation is known as Letterklip and was first used as an informal post office for local Namaqualanders. Years later, in 1902, British troops were stationed in the area to protect Garies from Boer raids, during the war. Tys Schreuder farms a piece of land here – he talks about the good old days in Garies, back when he was mayor. He tells me it hasn’t rained in the area for over a year, that water is a big problem for the town.


Once upon a town - Garies

A new facade for an old house, by Falko.

Earlier that day, we’d met Jan, a self-proclaimed Khoisan leader, who believes that God is punishing the people of Garies, through drought. He explains that because people are living an unrighteous existence, devoid in faith and dedication to God, the rain is being withheld from the town.


Watch the video of Falko and Luke’s trip to Garies at Once Upon A Town where you can also see more of Falko’s art from the walls of Garies.

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