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Unisa Press

Roots and Routes: Karretjie People of the Great Karoo.
The Marginalisation of a South African First People

Roots and routes: The Karretjie people of the Great Karoo Published by Unisa Press


Michael de Jongh






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About the book

The lives of a previously ‘invisible’ and forgotten ‘first people’ of South Africa come to the fore in this carefully researched study. The ‘Karretjie People’ (Donkey Cart People) of the Great Karoo are direct descendants of the /Xam (San/Bushmen), who were the earliest inhabitants of much of the Karoo interior. Today, as itinerant sheep-shearers, the ‘Karretjie People’ roam the arid expanses of the Karoo in their donkey carts in search of a possible shearing opportunity, sleeping over on the roadside in their make-shift overnight shelters.

This unique study is the result of several decades of original research into the lives and community of these gypsy-like wanderers, and highlights the plight of this marginalised South African community, ‘poorest of the poor’. The ingenious adaptation of the ‘Karretjie People’ to particularly trying circumstances and their challenging environment is illustrated by their unique way of life. In a reader-friendly narrative Mike de Jongh not only makes the story of the ‘Karretjie People’ accessible to the general reader, but offers a deeper insight into the early history and environment of the Great Karoo. At the same time, students of human and social sciences will find material in the study appropriate to methodological and theoretical issues in this subject area.

Besides offering a colourful portrait of a community neglected by both government and NGO agencies, this book contains rich sociological data, which should bear important implications for policy-makers in the spheres of education and development as well as in the domain of political decisions.

About the author

Professor Michael de Jongh is a prominent anthropologist who has extensively researched the ‘Karretjie People’. He has published widely in the fields of ethnicity, urbanisation, traditional leadership, local government, methodology and human mobility.