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21 ICONS: Karel Benadie

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The penultimate edition of 21 ICONS  South Africa on 8 December 2013 featured 50-year old Master Tracker Karel Benadie, who has been on the spoor of animals and plants his whole life. He was photographed in the Karoo, where he teaches photographer and filmmaker Adrian Steirn how a tuft of kudu hair caught in a small bush in the Karoo National Park represents a magical story in nature.


“Karel Benadie is basically a magician of the bush,” says Steirn. Walking the arid Karoo with his father turned Benadie into the master he is today, and Karel knows all the habits and spoors of the animals in his environment, even beetles and scorpions, and he has learned how to think just like them. He is also an expert on the medicinal qualities of trees and plants.


He was born on 24 July 1963 on the farm Stoltzhoek in the Beaufort West district, now known as the Karoo National Park. Growing up he had always been interested in nature, and he spent his time as a young boy exploring the veld and learning about the plants, the spoors and the animals. Benadie spent time with his father looking after his sheep and setting traps for jackal and caracal.


Benadie spent 15 years tracking the movements of Black Rhinos, and his valuable research has played a vital role in their conservation. He joined the Tracker Academy in 2010, training young individuals from underprivileged backgrounds, who will preserve and continue his unique and valuable work. Benadie believes he is living a dream as a teacher of indigenous knowledge to young aspiring trackers.


His 21 ICONS portrait, like all the others in the series, will be auctioned at the end of the project and the proceeds donated to his charity of choice.


Over 21 weeks black and white portraits of 21 South African heroes will be shared as collectable posters in the Sunday Times newspaper, and the accompanying short films will air on SABC3 at 6.57pm, just before the 7pm news. Fans can follow the series online through the digital campaign launched by Quirk Joburg on Facebook, on Twitter or at, where you can find icon profiles and behind the scenes images uploaded weekly. Or you can catch up here every Monday.


21 ICONS South Africa is proudly sponsored by Mercedes-Benz South Africa, Nikon, Deloitte, The Sunday Times, SABC3 and the Department of Arts and Culture. Additional credits go to content-creation company Ginkgo Agency.





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