15 Jan MOVE: The Lost Carts of the Karoo | A Film by Timothy Gabb
Imagine celebrating your 100th birthday party (a chilling thought for those of us who lie about turning 30). Look past the impossibility of blowing out all your birthday candles and the inevitable hair loss and you will find an unbelievable accumulation of experiences, memories and stories to tell. Imagine spending a century living a simple life, then imagine having this simple life irrevocably changed on your 100th birthday. This was exactly the case when 100-year-old Mr. Louw, a nomadic sheep shearer of rural Karoo, moved into his first brick house after a lifetime on the road – Timothy Gabb was there to document the lifetime’s worth of stories.
In the documentary film MOVE: The Lost Carts of the Karoo, Timothy and the gabflyMedia team follow the Louw family’s transition into modernity after years of being “South Africa’s gypsies” or “Karretjie people”. Old Mr. Louw is given a government funded brick house to move into after having spent his entire life travelling with his partner and twelve sons on donkey carts, living in the harsh natural conditions of the Karoo. About the Louw family, who he has spent the past five years filming, Timothy says, “Through this family as protagonist, fighting their way into modernity and education, we are shown a landscape of transformation.” When viewing the film’s trailer one realizes just how difficult this transformation might be, as it becomes clear that the family is completely at odds with everyday modern phenomena such as money, running water, electricity and traditional relationships.
The film also focuses on one of the twelve sons, Isak, as he questions his unconventional heritage. Timothy on Isak: “Isak Louw, son of the old man, wishes to know where his grandparents are born, but the old man cannot answer him. Isak is left with many unanswered questions from his past, and has to piece together bits of information gathered from various family members to inform his own personal story.”
The Louw’s tell their story in their own, beautiful Karoo-Afrikaans – just one of the many ways in which this film aims to “represent the unrepresented” of South Africa. It is because of this that the project is endorsed by world famous South African playwright and director, Athol Fugard. Fugard feels that, “This project will be an important contribution to a body of artistic and scholarly work […] and […] resists the temptation to generalize lived experience. For too long has South Africa focused on its dominant narratives, and ignored the stories on the edges. This project, with its focus on the karretjie people of the Karoo, attempts to do just that and, as such, deserves all the support it can get.”
MOVE is currently still in productions stages and Timothy aims to complete it in time for the Durban International Film Festival in June. Timothy is also looking for funds to continue the project and aid the Louw family. To get involved, you can contact Timothy or follow the project Facebook page for updates on any further developments and campaigns.
Timothy is a freelance writer, photographer and filmmaker based in Cape Town.