In the outback of the Great Karoo of South Africa, at the foot of a mountain with no official name, a Griqua herbalist is teaching a white woman how to heal with herbs.
Oom Johannes Willemse, already in his nineties, was simply cross that it took well-known Afrikaans actress, Antoinette Pienaar, almost 40 years to come to him; after all, he had been dreaming that he would teach her and that she would assist in relaying his knowledge for decades.
When in 2001 she arrived on Theefontein, the farm of her second cousin, Jacques Pienaar, she was gravely ill with cerebral malaria which she had contracted in West Africa, but she stayed on to be healed by herbs and the Karoo.
“Doctors told me to prepare myself for an early death, because my liver and kidneys were severely damaged, but I have experienced first-hand how herbs strengthened my organs again and I am now completely healed. In many cases, conventional medicine takes over the functioning of the affected organ, but herbs strengthen the organ so that it can function on its own. Herbs work on a physical, as well as an emotional level in the body and therefore also relieves the symptoms of post-traumatic stress.”
In the Karoo with Oom Johannes she also learned about natural art, indigenous herbs, how to make herbal preparations, and how to live life as people of old did.
“In this way the sun shone warmly on my head and the blue sky became the cloak that I wore every day. Being surrounded by the natural balance like this helped me regain the balance in my inner landscape too.”
She and the Oom lives on a hill close to the farmstead, in labourer houses sans electricity or running water, on their own yard with animals, birds and peace. In Antoinette’s little white house on the hill, stories roll out like river stones: the renowned book, Kruidjie Roer My, was written on an old typewriter in front of the tiny kitchen window. Just like in the book, and Antoinette’s Tuesday-afternoon contribution on Amore Bekker’s Tjailatyd on Radio Sonder Grense (RSG), this website is meant to relay centuries of precious practical information, stories and remedies, to future generations.
Today, any person can pick up a phone or use the internet to benefit from the ancient knowledge and healing power of herbs, while the true seeker can visit Antoinette and Oom Johannes to rejuvenate body and soul.