Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Outa Lappies Retires

- Ailsa Tudhope -

One of the living treasures of the district lives in a little house at the Prince Albert Road Station - Outa Lappies (Jan Schoeman), the Lappiesman.

One of the reasons for his being called Outa Lappies was that he wore clothes stitched together from “lappies” – colourful patchwork decorated with woollen embroidery. For the Millennium, Tannie Louisa Jooste made him a special patchwork and hessian suit upon which she embroidered the year “2000”.

Today Outa dresses in blue overalls, a hessian cape and a colourful hat completing his ensemble. The plain overalls are symbolic of the fact that he has retired. “I can hang up my gloves in peace,” he says.

Born under a bush on a sheep trek during the 1920’s, somewhere between Willowmore and Aberdeen, Outa spent his childhood in the Great Karoo. His father worked on farms and paid heed when his wife informed him they had stayed in a particular place quite long enough and it was time to move on. Outa’s mother came from Griqua and Damara stock “uit Oukiep se w√™reld”. He can trace his family on his father’s side back four generations through Stefanus and September Schoeman to Oupa Quezy, who came across the Limpopo and whose ancestors lived in Ghana.

Outa’s karretjie (rickshaw) lies at rest now in his yard at the station. Over the years he hauled it on journeys spanning 16 000km, which took him back to places he remembered from his childhood and then further afield. Although he has recently been invited to attend a van Gogh exhibition in Holland and many of the tourists he has met have invited him to visit them in far flung places, he has hung up his travelling boots and intends spending his last years in his little house with the sunflowers bobbing in the garden.

Outa is as well-known for his art as his clothing. Having left school with “standard two-and-a-quarter” he followed his father’s philosophy that there was no short cut to success. “To achieve riches you have to take the best route, not the easiest – and that means work.” Examples of his art surround him in his yard: ‘lighthouses’ and hands made from old tin cans and broken glass; chairs constructed from reeds, wire, metal and glass; wood embellished with pokerwork; embroidered lappies and hats. All his materials are recycled and time has gone into each creation. “Use your hands and you’ll never be hungry” is a principle he still puts into practice.

“Now my art is my hobby,” he says, “I don’t want to lie down and wait for death – I must keep busy, but I need time to be quiet, to rest in the afternoons. When I look at my art now I think, how many heartbeats did it take to make?”

“My story is something of the past,” says Outa. “I do not fit in with modern things. I am in the second last chapter of my life, the next adventure is after I die.”

“Waar ek begin het, gaan ek einde.” Outa spends his days recalling the past: “1929 feels like yesterday,” and chatting to his neighbours, particularly the children whom he teaches to do a job, not ask for a handout. He asks that people respect his retirement and while he is happy to see visitors, he prefers them to telephone first. His telephone number is available at the Prince Albert Tourism Association Office. His art can be bought from the Prince Albert Gallery and Bodo Toelstede 023 5411 330.

Take it gently, Outa, surrounded by children, cats and birds, resting in the shade under the sunflowers. May your retirement be the peaceful time you desire.

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