Mapped: Your Karoo Art Escape

2016-09-18 15:53 - Carina Greeff
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Many visit the ever-stretching Karoo for warm hospitality, the authentic Karoo farm experience, Karoo lamb, hunting expeditions, family reunions or simply travelling between Cape Town and Johannesburg. Some even visit Tankwa for the ultimate party experience at Africa Burn.

A Karoo art escape might not be top of mind, but is not to be overlooked.

The Little and Great Karoo is buzzing with arty hangouts and galleries, each providing a unique art experience, from photography to upholstery and art-themed breakfast spots.

Considering the unique and picturesque natural surroundings of the Karoo, it is not hard to believe that many artists have replicated the landscapes in their artworks. Jacob Henrik Pierneef was especially inspired by the Karoo, creating many well-loved Karoo pieces.

Unleash your inner artist and explore the art experiences the Karoo has to offer - the Karoo has a special place for the writer, reader, painter or performer.

Here's where to go and what to do during your Karoo art escape:

Prince Albert

Walking down the main street of Prince Albert, one is surprised with many art galleries, photo galleries, gift and antique shops. Hours can pass in these hideaways before one realises the craving for coffee and treats - something that is quickly addressed by a selection of cosy coffee stops.

What to do

The Showroom is the go-to venue for performing arts in the Karoo. Keep an eye on upcoming events and coordinate your Prince Albert visit to include a night at the theatre.

A photo posted by Gisela Bean (@giselabean) on

In true Karoo syle, AVOOVA is your one-stop shop for hand-decorated ostrich egg artworks and collectables. Decorated eggs form spectacular artworks celebrating the Klein Karoo symbol - the ostrich.

The quaint Prince Albert Gallery is a must-see in Prince Albert. Booking a dinner in the art gallery to get the complete Karoo experience comes highly recommended. There’s something special about viewing an exhibition about the Karoo in the Karoo and then being able to eat wholesome Karoo food too. 

A photo posted by @sisi2sisi on

Where to snack

The Gallery Café, located at the Prince Albert Gallery, is a local favourite and a convenient stop after your visit to the gallery.

Antique collectors will find heaven at the Prince Albert Country Store Restaurant. Enjoy a delicious Karoo lunch in the courtyard and browse away in the antique-filled rooms of this Church Street spot.

A photo posted by Nikki (@_niknana_) on


Richmond is the literature mecca of the Karoo and the only book town in the country. Book worms are drawn to the unique selection of book nests located in the streets of Richmond, easily tracked down during a stroll through the little Karoo dorpie. Serious book worms will get the most out of Richmond if they spend at least a night in Book Town.

This small town of roughly 200 residents is easily missed en route to Bloemfontein, but a stop comes highly recommended for literature lovers. Being South Africa's Book Town, Richmond hosts various book festivals throughout the year. Catch The J.M. Coetzee/Athol Fugard festival, the Richmond Walking and Book Festival as well as the Boekbedonnerd literature festival.

What to do

Books are generously displayed in rooms and corridors of various Karoo-style houses and visitors are welcomed seven days a week. Explore Afrikana books telling tales of early explorers and hunters. Sharpen your SA history knowledge with books from the Anglo Boer war. Or take home souvenirs on SA fauna and flora.

Where to snack

Stay and eat at The Richmond in Leeb Street. Find rest and escape to the pages of your newly acquired books after gobbling up fresh bakes.


Oudtshoorn is dotted with arts and craft spots and gift shops especially featuring ostrich products like decorated eggs and leather crafts, but one popular gallery deserves a visit when passing through this large Karoo town.

 in Baron Van Reede Street has evolved from being an exhibition space for only the artists of Oudtshoorn to a world-class establishment for artists and art-lovers. Through its change, it has remained a hub of creativity for artists of the Karoo and as a physical and virtual exhibition space.

ArtKaroo hosts work of internationally acclaimed and established artists, to younger and emerging ones. Fine art, authentically expressed is the thread that runs through the work, with an avoidance of commercial repetition. Work not available elsewhere can often be viewed here.

Where to snack

A popular stop for locals and visitors alike is Nostalgie. Delicious home-style meals served in this cosy restaurant makes you feel at home in Oudtdhoorn. Interesting homey interior is a feast for the senses along with traditional Karoo meals.


Known by the iconic and beautiful Groot Kerk, museums and the welcoming Drostdy Hotel, one might pass the opportunity to view some intriguing South African artworks. Graaff-Reinet is not a mere 'passing through' dorpie and justifies a stay-over.

What to do

The Hester Rupert Art Museum is housed in a restored Dutch Reformed Mission Church. Talks of the Church being demolished made Dr Anton Rupert from the Rembrandt group acquire the building and it was transformed into the museum. The museum was opened in 1966 housing an array of South African Art pieces.

A photo posted by Sarah Khan (@bysarahkhan) on

Where to snack

After exploring South African artworks and discovering the heritage of the Hester Rupert Art Museum, quench your thirst at Polka. Grab one of the yummy Graaff-Reinet baked goodies or sit down for a selection of wines to suit your mood. But even though this is the Karoo, and hearty home-cooked lamb dishes are to be expected, never forget about the glorious spoil that is a cheesy pizza.

A photo posted by Mbuso Thusi (@mbuso2c) on

Nieu Bethesda

Helen Martins has been single-handedly credited with putting this Karoo Town on the Map. But currently it is a Karoo escape of note, with all the accommodation offerings booked out during season - so you'd be wise to plan in advance. 


What to do:

If you take one message away from this beautiful, somewhat macabre Owl House stuck out in the dusty town of Nieu Bethsa,  it should be to "Create the world you desire despite your surroundings". This seems to be what artist Helen Martins did, after being called back home from the exciting art scene in Johannesburg, to come and look after her ailing parents. While some of Martins' sculptures elude to a troubled mind and soul,  the overall reflection of the Owl House is that of an exceptionally creative individual.  

Also pay a visit to The Bethesda Art Centre. Local township artists from Nieu-Bethesda are encouraged to develop their skills, sell their artworks and work at the centre - an admirable community project worth a stop. Workshops are held in printmaking, drawing, sculpture, ceramics and mosaic and classes are given by local an international volunteers.

Where to snack

Karoo home-style meals like cottage pie and Karoo lamb as well as lighter snacks are prepared seven day a week at the Tower Café. After your visit to the art centre, pop over! It's not hard to find, and what's more, the tower is actually a guest house.

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