South Africa is many things – a “World in One Country” is one description that is often used. A recent trip to the small town of Friemersheim reminded us just how rewarding it can be for those prepared to go off the beaten track and explore some of the so-called backwaters of our amazing, sometimes frustrating, never boring, country.
Where is Friemersheim?
This small town, described by some as a hamlet, lies a short distance inland of Great Brak River, itself a small town on the coast of the southern Cape
A Bit of History
I had travelled through this small town on a couple of occasions in recent years while bird atlasing in the area, but there was never a reason to stop or explore the town other than to find a few birds to add to the atlas list that I was occupied with at the time.
Wikipedia has the following to say about the history of the settlement :
A small agricultural community about 15 km from Groot-Brakrivier, Friemersheim was founded by a German missionary in the early nineteenth century. In 1869, through the efforts of Reverend Johann Kretzen of the Berliner Missionary Society, a school and church were built on the farm Gonnakraal, which Kretzen had bought for his sister.
After his sister’s death in 1872, he bequeathed the farm to the Dutch Reformed Missionary Society, and later it was renamed Friemersheim, after Kretzen’s town of birth in Germany. It remained in the ownership of the Dutch Reformed Church until the 1960s, when it was sold to the state
Friemersheim was firmly placed on the tourist map during lockdown, when South African artist Fourie Ackermann, who moved to the area in 2015, decided to liven things up with murals painted on the walls of local houses. And did he make a good job of it!
It is an ongoing project it seems, as new murals ‘pop up’ on houses throughout the spread-out town on a regular basis. Our drive through the village wasn’t done in a planned fashion – after driving most of the main street we turned off and meandered along some of the side streets, discovering murals along the way.
These are some that we found, but there are more hidden away in spots we didn’t get to, so there’s a reason to return ….
Parked Truck and a Rhino getting an apple from Young Girl
The murals are executed in some detail and many leave you momentarily wondering what is real and what is a result of the artist’s undoubtedly vivid imagination. Quirky comes to mind as you find one mural after another, all of which tend to raise a smile, even a loud chuckle – and that I’m sure is what Fourie Ackermann was aiming for.
At first glance of this one, the Rhino being fed an apple is obviously painted, but the GMC truck in the garage has you looking twice, then realising it’s also a mural. The two people in the garden are real by the way.
You feel as if you can climb in and drive away – but it’s actually a blank wall…
Bataleur and a Tannie (She’s real!)
The chatty, friendly owner of this house posed in front of the mural of a Bataleur Eagle at our request and told us a bit about the murals elsewhere in Friemersheim. Her mural was one of the first done by the artist and according to the Tannie (pronounced “tunnie” – the respectful Afrikaans term for Auntie) took the artist just two days to complete.
The addition of a balloon to many of the murals is just another quirky ‘signature’ by the artist
Whales and a Boy in a boat
Some of the murals, such as this one, are completely unexpected after seeing mostly animals and birds depicted – this one depicts whales underwater reaching out to a boy in a boat
Girl at a Window, Shark….!
As with the previous images, this old home stands alone on a hill and would hardly be noticed if it wasn’t for the murals
The same home, showing the side view with its depiction of a shark ‘popping out’ of the wall. Just look at how the wall is drawn back like a curtain to reveal the fearsome shark
Friendly Man waving, Goat in Window
Yet another small home on a hill with the door painted to look like a larger than life man waving to you. Oh, and he’s wearing a Springbok rugby jersey!
Beyond quirky is this depiction of a goat standing on a window ledge with curtains billowing and outsize butterflies fluttering
Cape Sugarbird on Protea
Another Friendly Man waving
Horse and Donkey with Cat, Pretty Window
Here again you need to look carefully – the garden and flowers are real and blend in wonderfully with the rather odd menagerie and the window that looks so real but is painted on a blank wall. And there’s one of those balloons again
Cheetahs and a (Real) Dog
When we stopped to view these cheetahs, we were wary of the fierce looking dog which leaped aggressively towards us – but was restrained by the chain to which it was tethered. We felt some pity towards the unfortunate dog in this situation, although this breed does not enjoy a good reputation.
Nevertheless, the Cheetahs were fascinating, especially the one climbing through the ‘hole in the wall’.
This town is a treat to see if you are ever in the area!