Die Kas – Namakwaland, South Africa

Namakwaland, South Africa. March 2014

Die Kas – Afrikaans for ‘the closet’ – is the nickname of the poor part of Okiep, a small town in the arid Northern Cape of South Africa. Okiep once was a mining centre with the world’s largest copper mine, but mining operations have long ceased. Unemployment in town is estimated at over sixty percent. For their livelihood residents have to rely on either employed family members or on small government grants such as old age pensions or child support grants.
Die Kas used has been a typical ‘blikkiesdorp’, literally a tin can village with makeshift homes of corrugated sheets. Whereas the houses have been gradually upgraded – an outhouse in the yard, running water in the kitchen and prepaid power supply are standard today – the old tag has stuck.
Outside, it is dusty and stony, and the shacks seem to squat between piles of garbage, mostly plastic bottles of ‘sea breeze’, the local toxic booze. However, all bleakness abruptly ends at the front gate. The sandy yards are carefully swept, the insides of homes kept spotless and fondly decorated. The women of “Die Kas” create their personal spaces as a defence mechanism against the desolation and insecurity of the outside world.