Culture Experience In
The Klein Karoo
Oudtshoorn has unique architectural styles – much of which has to do with the ostrich booms of the 1880s and the early 1900s. With massive inflows of capital, the feather barons were able to build fantastic Ostrich Palaces in the Art Nouveau, Victorian, and Neo-Renaissance Revival styles – for which they employed architects like Karl Otto Hager, Georges Wallace (Snr. and Jnr.) and Charles Bullock (who was known for the turrets and lace with which he decorated his buildings).
Particularly unique to Oudtshoorn is the use of sandstone, which dates back to the 1860s, when the first Scottish stonemasons arrived to help with the construction of buildings like the St Jude’s Anglican Church (the oldest stone building in the town, it was completed in 1861), the Oudtshoorn Synagogue, the CP Nel Museum and dozens of Feather Palaces both on the ostrich farms and in the town.
Many of the best examples of the Oudtshoorn style can be seen on Baron van Rheede Street.
The Le Roux Townhouse Museum and “Arbeidsgenot”, home of C.J. Langenhoven, the Afrikaans lawyer and author of part of our National Anthem, provide interesting and authentic glimpses of life as it was once lived in the Klein Karoo.
Many of the older buildings in Oudtshoorn showcase fine examples of traditional Karoo architecture.
Also visit the unique suspension bridge originally made in England and erected to cross over the Grobbelaars River.
Khoi & San
The caves were known to indigenous people long before the Europeans landed at the Cape. Recent finds, such as tools left behind in ancient hearths in the cave mouth, prove that humans such as the Khoi have lived and sheltered here for at least 80 000 years.
The entrance was used as a home by the San and the walls were painted with pictures of game animals. Over two hundred years ago, in 1780, a Khoi herdsman again stumbled on the entrance to the caves while searching for missing cattle.
Oudtshoorn is one of the founding homes of the Afrikaans culture and language.
The Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees (translated: Klein Karoo National Arts Festival) is held each year in Oudtshoorn in honour of this rich heritage and one of the founding fathers of Afrikaans, C.J. Langenhoven.
Langenhoven’s home, Arbeidsgenot, is a National Monument and an important historical stop during your visit to Oudtshoorn.
Experience the living story of Afrikaans at Arbeidsgenot:
- Learn about the history of Afrikaans.
- Learn more about the pivotal role Langenhoven played.
- Get the latest “sun-time“ from Langenhoven’s sun dial.
- Meet Herrie the Elephant, Langenhoven’s imaginary pet elephant.
The Jewish Community of Oudtshoorn was so vast that it was named, with some degree of exaggeration “Little Jerusalem” or “Yerushalayim’ beDerom Afrika” (Jerusalem of South Africa). The CP Nel Museum is the only museum in the country with a synagogue inside which is still in use.
Klein Karoo Contact Details
Oudtshoorn & De Rust, Cango Caves