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Tagline: Good fences make good neighbours, but gates admit all kinds of trouble.


MAAK HEK TOE!!! is set in a remote valley where the dramatic Cederberg mountains give way to the western plains of the arid Great Karoo. A single dirt track passes from end to end, and out the other side (when the river is not in spate) – not to one side of the farms, but through the heart of each one in turn. Every traveler therefore has to stop, unlatch the gate to each succeeding farm, and be most sure to close it again before moving on. It is this old-world remoteness, along with the topography of an actual valley and its idiosyncratic collection of hand-painted roadsigns, that gave rise to the concept for this series.

Times, it seems, are changing, as are local economics. More people than ever traverse the valley these days – as a means to cross the spectacular mountain range, or as a destination in itself. Since agricultural farming is decreasingly viable these days, competition grows amongst local farms to harvest the intermittent tourism. This leads also to a trend away from inheritance ownership to the parceling-up and selling-off of land to a random diversity of newcomers. It is a time, therefore, for fences to resurrect old meanings.

Those quaint painted signs along the valley, as eloquent as they may be, are designed to market to unique and particular targets. Likewise, with the assortment of activities and destinations around, the potential passers-through would be both intentional and accidental; of all purposes and persuasions; speaking with an array of languages and accents, but not necessarily hearing one another. Like the feeble mobile signal, mishearing is likely more common than clarity. Dramatic and comedic possibility is thereby extensive, whilst underscored by actual societal relevance and urgency.

Two related thoughts predominate about South Africa: Why can its assorted peoples not communicate? And, how could its assorted peoples ever communicate? As unlikely as it may sound, the US/Norwegian co-production Lilyhammer makes for a useful comparison, as does the multi-Emmy Award-winning US/British series Ted Lasso. While the violence and misogyny of the former – an American mobster tale set in a frigid Norwegian winter resort - may belong to another genre, the serial mis-location of its characters, as with those in Ted Lasso, make for narrative inspiration. In fact, I imagine Maak Hek Toe!!! as being taken even further down that particular road, with the added poignancy of the known domestic social bind.

But since this is South Africa, separate avenues therefore do exist – in this case, literally. Generations of farm workers, connected by language and longer ancestry in these parts than the land-owners, are the less visible inhabitants of the valley – but yet are physically and directly connected by a network of lesser tracks and trails and stiles over and around the divisive fences. The homogeneity of this community is a stable constant that contrasts the fractious, and at times absurd, notions of the land-owners and the visitors to the valley. Since understanding may be shown to be difficult amongst these latter groups, the functioning medium of communication in the story is the lively music and dance of the former sector who provide a critical, sometimes cynical, view of life in the valley.

(More is said about this in the chapter: Music.)

Sometimes, in fiction, the greatest articulation is in miscommunication … while the fullest understanding is delivered through misinterpretation. Such is the underlying idea of Maak Hek Toe!!!, in a thematic that is entirely circumscribed by place.

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