MAAK HEK TOE !!!
Tagline: Good fences make good neighbours, but shared gates admit all kinds of trouble.
WORLD OF STORY: THE VALLEY
MAAK HEK TOE!!! is set in a distant valley where the dramatic Cederberg mountains give way to the western plains of the 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 traveller 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 lucrative these days, competition grows amongst local farms to harvest the intermittent tourism. This leads also to a trend away from inheritance ownership to the parcelling-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 only to particular targets. Likewise, with the assortment of activities and destinations around, the potential passers-through would be both intentional and accidental; of all persuasions and purposes; speaking, but not necessarily hearing, with an array of languages and accents. Like an erratic mobile signal, mishearing is likely more common than clarity. Dramatic and comedic possibility is thereby extensive, whilst underscored by actual, well-known societal relevance and urgency.
Two intertwined thoughts predominate about South Africa – internally and abroad: Why can’t its assorted peoples communicate? And, how can its assorted peoples ever communicate? As unlikely as it may sound, the US/Norwegian co-production Lilyhammer makes for a useful comparison. While the violence and misogyny of that story – an American mobster tale set in a frigid Norwegian winter resort - may belong to another genre, the serial mis-location of its characters making for narrative inspiration, is a definite model. In fact, I imagine Maak Hek Toe!!! as being taken even further down that particular road.
But since this is South Africa, separate avenues therefore do exist – in this case, literally. Generations of farm workers, connected homogenously by language and perhaps even longer ancestry in these parts than the ‘original’ land-owners, are the less visible inhabitants of the valley – and are physically interconnected between the farms by a network of lesser tracks and trails and stiles over the determined fences. The homogeneity of this community is a stable constant against which the fractious, and at times absurd, notions of the owners are offset. Since understanding may be difficult in particular for a foreign audience, the primary medium of communication – as much as it is philosophical salve (and not without its own distinctive humour) – is the music and dance of a sector in the story who provide an at once objective, but also cynical view, of life in the valley. More will be 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.