Groot Marico

Groot Marico
Groot Marico, takes its name from the nearby Madikwe River, corrupted by the first Voortekkers in the area into "Marico". The Afrikaans word "Groot" (Big), as locals are quick to point out, has nothing to do with the town's size, and refers to the river. The region was occupied by the Mangope faction of the baHurutshe, who established a town at Borutwe, or Mangope's Siding.  Their territory encompassed the Groot Marico River Valley. In the 1850s this faction of the baHurutshe opted to migrate out of the South African Republic and settled with the independent baTswana in what became firstly Bechuanaland and later Botswana. This was partly due to the exactions of the Boers, who had taken up residence in the fertile lands of the Groot Marico valley. (See also BaHurutshe and Jan Viljoen).  This valley and the irrigable lands within it, allowed for the later cultivation of tobacco, citrus fruits and lucerne.

Map showing Mafikeng, Lichtenburg & Zeerust.
The village was laid out on the farm Wonderfontein, owned by one Francois Joubert, and earned the status of a Health Committee in 1924. During the Second World War a number of Italian prisoners of war were stationed in the dorp and built a number of fine stone walls that are still visible.  It was proclaimed a town in 1948. However, its major claim to popularity rests on the reputation accorded to it by the famous South African writer, Herman Charles Bosman, who described it as bearing "the authentic stamp of South Africa"-a phrase that might have been applicable in the context of the period in which he briefly occupied the region in the 1920's, but which he most successfully immortalised in his later novels. Consequently, Groot Marico has become virtually synonymous not only with the name of Bosman, but also with the area known as the Bushveld, about which he wrote and which straddles the area between Rustenburg and Zeerust in the North-West Province.          
Building on its reputation, Groot Marico has, since the 1970s, successfully become a centre for tourism, and attracts hundreds of visitors, especially to a number of festivals relating to the cultural virtues and vices of the early Boers captured by Bosman in his novels; maybe not strictly authentic, but nevertheless highly memorable and amusing.       

South Africa's North-West province: A Guide to its History and Heritage. © 2017

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