Gerhard van Wyk grew up in Johannesburg and came to South Limburg for love. Chretien Ploum from Kerkrade worked in Cape Town for 20 years and returned to his roots. They are homesick for the 'ubuntu' feeling in South Africa. They sell South African products from their webshop in Meerssen.
Gerhard van Wyk was born 31 years ago in Johannesburg, South Africa. “In 2019 I ended up in Meerssen because of love.” Chretien Ploum grew up in Kerkrade. “In 1997, at the age of 26, I emigrated to Cape Town to work in the hotel industry. I never intended to go back. But when my father died in 2016 and my mother needed support, my South African wife and I decided, no matter how hard it was for us, to move to the Netherlands with our son. A secure future here ultimately trumped quality of life there.”
The men have one big common denominator: homesickness for South Africa. Gerhard: "I miss the South African 'Ubuntu', connection, here. And of course the sun,” he says laughing. He started opscial media chat groups with a compatriot. “About 250 South African families, in South Limburg alone, joined.” In chats, in addition to conversations about rules that people sometimes encounter, the desire for the 'braai' (BBQ, ed.) is regularly discussed. “A connecting element par excellence in my native country.”
Chretien got to know Gerhard through the club of like-minded people, and knows what Gerhard is talking about. “The braai is a spontaneous event, a metaphor for life in South Africa. Not with the agenda, as is usual here. No hamburger or satay on the grill, but farmer's sausage and lamb. On wood, not on charcoal. Therefore, a braai can last for many hours. It is a social happening that every South African recognizes.”
The gentlemen came to the conclusion that they wanted to do more to express the connection with the country that both love so much. They started the UitAfrika webshop in Meerssen, with South African products. Gerhard: “We support local producers and one-man businesses. Many products are unique and handmade, and some come from the townships (living areas of many black, often poor, South Africans, ed.). We want to give something back to the whole country. With fair prices for fair products.”
Products in the webshop include: printed t-shirts, shoes, bags, wines, earrings, scarves, pillows, sheets, blankets, tablecloths and even spices. And of course the typical 'braai-broekies'. Gerhard: "Everything has a South African touch."
Gerhard and Chretien ultimately want to earn a living with the webshop, but part of the proceeds also go to non-profit organizations in South Africa. Gerhard: "Like the Dyer Island Conservation Trust, which is committed to preserving the endangered black-footed or spectacled penguin."
More information: www.uitafrika.nl
BY SJAK PLANTHOF