Carlo Randall has been on many adventures in his life, but has always been rooted to the city.
Carlo grew up in District Six but spent most of his childhood in Bonteheuwel over weekends and school holidays.
He attended school at Zonnebloem, and later, Christian Brothers College, where he found an interest in religion.
“We had career guidance and religious education, but a very holistic approach, and that piqued my interest. I was always attracted to the natural aspects of life, so I didn’t want to be a lawyer or scientist either. In the end, I went to Cape Technikon (now CPUT) to study building surveying.”
Carlo left the course after six months.
“I initially wanted to be more creative, like an architect. I didn’t see myself doing building surveying my whole life.”
He then sought new experiences, working for a number of building companies, hotels and the casino. He managed craft stores at the V&A Waterfront and even did personal training and research for Stellenbosch University.
“One of my dreams was always to travel, so I taught myself to make jewellery out of natural materials and left to go to Namibia and then to Angola — where I spent only a few hours because they had just come out of a war with South Africa, and I went in clothing that represented the defence force.”
Carlo was not allowed into the country.
“It’s a funny story, but it was an interesting experience,” he said.
He then ended up back in Cape Town, and lived in Khayelitsha until his next journey to the Overberg.
“This journey was more spiritual. It was a journey of purpose and of seeking. I also wanted to see as much of the country as possible,” he said.
Carlo ended up in Paarl, where the Rasta culture is popular. This is where he became interested in dreadlocks and later took on the Rastafarian culture.
“In each religion, you end up learning something. Rastafari was all about the Bible, anti-establishment and banishing spiritual wickedness. So I decided to explore Rastafarian culture in South Africa.”
He also found lots of men wearing sack cloth, living in mountains and practising with medicinal herbs.
“The medicinal herbs was actually a Khoi thing and not a Rasta thing. I tried to refrain from getting involved because of the dedication that comes with it — harvesting, going to the mountains and learning how to use it.”
He said one day, out of boredom, he decided to go with the men in sack cloths, and he didn’t turn back.
“I learnt a lot in the mountains. I was a personal trainer, so I knew quite a bit about anatomy, and that helped. Thereafter, I travelled again, this time to learn about medicinal plants.”
During this time, Carlo made Cape Town his base by opening a stall in the CBD, and then travelling and learning how to use plant medicine.
“At the time, more than 10 years ago, I was the only other person trading in plant medicine besides the women on the parade. I traded all over the CBD, including on the parade, on Green Market Square, and at the Reserve Bank. I am now back in Shortmarket Street.”
In the last few years, while trading, Carlo has also branched out into other things, such as a ceramic apprenticeship and workshops relating to medicinal plants.
“This time was used to refine the knowledge I already had, such as different illnesses and terminology. My next goal is to work on creating programmes in schools based on indigenous knowledge.”
Being in the city centre for over a decade, Carlo said it had degraded in the past few years.
“There are people doing drugs in full view of the public, as well as selling drugs openly, and not to mention the aggressive begging. If I feel like this, imagine what the tourists feel like.
“We need security with powers of arrest. It’s very unproductive to trade here. I used to love the city centre… I can’t say I do anymore.”