Kwazulu-Natal

Dawn. Dundee, Natal. 20 October 1899. It was bitterly cold. Indeed, it had uncharacteristically snowed the previous week. Huge banks of fog covered the town and surrounding high ground. Intermittent drizzle made everything clammy and miserable. Breath puffed out like a steam train. All in all, a time for any sensible person to be indoors, in bed.

Although suffering from the worst drought in decades, one hopes that the rainy season is going to hit Zululand with a vengeance this year. From mid October onwards the heavens open up and the countryside transforms itself from harsh, barren, rock strewn tawny hillsides into rolling slopes covered with emerald green grass, rushing rivers and sparkling air. Looming massively on the skyline, and lit most afternoons by truly spectacular forked lightning streaking across the pitch black sky, Itala Mountain has a particularly eerie feel to it.

On the western heights of the Biggarsberg, Mkupe Mountain looks down on the strategic pass to which it gives its name and the Inkunzi river. During the Anglo-Zulu War (1879) and the 1st Anglo Boer War (1881), this pass was of vital concern to the British Army, as it was their supply line between military headquarters in Pietermaritzburg and the Frontier stations of Newcastle and Dundee. It was also the shortest route for any Boer invading force to strike at the communications system of the British defending forces and the quickest route to take to Ladysmith.

A Northumbrian by birth, Dr Prideaux Selby was already a middle aged bachelor when he sailed with the Byrnes' settlers to South Africa in 1850. He became the first doctor and Justice of the Peace to the Boer families in the Biggarsberg and lived at “Mooiplaas” for 25 years. He was held in high regard and loved by the Boer families – so much so that the names “Prideaux” and “Selby” were used extensively by the Boer families to name their children.

Major William Knox-Leet was born in Dalkey, County Dublin on 3 November 1833. The youngest son of a Episcopalian rector, he graduated from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland and became an ensign in the 13th Prince Albert's Light Infantry in July 1855. In 1858 he was sent to British India where he saw action in several engagements during the Indian Mutiny. From 1867 until 1872 he served as an arms instructor in England. In July 1872 he became Deputy Assistant Adjutant and Quartermaster-General in County Cork, Ireland.

It took the Africa Media Online digitisation team two months to digitise over 4,000 traditional Zulu artefacts at the Phansi Museum in Durban. The project, funded by the National Lottery Commission was awarded to the Phansi Museum for the digitisation of their collection and the building of a digital archive. The funding was awarded in 2015. We, however, were on site at the museum premises toward the end of 2016.

 

A documentary currently in the making will take a fresh look at the shooting of a classic film made in KwaZulu-Natal in the Sixties. And the producers are appealing for help. Stephen Coan reports.

Plans are afoot for the shooting of a feature length documentary Zulu and the Zulus in KwaZulu-Natal next year.

A soldier who would one day retire in Hermanus surprised himself by earning the highest British military award. He is William Henry Hewitt who was awarded the Victoria Cross in 1917 and who lived in Natal, South Africa between 1905 and 1915 and in Hermanus in the 1950s. He returned to the UK only when he was terminally ill early in the 1960s, but left instructions that his body should be cremated and the ashes cast into the sea at his favourite resting place along the Hermanus Cliff Path.

 

In a recent article published by the author (click here to view), reference was made to a modern photographic phenomenon, namely “found photographs”. In short: “Found photographs” are discarded vintage photographs typically found at charity stores, car boot sales, flea markets or antique fairs. As a single image, any “found” or the converse thereof, “lost” photograph, has sadly lost its original context when viewed by a total str

Settlers from Northern Germany came into Natal in two main groups. The first to arrive was a group contracted to the Natal Cotton Company. This was a company established by Jonas Bergtheil, who had come from Germany in 1843 scouting for business opportunities in the region. He found one when he noticed cotton being grown.

In the article below, Dr J. Pringle tells the inspiring story of the preservation of the St Johns Presbyterian Church clock in Pietermaritzburg. The piece was first published in the 1980 edition of Restorica, the journal of the Simon van der Stel Foundation (today the Heritage Association of South Africa). Thank you to the University of Pretoria (copyright holders) for giving us permission to publish.

In the article below, journalist Lucille Davie recounts the fascinating story behind Nelson Mandela's capture near Howick in the early 1960s. The piece was originally published on the Brand South Africa website on 2 July 2013. Click here to view more of Davie's writing.

Nelson Mandela’s head rises dramatically from the ground on a small plot outside the village of Howick in KwaZulu-Natal. His face is sculpted in 50 thin steel columns, marking the spot where he was arrested in 1962.

The old Durban Railway Station is a much-loved landmark that plays a key role in Durban's tourism offering. It is hard to imagine there was a time when the powers that be planned to demolish the structure and redevelop the site. The article below which appeared in the Sunday Tribune on 10 October 1976, begins by describing the threat to the building and then highlights its architectural and historical significance. Thankfully the façade of the building was saved with a new office building built behind.

My five older siblings had all been to missionary schools and turned out exceptionally well. My parents probably chose Inanda because of the school’s reputation and the fact that family friends had sent their children there, so I would have older friends to look after me.

 

The short article below, written by an unknown author, tells the story of the restoration of the Old Ireland Building (Edgars) on Church Street, Pietermaritzburg. The piece appeared in the 1979 edition of Restorica, the journal of the Simon van der Stel Foundation (today the Heritage Association of South Africa). Thank you to the University of Pretoria (copyright holders) for giving us permission to publish.

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