South Africa was one of the last bastions for steam locomotives and they attracted many tourists from across the globe to travel on our trains or watch them go by, camera at the ready. Steam engines have an enduring appeal to railway enthusiasts (buffs & gricers will also do) as they seem to live and breathe just like a wild animal. In fact it was seriously considered to make a “Reserve” for steam engines along the Garden Route, in the province of the Western Cape, centred on the city of George, where a Steam Museum resides.
South Africa General
In the article below, journalist Lucille Davie unpacks the story of South Africa's obsession with Rodriguez. The article was first published on the Brand South Africa website on 21 February 2013. Click here to view more of Davie's work.
This article certainly deviates from the more serious range of articles on South African photographic history published by the author from time-to-time. An early caution therefore - The images included in this article are not visually aesthetic.
Many, many millions of snapshot photographs were produced by amateur photographers between the 1920s and 1940s - some of which were good, some bad, some provocative, some botched and some indifferent.
The primary purpose of this article is to introduce the first known catalogue of Anglo-Boer war stereo photographs produced by the American based B.W. Kilburn & Company (Version 1 – as at June 2021 - click here to view).
Now I have to say from the very outset that I am “old school” and therefore know relatively little of the workings of Building Information Modelling (BIM), but being a keen observer of the built environment I am aware of the benefits that its methodology can bring to a building project with the aid of sophisticated computer software, which is now at the fingertips of the Architect, Engineer and Contractor, whether the project be “Greenfield” (new) or “Brownfield” (existing).
There are many heritage objects housed in State aided or supported entities such as museums, governmental departments, and other state organisations. These institutions are responsible for safe-guarding and looking after the heritage objects in their custodianship on behalf of the public. Heritage objects portray material evidence of the people and their environment, as such, they should be cared for and conserved, due to their lasting value and provision of evidence of the origins of South African society.
Certainties during most of human history were famine, death and pestilence and war, as per the ‘four horsemen of the Apocalypse’. We have the Pestilence ‘horseman’ galloping across the world right now, as in the Covid-19 pandemic. During this pandemic we contemplate our exposure to this ‘pestilence’ with a certain raw, ancient fear. We are waiting for the vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 virus (Covid-19) with some anxiety, hoping that this disease can be brought to an end.
In the article below, journalist Lucille Davie unpacks the complex and painful history behind the 1913 Land Act. The article was first published on the Brand South Africa website on 17 October 2013. Click here to view more of Davie's work.
In 1901 the Duke of Cornwall and York – the future King George V – and his wife embarked on the longest official tour ever undertaken by the British Royal family. The tour lasted for nearly eight months and most of it was spent in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa, with brief calls at Gibraltar, Malta, Aden, Ceylon, Singapore and Mauritius. They travelled almost 50 000 miles.
Towards the end of 2019 I did some analysis of the numbers behind The Heritage Portal (click here to view). It was a powerful exercise so I thought I would repeat it this year...
Knowingly or unknowingly, South African historians and researchers would have come across a wide variety of original albumen print photographs captured in South Africa during the late 1890s, all of which are titled and numbered followed by the cryptic initials G.W.W.
These photograph titles and numbers with the G.W.W. initials appear in white capital letters across the bottom of each photograph. But who or what was G.W.W.?
It is almost inconceivable to think the South African Air Force (SAAF) was established when T. E. Lawrence was still working on his much acclaimed biographical Seven Pillars of Wisdom, a history of the Arab Revolt during the First World War. Yet, this was indeed the case when Prime Minister Jan Smuts on 1 February 1920 appointed Lieutenant Colonel Sir Pierre van Ryneveld ‘Director of Air Services’ in the Union Defence Force (UDF).
Including Revised 1960s Alphabetical Directory of South African based Photographers & Studios (1846 to 1915) - Click here to download.
Shortly after the invention of photography, the camera was briefly referred to as a “Mirror with Memory”, whilst the resulting photographic image was initially referred to as a photogenic drawing.
We South Africans are renowned for being sports fanatics and none more so than our rugby supporters, so we are looking ahead, with relish, to next year’s series between the Springboks and the Lions (2021 version). For those of you who are not Rugby Union aficionados, the Springboks are the national rugby team of South Africa and the Lions are a touring rugby team comprising players from the four home unions of the British Isles, namely England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
‘The Bird Calendar’ as it is affectionately known throughout our country and much further afield too may have become just another victim of modern technology.
The proliferation of smart phones, watches and other wonder toys that include time and date info, combined with financial considerations brought about by the effects of Covid-19 may have deprived a great many birders of their beloved desk calendar now that AECI Limited has made the decision to suspend production of its legendary Bird Calendar, at least for 2021.
Here is some exciting news for the heritage community. Dr Ronald Levine, antiquarian book collector and dealer, is offering a remarkable Railway manuscript and some attachments for sale as a single lot, on the Antiquarian Auction in June 2020 (see www.antiquarianauctions.com).
Every loved domestic dog, no matter how humble their origin, remains the best dog in the world in the eyes of their masters.
We affectionately refer to dogs as our best friend. They also happen to be humankind's oldest "friend" in the animal kingdom in that Canis familiaris, the domestic dog, was the first animal species to be domesticated by humans.
The gladius is a short sword which narrows near the base of the blade. This shape makes the sword effective at cutting as well as thrusting. The gladius is best known as a primary weapon of the Roman legions. It forced Roman soldiers to get in close to their enemies and to kill quickly. It was the Roman defeats of the famous Greek hoplites that showed the sword to be more deadly than the spear.
In its heyday, black African competitive cycling on South Africa’s gold mines received little publicity either locally or internationally. Nevertheless, it flourished for nearly three decades, beginning in the late 1950s and extending into the mid-1980s. Today it has been almost totally forgotten. However, a recently published biography of a leading South African cycling personality of the period, entitled Basil Cohen: South Africa’s Mr. Cycling, vividly recalls this lost history of Black South African cycling.
JC Smuts was born on the farm Bovenplaats, part of Ongegund near Riebeek West, in the then Cape Colony, and what is now the Western Cape, to parents Jacobus Abraham and Catharina Petronella (nee de Vries) on 24 May 1870.
After having been largely forgotten and ignored for decades, in the post-apartheid world of the new South Africa, Sol T. Plaatje (1878-1932), has been hailed as a pioneering figure in the African nationalist movement and the struggle for equal rights. The local authority of the diamond-mining centre of Kimberley in the northern Cape region where he lived for many years and where he is buried, has been renamed the ‘Sol Plaatje Municipality’ in his honour and a new university being established there is to be called the ‘Sol Plaatje University’.
Herbert Maurice John Prins, distinguished architect, professional conservation and heritage architect and practitioner passed away on Wednesday, 15th April 2020, just 12 days short of his 93rd birthday. His was a long, rich and remarkably productive life. Herbert was a role model in his work and ongoing commitment to the heritage of Johannesburg and other parts of South Africa until just a couple of months before his death. It was a joy to celebrate his 90th birthday in 2017. His professional career extended over 72 years - surely a record.
I hardly Knew Robin fee personally except shaking hands in a restaurant was a warm experience. But his presence in the profession was known over 3 decades & more: 1960-1990s. He embodied much of the complexity that characterised architecture over this period. Complexity?
A 1:48 scale model of the Type VIIC German U-boat “U-96” was donated to the Museum in September 2019. The model is a true representation of the original submarine used in the Second World War (1939 – 1945) and was constructed by the donor, Mr Brian Echstein (see image above).
The Importance of the Donation
In order for an archaeological or palaeontological site to be declared a National Heritage Site, it must first be Graded as being of appropriate national cultural significance. At the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA), our approach is that the Grading process should encompasses the lion’s share of the work in assessing a site’s significance in order to compile an extensive Grading nomination dossier.
The article below forms part of Mike Alfred's series on Joburg personalities from the first decade of the 21st century. Click here to view Kathy Munro's fantastic introduction and here to view the series index. The stories were written in 2005/6.
During mid-2019, an exceptional Anglo-Boer War (1899 – 1902) collection of artefacts went up on auction at a Johannesburg based auction house. Photographic images in this collection fetched high prices. However, images that high-end bidders did not pursue with the same vigour were magic lantern slides in the collection. Why would this be?
The article below forms part of Mike Alfred's series on Joburg personalities from the first decade of the 21st century. Click here to view Kathy Munro's fantastic introduction and here to view the series index. The stories were written in 2005/6.
Roger Webster, storyteller, raconteur, heritage supporter, broadcaster and author passed away after a short illness on 6th January 2020. Roger was an enthusiast of South African heritage and history.
The SAR&H Magazine (South African Railways and Harbours) traces its origin to the Natal Government Railways Lecture and Debating Society, formed in the early 1890s in Durban. In December 1904, John McConnachie, the Chairman of the Society and a District Superintendent of the Natal Government Railways (NGR), forwarded a suggestion by a colleague HC Richardson, in a letter to the Secretary, AH Tatlow:
On the 5th December 2013, South Africa was shaken by the sad news of the passing of the “Father of the Nation”, the former President, Mr Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. The beloved international icon of human rights, and reconciliation passed away after having suffered a long-standing lung infection. In commemoration of this towering figure, SAHRA takes a look at his extraordinary life through 6 national heritage sites that played a fundamental role in both Mandela and the Nation’s life.
During Heritage Month 2019 I gave a talk to a preservation group on the story of The Heritage Portal so far. Part of the presention involved unpacking some stats behind the platform. I always keep an eye on what stories are doing well week to week but I'd never done an overall look at the numbers. It was a lot of fun and I emerged from the research feeling deeply proud and humbled by the impact the Portal has had.
In the article below, journalist Lucille Davie chats to leading figures from South Africa's heritage community to unpack the meaning of the term heritage. The article was originally published on the Brand South Africa website on 25 September 2013. Click here to view more of Davie's work.
Currently registered heritage bodies which are organised, funded and run by dedicated volunteers are battling against the lack of practical enforcement efforts by both Provincial Heritage bodies such as Heritage Western Cape as well as at Local Government Level in municipalities.
This week I dropped in to visit James Findlay’s bookshop situated in the basement of the Rand Club. If you have not yet visited the reborn Rand Club it is definitely worth it. Enjoy a coffee at the bar (or go for something stronger) and spend some time out in the bookshop. The Rand Club has come to life with a renaissance and reinvention.
Always in search of original South African photographic images from before 1915, the author recently acquired several photo albums from this era at a Pretoria based antique fair.
One of these photo album stands out in that the theme is purely tennis-based, spanning over a 4-year period (between 1909 and 1913).
It was heartening to hear our President, Cyril Ramaphosa wax lyrical throughout his State of the Nation Address (SONA2019), especially when he said “We also want a South Africa where we stretch our capacities to the fullest as we advance along a superhighway of progress.
Toys, like play itself, serve multiple purposes for both humans and animals (just picture the joy created whilst watching a kitten at play with an arbitrary toy).
Toys provide entertainment and fun whilst fulfilling an educational role at the same time. Although unlikely to have been the original intent, they also enhance cognitive behavior, stimulate creativity and aid in the development of physical and mental skills which are necessary in later life.
Recently the author acquired a Victorian Photo album which contained a number of Carte-de-Visite format photographs of Berlin Mission Society missionaries, all attached to the German Lutheran church in Berlin (dating from between 1865 and late 1870s).
Many readers will have heard the wonderful news that Herbert Prins received the Wits University Gold Medal last week (28 March 2019). The heritage community salutes a living legend! Below is the full citation.
Mr Herbert Prins is a distinguished architect and one of South Africa’s most eminent authorities in the field of architecture, design and heritage. He is renowned for his work in heritage objects conservation, a relatively new field, for which the modalities of practice are still being established.
The map above is of considerable interest as it shows the principal route of travel to South Africa and from the principal ports inland. By 1889 the railway had reached Kimberley from the coastal ports of Cape Town and Port Elizabeth and East London; and in Natal the railway went as far as Ladysmith. The Lorenco Marques railway connection went inland as far as Komatipoort. From the terminal points the traveller proceeded by coach.
Many registered trademark ephemera of yesteryear have collectors competing at auctions, markets and antique fairs to find that one elusive, or previously unidentified item for their collections.
On such trademark is Kodak. Registered as a trademark during 1888, Kodak, which was also present in South Africa some years later, undoubtedly was one of the more successful brand names within both the history of marketing and photography.
Ordinances of the Transvaal 1903, 1904 and Statutes of the Transvaal 1907. Whoever wants to look at old, dry, dusty, obsolete law books? Law books date, they take up space on shelves and laws are repealed. Legal language is precise and unemotional. The Transvaal ceased to exist in 1994 and today a completely different provincial government structure has replaced the pre 1994 arrangement of four all white driven apartheid provinces and the 10 bantustans.
Last weekend (Sunday 3rd February 2019) I joined ten heritage stalwarts of Kensington who came together to acknowledge history and pay homage to a remarkable war memorial and the men whose names once appeared on it. We gathered because during January 2019 the memorial had been extensively and probably irreparably damaged. Erica Lűttich had together with her students created an art installation by wrapping the memorial in cloth.
Professor Lipmann Kessel MC, MBE, FRCS (1914-1986) was an eminent surgeon and a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, who wrote several important works on orthopaedic surgery, but rather like another well-known doctor, Roger Bannister (1929-2018), Kessel is best remembered for what he did as a young man. In the case of Bannister it was breaking the four minute mile barrier (in 1954) and with Kessel it was his medical role during the famous Battle of Arnhem, in late September 1944.
First National Bank (FNB) just celebrated their 180th birthday on 15 December 2018. What makes this particularly significant is that the FNB storyline runs in parallel with South African history.
Following the true corporate trend, FNB, as it exists today, came about following a complex tapestry of buyouts and amalgamations to become the well-established bank it is today. This journey certainly did not occur without any upheavals – but the bank managed to stand the test of time.
An advantage of book auction sales is that they renew the stream of collectable books coming onto the market and give a fresh spurt to book collecting. New book collectors are encouraged to join the book community. Old book collectors have the opportunity to acquire that elusive appealing title on the wish list. There is nothing quite like the excitement of bidding on an auction sale for a desired treasure, and the market deciding who will be the fortunate new owner.
Forgotten men of the Indian Army left their imprint in Observatory, Johannesburg during the early 1900s. Although their story has been largely forgotten and lost to public memory, a monument at the summit of Observatory Ridge honours their memory. This Indian Monument stands as a memorial to Indians who fell in the Anglo-Boer War / South African War of 1899-1902, overlooking the valley where Indians served at a remount camp during the War. Erected soon after the end of hostilities, the Indian War Memorial was launched in the first flush of peace amidst a wave of
It is a pity that artistically designed bookplates or ex libris as they are referred to in Europe, have fallen into relative disuse in South Africa. Antiquarian bookdealers have long known that a well-designed bookplate adds not only to the appearance and interest, but also to the monetary value of a rare book.
By him who bought me for his own,
I’m lent for reading leaf by leaf;
If honest you’ll return the loan,
If you retain me you are a thief.
The South African Border War had an immense social, cultural and political impact on South African society at the time. It resulted in unnecessary loss of life and much trauma, not only for the conscripted men, but also families back home.
It’s that time of the year when many people ponder their New Year’s resolutions. If you’re thinking about pursuing further studies in the heritage sector, we’ve got you covered. Below are some of the programmes on offer at the country’s major institutions. If we’ve missed something, let us know and we will update the article. For PhD programmes we suggest you contact each university individually to enquire about options available.
In October 2017 it was brought to SAHRA’s attention that a letter written by Steve Biko was going to be auctioned online in Britain. The letter was addressed to the Magistrate in East London, South Africa, and details a request to leave the magisterial district under which Biko was restricted in order to visit his wife. Steve Biko, the leader of the South African Student Organisation (SASO); and intellectual inspiration behind the Black Consciousness Movement, was known for being a prolific writer of letters. The South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA), m
The primary purpose of this article is to introduce the first known catalogue (Version 1 – as at November 2018 - click here to download) of Anglo-Boer war stereographic images produced by the American based Underwood and Underwood Publishing Group.
The 100th centenary of the end of the First World War will be celebrated this Sunday 11th November 2018. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 the armistice came into effect; men still poised to fight one another were stopped in almost mid battle in France. Church bells pealed and the guns fell silent. The physical losses had been horrendous. The total number of casualties, through war, destruction, disease, revolution and famine is in reality unknown because the conflict was so widespread.
Below is the epilogue of Mel Baker's remarkable story. It covers his return to Wernersdorf on two occasions and his reunions with fellow POWs over the years. It also highlights the powerful commemorative events that he has been part of.
The house of reclusive artist Helen Martins, graves of 20th century political activists, the hilltop kingdom of Mapungubwe, fossil sites associated with human evolution and the emergence of modern man, Robben Island and historic wine farms. These are but some of the nearly seventy sites that mirror South Africa as a nation. The sites constitute the apex of the national estate – heritage sites that are so exceptional that they are of special national significance.
The local controversy over the development of the public space at Maiden's Cove on the Atlantic Seaboard of Cape Town has been brought to national attention in an article by the distinguished retired Constitutional Court Judge, Albie Sachs. “The Secret Weapon of Maiden's Cove for All” (Daily Maverick, 4 September 2018), hones in on some of the most complex and persistent challenges in the heritage sector: How to define heritage? Whose heritage is it?
In May 2018 Robyn Keet, our picture library manager at the time, teamed up with the PhotoZA Gallery in Rosebank Mall, Johannesburg, to create an exhibition of photography that covered the apartheid period in South Africa from the 1950s to the 1980s. DocuFest Africa: The Exhibition, showcased at times rare and unusual images of life in South Africa taken by leading photographers at the height of apartheid. Curated by Reney Warrington, the Exhibition was drawn from collections represented by Africa Media Online.
Archaeology, and especially maritime archaeology, has always been viewed as a male-dominated field in the past. Here at the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA), however, we know that there are many women who have specialised in archaeology - in fact, the women in SAHRA’s Maritime and Underwater Cultural Heritage (MUCH) unit outnumber the men, and this has been the case for the past four years. It is important to highlight the important role of women within the heritage sector and maritime archaeology.
Recently the author was in Port Elizabeth searching for photographic material at book dealers, used goods and antique shops in town. At one of these stores he posed his standard question to a dealer: “Do you have any old photo-stories”? With the dealer not understanding the question, the author then explained what they were. To which the dealer responded: “Oh, you are referring to Café Bibles!”.
This article reflects on the influence of South African ethno-photographs on the picture postcard industry together with a reflection on their individual histories.
Most picture postcards at the turn of the 19th century had a strong photographic theme where publishers of the picture postcard relied on the original photograph for commercial purposes.
The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), London, has a monthly magazine entitled the “E & T” magazine, which has a regular column, written by Justin Pollard called the “Eccentric Engineer”. It is factual, informative and above all witty. Pollard is not an engineer but a historian with an inkling for science and technology. In his column he brings personalities that were little known or have been forgotten, along with their inventions back to life.
The aim of the annual endangered heritage campaign run by the Heritage Monitoring Project is to raise awareness of South Africa’s most at risk sites. While the call for nominations for the 2018 campaign is issued this week (click here to view), we asked site champions and community activists for updates on previously nominated sites. We also analysed comments posted by community members to site threads on the Heritage Portal.
If I undertook a street survey and asked passers-by how much they weighed or how tall they were, the answers I would get back would be dependent on what system of weight and measures a person was brought up on and was familiar with. Grandparents would most likely answer in imperial units (pounds, feet & inches), and their grandchildren would reply in metric units (kilograms and metres), the reason for this is that South Africa converted to the metric system in the early 1970’s.
On 25 May 1978, the SA Navy hydrographic survey vessel, the SAS PROTEA under command of Capt C.J.H. Wagenfeld rescued twenty-six crew members from the Japanese crab fishing boat, the Kaiyo Maru No 1, which foundered off the Skeleton Coast of Namibia. Shortly thereafter, PROTEA was involved in another mercy mission to evacuate a heart attack victim from the tanker Texaco Sweden off the Namibian coast. SAS PROTEA was justly rewarded that year with the award of the SA Navy Sword of Peace for humanitarian efforts.
A modern photographic phenomenon that has emerged is “found photographs” – these include everyday snapshot photographs taken by others years ago, but have subsequently been discarded. These discarded photographs can today be bought up cheaply by photographic curators at car boot sales, charity organisations, fairs or auctions (online auctions included). These photographs are typically found in old photo albums, boxes with photo-odds or photo sleeves holding old prints.
At 05:30 on the morning of 11 November 1918, in a railway coach standing at a remote railway siding in the heart of the forest of Compiègne, Germany signed the Armistice Agreement that brought the war to an end.
Soon after, telegraph wires were humming with the message: “Hostilities will cease at 11.00 today November 11. Troops will stand fast on the line reached at that hour...”.
For a greater part of the 19th century, abundant and large herds of game were common in the interior of South Africa, resulting in it becoming a “sportsman’s” paradise
Robert Crawley, the 7th Earl of Grantham (a British peer) is a fictional character in the popular television period drama, “Downton Abbey”, set one hundred years ago. His family seat is Downton Abbey, Yorkshire, where he lives with his wife Cora, the Countess Grantham and their three daughters, the Ladies Mary, Edith and Sybil. He, being one of the landed gentry, generates his major income from tenant farmers farming on his Estate which he inherited from his father the 6th Earl.
In the article below, journalist Lucille Davie delves into the powerful story of struggle stalwart Albertina Sisulu. The piece was originally published on 27 December 2008 on the City of Joburg's website. Click here to view more of Davie's work.
Albertina Sisulu, or MaSisulu, the anti-apartheid stalwart, midwife, beloved member of the ANC, and devoted wife of the late Walter, has spent most of her life in Johannesburg.
I wrote about the Johannesburg Lithograph (circa 1937) below by Charles Ernest Peers in a recent article on The Heritage Portal - click here to view. Tracking down Peers’ presence in Johannesburg at this time led me in search of Peers, the artist. Peers was a notable and prolific artist in his lifetime. He is mentioned in the Esme Berman (1993) and has a biographical listing in Grania Ogilvie (1988).
When Sobukwe left Healdtown Mission Institute for the next stage of his education, he found that most of the country’s universities were closed to blacks. Only the universities of Cape Town and the Witwatersrand gave limited access to black students. The premier institute for blacks was near Alice – the South African Native College at Fort Hare.
In the article below, well-known writer Lucille Davie unpacks some of the complexity behind the life and personality of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. The piece was written on 23 August 2013 for the Media Club South Africa website shortly after the publication of Madikizela-Mandela's book 491 Days: Prisoner number 1323/69. Click here to view more of Davie's work.
By the end of March 2018 the 14-member Africa Media Online team resident in Alice, Eastern Cape and working in the National Heritage and Cultural Studies Centre (NAHECS) at the University of Fort Hare, had completed the digital capture of all the material assigned to them in the current phases of the ANC Archives digitisation project.
Heritage encompasses all that we experience in everyday life. It is far more fluid in how it is experienced by society than what we perceive it to be. It is where ideas of individual identity and the role of nation states connect. It is who we are as individuals and how we relate to one another in society.
The first thing I did when researching this piece of writing was to look at a modern physical map of South Africa and envision that the urban areas and the modern road network shown thereupon were on a thin film that could be peeled away. What remained on the under layer were the physical features such as the coastline, rivers, escarpments and mountain ranges. It was a clean canvas on which I could put settlements on, but before I could do this I had to determine a date in history.
Below is a fascinating article on the origins and development of the famous Chappies brand. It was written by well known journalist Lucille Davie on 10 March 2003 and appeared on the City of Joburg's website. Read all the way to the bottom for a 2018 update. Click here to check out more of Davie's work.
Worldwide early photographs have enjoyed a restoration to their rightful position in the history of art, photography and people – especially in Europe, America and Australia. Sadly, antique photographs (more than 100 years old) are still insufficiently preserved and appreciated in South Africa.
In the article below, Adrian de Villiers (Chief Architect Heritage Advisory Services at the Department of Public Works) explores the history and legacy of the brickfields of John J Kirkness. The piece first appeared in the December 2017 edition of The Arcadian. Thank you to the Arcadia Residents and Ratepayers Association (ARRA) for giving us permission to publish.
In 1884, before Johannesburg ever existed and when herds of game still roamed free across the savannah, a young man left his home in the Eastern Cape in search of adventure in what was then the Eastern Transvaal (now known as Mpumalanga). His name was Percy Fitzpatrick (1862-1931) and he went hoping to find his fortune on the newly proclaimed goldfields.
In 2013 Lucille Davie set out on an adventure of a lifetime exploring some of the spaces and places visited by the famous naturalist William Burchell. She compiled a wonderful record of her journey which we are honoured to publish below. The piece first appeared on the Media Club South Africa website on 23 May 2013. Click here to view more of Davie's work.
The Most Endangered Cultural Heritage Sites campaign is an initiative of the Heritage Monitoring Project (HMP) to identify and raise awareness of cultural heritage sites that are at significant risk from natural or human made forces.
The value of the photographic postcard, a unique historical document in itself, has been vastly underestimated by historians. Today, these types of photographs are of immense value in both photographic as well as social historical research.
It was not until recently that the author himself started to incorporate these long-undervalued photographic formats, also commonly referred to as the Real Photo Postcard (RPPC), into his own photographic research collection.
Flo Bird, Founder of the Parktown and Westcliff Heritage Trust and founder member of the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation was a surprise guest speaker at the 17th annual symposium of the Heritage Association of South Africa held at Heidelberg last week. Flo’s speech was given at the remarkable NZASM constructed Heidelberg Station.
Below is a short but fascinating history of the whaling industry in South Africa. It was compiled by C De Jong and first published in the 1976 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.
2017 has not been a good year for heritage in South Africa. From fires in the Western Cape that claimed the 1792 Du Toit Manor House in Paarl, among others, to the theft of the Thulamela gold collection at the Kruger National Park in December 2016 (only made public knowledge in June this year), the losses have been significant.
Huge was the surprise when the author received multiple enquiries on a Prisoner of War (PoW) camp photograph that was included in a recent article on photography during the Anglo-Boer war (click here to view).
This Diyatalawa PoW camp photograph has the names of all 54 men captured on the back thereof (See Photo 5 below).
Joseph Calder Munro, a Scot by birth, made a significant contribution to Pretoria’s photographic history. Many of his photographs have survived and can be found in various national and private research collections. Photographs produced by him still surface on a regular basis - mainly at antique fairs.
In 2014 the monthly magazine “Civil Engineering” (published by the South African Institute of Civil Engineers) ran a series of articles entitled “A brief history of transport infrastructure in South Africa up to the end of the 20th century” (comprising ten chapters issued from January/February to November 2014), which gave an interesting account of the history of our roads, railways, harbours and airports. The author of the articles was Dr.
Which one of the two above is the happier sitter? Would it be old Hottentot on the left (Carte-de-Visite photograph by Port Elizabeth based photographer J.E. Bruton- Circa 1878) or the lady with the comical facial expression (Carte-de-Visite format photograph – photographer unknown – Circa 1880)? Psychology students often have to attempt to link an emotion to the expression observed in others. Could her expression be viewed as anger, disgust, embarrassment or simply laughter that is being suppressed?
Little recognition has been given to Henri Ferdinand Gros for his outstanding contribution to the South African photographic history between 1869 and 1890. No other photographer has contributed to the then Transvaal photographic history like Gros. Without the Gros photographs, we would not have had an idea of what Pretoria looked like between 1875 and 1890. Gros certainly had the insight to identify the value of pictorial documentation.
This last week brought a spectacular media scoop to Steve Humphrey of the BBC when an anonymous tip off (presumably telephonic) led him to a bell shaped parcel left at the entrance to the Swanage Pier in Dorset, England. The BBC team was on hand to film the careful unwrapping of the parcel to reveal a ship's bell with the word “Mendi” deeply etched in capital letters on the side (main image from Steve Humphrey and BBC TV South). The bell of the SS Mendi, lost in World War 1, had been found.
Photography is the only “language” that is understood worldwide, resulting in a bridge being created between nations and cultures – it connects the family of humanity. Independent of political influence – where people are free – it provides us with an honest reflection about life and events, allows us to share in the hope, joy and despair of others, and potentially lightens political and social burdens. This way we become witnesses, not only of humanity, but also of the brutality of human kind (Gernsheim as quoted in Sontag 1977).
The first permanent photograph to have been recorded was taken by the Frenchman Niépce during 1826 (after an eight-hour exposure). A fellow countryman, Daguerre, perfected the capturing of a permanent image by inventing the first practical photographic process during 1839. This photographic end result became known as the Daguerreotype.
For those of us old enough to remember, there was a tune called the “Lift Girl’s Lament” by the British singer songwriter Jeremy Taylor (he who was banished from South Africa for deriding Apartheid), which had the immortal line “I might go a thousand feet a day but I’m not going to go that far”; the song told the tale of a lift operator in a downtown Johannesburg department store in the 1960’s.
Following my earlier post on T D Ravenscroft (click here to view), I have delved a little further into a couple of online archives and printed bibliographic records.
Carol Hardijzer is passionate about South African Photographica – anything and everything to do with the history of photography. He not only collects anything relating to photography, but conducts extensive research in this field. He has published a variety of articles (click here to view) on this topic and is currently doing research on South African based photographers from before 1910. He has one of the largest private photographic collections in South Africa.
Photographs produced on thin iron sheets? Yes, indeed! And it was cheap, even cheaper than the equivalent middle-class, paper based Carte de Visite. Photos on these thin iron sheets were actually referred to as a ‘plebian photographic end result’.
From their origin in the 1850s until the end of the twentieth century and beyond, these photographs remained popular because they were so inexpensive.
In September 2016, the Heritage Monitoring Project ran a campaign to draw attention to endangered heritage sites across South Africa. The result was a top ten list as well a long list that could be tracked over time. We recently put out a call for updates and have updated the relevant tracking threads hosted on The Heritage Portal (click here to view).