South Africa General

Di Beeton's name echoes that of her namesake Mrs Isabella Beeton, the author of perhaps the most famous book of household management and cooking ever published. Beeton’s Book of Household Management was a distinctively English book that appeared in 1861; it was the last word in being a Victorian mistress of an independent household; it’s a tome of over 1000 pages and covers everything from home nursing, maintaining households, checking on character references for servants, the legal details of buying a house, the anatomy of a fowl or making rhubarb wine

This is a collection of papers presented at a 2018 colloquium convened by the well-established Wits History Workshop, the Wits School of Architecture and Planning and the Goethe Institute. Conferences always produce an eclectic and distinctive mix of ideas and discussions. It is a platform to showcase research and produce a paper which will in turn bring further funding for ongoing research. Hence a wide range of heritage themes and buildings are explored by 14 contributors.

 

This concise history of pandemics in South Africa packs a lot of punch. Its republication is timely. It takes a holistic view of epidemics, is an easy intelligent read with large print and small pages. The reading time is no more than two to three hours.

There is enormous interest in early African history. It is a growing field with old assumptions and theories about settlement patterns in Africa challenged, overthrown and reinterpreted. Who were the past societies and communities of Southern Africa? Where did they come from and when? What were the patterns of migration and conquest? Where did people live, how did they live and what happened to these early societies? We have far more questions than answers.

When I was invited to review this book I had hoped that I would be in for a treat about the history of photography in Southern Africa and that the visual image seized upon joyously by the scholar as evidence of past societies would reveal new sources and insights. I was initially disappointed as there is little here about the history of photography in Southern Africa from its introduction in the 1840s and the technical advances that enabled photographs to record places, events and people.

This is the personal story of a remarkable man who lived a long life. Mlangeni lived in the shadows of Mandela and other far better known ANC leaders, struggle icons and policy makers. Hence his self-assumed title of "the backroom boy". He says he was never at the forefront of ANC politics. After 1994 he was not given a senior position in the post-apartheid democratic government, though he became an ANC Member of Parliament and he served on the Sport and Recreation Portfolio committee (hardly a policy driving position).

Judy Campbell is South African born but emigrated to Australia nearly 40 years ago in the early 1980s. This is her memoir of growing up in South Africa, the  high jinks of a rackety teenage life in Cape Town in the seventies combined with the story of her immediate family and the family history of her mother’s family, the Luyts. Judy is a talented person - musician, singer, systems analyst, choir director and now author. She comes across as a strong woman who chose the life she wanted as an adult woman. It is an unusual memoir because it is her story, her parents

This is a collection of essays by 12 distinguished academics who are top art historians, visual culture analysts, historians and educational leaders. They have teamed up to analyse the phenomenon of Afrikaner nationalism as this political movement or ideology found expression in visual images, public sculptures, architecture, cartoons, and the Voortrekker Monument.

 

This book does not appear to have one single editor but is a Don Nelson publishing project. Chapters on this selection of prominent South African schools have been contributed by people associated with the schools or compiled from previous histories. Hence the first impression is that an enormous amount of effort has been poured into this publication with many individuals writing chapters and many others editing. Archivists and curators have combed the archives and museums to supply the photographs. It is a visually pleasing book with an old fashioned period feel

Newspapers are the grist to daily living, you have a subscription, buy one at the local cafe or fall for the sales patter of the newspaper man or woman on the street corner. I can't live without a newspaper. My expectation is that a good daily newspaper will report on daily happenings in politics, international affairs, business and sport. There may be some editorial analysis and a favourite columnist worth reading. I look for balance, accuracy, sobriety and interesting stories in a newspaper.

Constance Stuart Larrabee was a 20th century photographer of distinction but is not well known in the 21st century. This book sets out to change perceptions. Constance was born in Cornwall in 1914 and following her parents' emigration to Grootfontein in the then Northern Transvaal, grew up in South Africa. She always wanted to be a photographer and for her this was “the one road to take“, but in fact her life took her down quite a few roads. Photography mattered.

I always welcome books about books and book people. If people are interested in the making of a book they are extending their grasp and reach of all things bookish and book collectable. I was delighted to acquire this new book on a recent visit to Cape Town and found myself reading it from cover to cover in a couple of hours (it is just over 100 pages).

I fell upon this memoir by chance. It is old, out of date and a book passing into history as it was published over half a century ago (published by Howard Timmins in 1965). Jack Stodel does not feature in the standard encyclopedias or biographical dictionaries. Why bother with such a book? Memoirs give us a flavour and taste of the lives of a bygone generation and recall amusing experiences and anecdotes. We learn about the lives of others, how they lived and what the issues of the day were. Memoirs become building blocks in  the writing of history.

This book is a superb scholarly study of a little known aspect of the Mohandas Gandhi story in South Africa. It tackles the subject of running a printing press and spreading the message of Satyagraha or passive resistance through the medium of the printed word. This was the acorn that yielded a giant oak and bore fruit albeit with tragic costs and consequences with the achievement of Indian independence in 1947.

Phansi Art Museum is a Durban ubuntuArt Museum which collects to celebrate African art and beauty, as they describe on their website. Phansi holds a fine collection of art, crafts and artefacts (beadwork, traditional medicine containers, dolls, traditional domestic utensils etc.). They also have a publications department and are bringing out books and catalogues that immediately proclaim collectability.

1889 must have been a good year for visiting South Africa. I recently found and wrote about Frederick Young’s Winter Tour of South Africa in that year (click here to read). Stanley Leighton was another English visitor to South Africa in 1889 and here is another invaluable source of impressions and vignettes of places visited by a traveller of a certain class. He did not have a political agenda nor was he pushing a particular viewpoint.

I recently added a new title to my library, an old book with the quaint title of "A Winter Tour of South Africa". This is a first edition, published in London in 1890. It is an account of travels through South Africa by the distinguished writer and traveller, Fredrick Young.

Celebrating Bosman is one of those perennial favourites. Published in 2004, it is still in print and available at Wits Press. Patrick Mynhardt who brought the Bosman character, Oom Schalk Lourens, to life in his one man show that became a South African institution, selected and introduced his favourite Bosman stories in this easy to handle single volume. Mynhardt passed away some ten years ago but he has not been forgotten.

With the change in the office of the President from Jacob Zuma to Cyril Ramaphosa, the subject of what the state can and cannot do is topical. This book is a serious academic study written by scholars and activists of note who have thought hard, debated among themselves through many seminars and conferences and connected to the international agendas about global development. It is all part of a wider debate about where the world is going in the 21st century and how best for South Africa to arrive at a developed status destination.

The Second Anglo Boer War (1899 to 1902) was a disaster for both victor and vanquished. For the British it was an excessively costly colonial adventure and a complete miscalculation of likely duration. Both Afrikaners and African people lost more than they gained in defeat, occupation, starvation, destruction of farms, exile and imprisonment. The two Boer republics were lost and with it Afrikaner independence. The British taxpayer footed a very expensive escapade where generals still thought about fighting set piece battles on the veld.

Have you ever wondered about the distinction between an immigrant and a citizen? Many of us are immigrants to South Africa or if it was your parents or grandparents who came to South Africa from abroad, you could describe yourself as a first, second or even third generation South African. Depending on when and how your family came to South Africa, and the colour of your skin, it could have been a fairly painless process to transition from immigrant to citizenship status.

This is a fascinating first person autobiographical account of one woman’s experiences and life in Southern Africa between the early 1880s and her final years in Johannesburg in the  1960s. Bertha Goudvis enjoyed a long and arduous life (1876 – 1966) during years of turbulent change and several wars. She was a first hand observer of the colonial world and lives on to comment on city life in modern Johannesburg.    

I must start this review by declaring an interest... I am a committed, enthusiastic book collector. At times it is a disease but books are like bread and butter in my life. A book is an essential possession. When it comes to books I am a maximalist not a minimalist. At times they take over and one has to introduce discipline and order.  

Reviews of two Denis Godfrey books. First up The Enchanted Door published in 1963 followed by Antiques and Bygones: Notes for South African collectors  released in 1967. Both books were published by Howard Timmins.

I had not come across this book previously and found that it is a rare volume, as it was produced for family consumption and to commemorate the life of a remarkable South African early business entrepreneur Joffe Marks who established Premier Milling. As Marks died in 1951 aged 89, a book appearing some 50 years after his death is almost half a century too late.

A woman of many firsts. Among these is the fact that Nokukhanya Luthuli was among the first students in the early 1900s to attend all three of Durban's legendary mission education schools.

I first encountered the work of Nic Coetzer when searching for information about the South African presence at the series of Empire exhibitions held in Britain before the Second World War. I was intrigued by his analysis as to why the South African pavilion, for example at the Wembley Empire Exhibition of 1924/25 and again the Glasgow exhibition of 1938 at Bellahouston Park, should have been designed in Cape Dutch architectural style.

This is a newly published book and on the bookshelves of your favourite bookshop just before Christmas. It makes an ideal Christmas present. It is something of a stocking filler book which will delight and have wide appeal. Luke Alfred is South Africa’s own Bill Bryson. He writes with an easy flow of style. The book combines memoir, reminiscences, history, travel and reflection. There is a mix of past personal travel adventures and Sunday stepping out and about.

Jill Weintroub is a Research Fellow at the Rock Art Research Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand. In 2006 she completed a M Phil at the University of Cape Town on the Bleek Lloyd archival Collection. It is this collection of notebooks and associated papers collected in the 1870s and beyond that in 1997 were recognized by UNESCO in their Memory of the World Register.

Emily Hobhouse died in 1926 in London. The Manchester Guardian carried a substantial obituary which featured her humanitarian work in South Africa during and after the Anglo-Boer War. However, her obituary in The Times (of London) saw her as a propagandist and agitator of note and attributed the woes of the Boers in the concentration camps between 1900 and 1902 to the ignorance of the Boers themselves. This contrast in obituaries highlights the controversy that surrounded Emily Hobhouse in death as much as in life.

This book could have fooled me! It is a large format, folio sized book in paperback binding. It is all about the Anglo Boer War. It is meant to look like a newspaper. It is a scrap book of the weekly edition of a local newspaper called the "War Reporter." Each issue is two pages long and the series runs from 1899 to 1901. It looks like a compilation of republished and neatly bound newspaper front pages. The paper is coarse grained and one step up from newspaper print. It is a large paperback.

I turned to this book on my shelves because I sought some background information on the Hal Hurst full length portrait of the elegant Mrs José Dale Lace. This now almost iconic Johannesburg society portrait hangs in the drawing room of Northwards. The illustration of the portrait features on the contents page of the Stevenson book but despite its prominent position in the book, there is very little discussion about the background to the portrait or the artist Hal Hurst.

This book by Brenda Schmahmann, Professor in the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture at the University of Johannesburg, is the product of research supported by the National Research Foundation. It is serious, scholarly, provocative and very readable. The work gives a fascinating insight into transition and transformation through the medium of the visual arts, university insignia and art collections assembled by South African universities.

This book was published in 2011 and at the time of publication caused considerable controversy about the many claimed inaccuracies, major and minor, factual and typographical, scientific and historical, scattered throughout the book. There have been many reviews, divided into strongly favourable and equally strongly negative. Jacana, the publisher carefully collated reviews on their website and one can find these via Jacana online.

Great men who lived in another century need reinterpreting and reinventing for a new generation of this century. Biography makes for a good story and the lives of past leaders may have some lessons for the an electorate looking for criteria and yardsticks to evaluate present leaders. Hence a new biography of Jan Smuts has an explicit and an implicit agenda.

 

If you are passionate about the South African visible built heritage turn your enthusiasm to the churches to be found in country towns, villages, dorps and rural missions stations. Give yourself the opportunity to explore the country with a new focus, "church tourism" may become your mission. Accompanied by the three books of Menache and David you will be off on an unusual enriching adventure.

Doreen Greig's Guide to Architecture in South Africa was published more than 40 years ago by Howard Timmins, with only 1000 copies printed and, with each numbered, it speedily became a classic. The coverage was national, with not too heavy a focus on the well trodden Cape Dutch genre. Yet to view this book today one realizes how far architectural writing and books about architecture have come. The illustrative photographs were small and filled with dark shadows. Yet Greig was an authority and her grasp of her subject was sure.

101 Country Churches of South Africa, Philippe Menache & Darryl Earl David, 2010, published by Booktown Richmond Press, soft cover, illustrated, map, 103 pages. This is an impressive book of photographs of literally 101 country churches, across the nine provinces of South Africa. The colour photograph fills the page with a brief paragraph recording the basic facts about the specific church, date of construction, name of the architect and church denomination. Photographs are of the exteriors only.

Nita Spilhaus by Peter Elliott, published by Peter Eliott, edited by Glenda Younge, Illustrated, 194 pages. Cape Impressionist painters were a small group of Cape artists who lived and worked in the Cape and were prolific and productive in the early twentieth century. In their outdoor scenic paintings they sought to capture the special light and colours of the magical Cape landscape. The portraits are even more interesting.

In 1941 the government printer of the Union of South Africa published the book, The Monuments of South Africa, edited by C van Riet Lowe. (174 pages, illustrated) First edition. The first edition is interesting as it included an account of the work of the Commission for the Preservation of Natural and Historical Monuments, relics and antiques during the period 1935 to 1940. The second point of interest is a pasted in map showing the 102 monuments, relics across the then 4 provinces (see image below).

The Barnett Collection A Pictorial Record of Early Johannesburg, published by The Star to commemorate the City's 80th year (Johannesburg, 1966). This large volume of sepia toned photographs of early years of life in Johannesburg was such a success that it became volume 1 of the now much sought after two volume set. The Barnett brothers, David and Joseph were photographers of the town. Their collection of over two thousand prints became a valuable and essential photographic record and resource of the emerging town and pioneering gold mining initiatives.

Hannes Meiring: My Country in Line and Colour - An Unconventional Look at South African Architecture. Fernwood Press, 2004.  Meiring was a fine architect who died in 2010. He was a sensitive conservation and heritage professional.  Published some 11 years ago this finely produced volume is a compilation of many of Meiring's architectural sketches and water colours .

It would be true to state that, from a legislative and practical point of view, historical conservation in this country is an unmitigated disaster, and has been one since the demise of the old National Monuments Council in 1999. For all its ideological faults and Broederbond associations the NMC had a national infrastructure which its successor, the South African Heritage Resources Agency, SAHRA, had every opportunity of taking over and transforming to meet the needs of the new South African democracy.

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