South Africa General

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.

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