South Africa General

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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