Kathy Munro

Jacqueline Kalley is proud of her descent from Dick King, the Natal pioneer who stands tall as a folklore hero of the early 19th century when Durban was very young. He is South Africa’ Paul Revere because he made his epic ride in 1842 from Port Natal/Durban to Grahamstown to summons help when the early English settlers and troops were under siege by Andries Pretorius, the Boer leader, and his Voortrekker clan who sought to extend their own Republic of Natalia. King was young and adventurous, he was an elephant hunter and a trader. He came of 1820 settler stock.

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.

The title, Civilising Grass - The Art of the Lawn on the South African Highveld, intrigued and immediately raised questions. What is the difference between grass, veld and lawn? Why is there an art in its cultivation? What does a lawn mean? Why do some people spend precious leisure time mowing a lawn? Why do lawns matter and what do they represent? If you read this book you will find some of the answers. This is certainly a book to set you thinking. We all benefit from the author’s scholarship (the bibliography is vast).

To commemorate the 200th anniversary of the arrival of approximately 4 000 British settlers on the frontier of the Cape Colony in 1820, the Eastern Cape branch of the Genealogical Society of South Africa has published this substantial volume of local history, 1820 Settlers and other early British Settlers to the Cape Colony, edited by John Wilmot. At over 600 pages and 175 chapters, this book is a massive chronicle with many descendants contributing stories and family reminiscences about their ancestors.

Once Natal became a British colony in 1843 there were opportunities for British immigrants to come as settlers, farmers and craftsmen. Over time thousands of such hopeful people arrived by sailing ship to start new lives, establish families and make their fortunes on farms and plantations and estates in Natal from about 1850 onwards or to populate the principal towns, Durban, Pietermaritzburg and Ladysmith. Prior to railways, travel inland was arduous so these were pioneers who had to be resilient to survive and thrive.

This book is a wonderful introduction to a unique South African architectural tradition - the corbelled structures of the Great Karoo. The book immediately engaged my interest and had this not been a stay-at-home time of pandemic, I would have been packing a bag and heading for the Cape, book in hand. It is so dense with information and photographs that it immediately becomes a big guide book to a unique part of the world - the Karoo. It is a cross between a travel guide and an introduction to archaeology and architecture.

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

Sometimes it takes a foreigner to recognize a powerful  South African story. The title is arresting Barnato’s Diamonds. Such a title must surely refer to the diamonds owned or mined by Barney Barnato the flamboyant mining pioneer who made his first fortune in Kimberley in the 1870s and his second fortune on the Witwatersrand and Johannesburg after 1886. He was the man who founded Johannesburg Consolidated Investment Company, affectionately called “Johnnies” or JCI. Barnato was involved in everything that made Johannesburg, the mining camp that became the

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

Dr Pam Heller-Stern has written a novel based on the life and times of Jose Dale Lace, grand dame of Edwardian Johannesburg. Married to John Dale Lace, the couple commissioned the architect Herbert Baker to build them a grand mansion on the Parktown Ridge. Completed in 1904, Northwards was one of the most imposing and enduring of the mansions of Parktown.

We have all been looking forward to the appearance of Hidden Pretoria and we are not disappointed. The launch took place in October at the University of Pretoria on a clear starlit night under a magical crescent moon. It was a beautiful evening, the stylish launch comprised a three way conversation about the book, a photographic exhibition of Proust’s Pretoria images, and a sales table manned by Protea books.

In 1960 Hendrik Verwoerd, the Prime Minister of South Africa came to Johannesburg to open the Rand Easter Show at Milner Park. It was a traditional annual event of the Witwatersrand Agricultural Society and a highlight of the Johannesburg  calendar. In fact the Rand Easter Show was in everyone’s calendar - sportsmen, the horsey set, farmers who bred prize Ayrshire cattle, the radio world who ran their stations from the Tower of Light, housewives shopping for the newest home appliances, children who delighted in the funfair. Everyone looked forward to a day of fun

Everyone is interested in the human race and the age old question of human origins. Who was Adam and is there a biblical Eve? Human evolution has placed scientists, philosophers and religious thinkers at loggerheads for two hundred years. Here is a book to read closely; it is rich in detail, data and the scientific evidence as to why we all came from Africa.

This is a very early survey of Johannesburg circa 1893 by Henry Longland whose 1890s directories are an excellent source of early information about Johannesburg Streets. This slender book, just 60 pages, has been reproduced from the British Museum rare document collection and is available online from Amazon and Abe books.

 

A pleasure and delight of combing a bookshop in a random way (this is what browsing means) is that you are guaranteed to make a 'find'. A serendipitous happy find you never knew about but it instantly becomes a prized possession. A recent visit to Bookdealers of Melville yielded just such a small delight. It is a thinning small book on Arthur Elliott, the photographer of the architecture of the Cape and the master of black and white, light and shadow images of Cape scenes. Arthur Elliott (b. 1870, d.

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