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.
Dr Neville Alexander (1936-2012) was a distinguished intellectual, educationalist and South African struggle hero. He spent ten years on Robben Island as a political prisoner. He was a man of principle, an humanitarian and a campaigner for justice.
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.
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.
This is a history of chieftaincies, tribes, rivalries, land congestion, conflict over land and a repeated pattern of rural violence placed in historical context but also with an eye on the intractability of current politics. The background is set with a quick documenting of early history on the Tambookie frontier of the Eastern Cape of South Africa (take a look at the map of the Tambookie or nort-eastern frontier in circa 1845. The focus switches to the colonial attempts to organize and order the Eastern Frontier of the Cape Province, an area of South Africa much
If you have ever visited Pilgrim’s Rest it is one of those places that stays with you and haunts your memory. It compares to Bendigo in Australia and Julian in California. It is still a tourist attraction of note in Mpumalanga and a village of romance and imagination. It is described in the online tourist blurb as a “a small town with a very colourful and exciting history”. The main street of this early mining settlement lives on its heritage and here you expect to find at least six bars to quench the thirst of the gold panner.
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.
Michael Walker first published his Early Architects of Cape Town in 2012. The book has been a success and a new edition has recently been published. I reviewed the first edition in 2015 (click here to read).
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).
Heather Mason is an American who lives in Johannesburg, has embraced the city and blogs about her experiences on a website called 2Summers. She came to South Africa in 2010 and embraced a life as a migrant bohemian freelancer. She called her blog 2Summers as she experienced two summers in a row.
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.
Johannesburg was always a much photographed place from its earliest days. It was a city that grew up with photographers and their cameras. As a town of migrants and immigrants, people wanted to send postcards and photographic souvenirs back home.
Review of Barberton Makhonjwa Geotrail - Geosites and Viewpoints. First question – what is a geotrail? Let this book introduce you to the concept and the place. A geotrail is a route that takes us on a journey through remote time and space to geologically important sites and viewpoints (in this case in the Makhonjwa mountains). This is time travel at its best. Geology becomes the tool and the source of organized knowledge to find evidence of the earliest life forms on earth - a band of single cell organisms visible to the naked eye.
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.
Eric Rosenthal (1905-1983) was a prolific writer. The bibliography of his books in his Wikipedia entry runs to 50 books. I have collected most of them. He wrote non-fiction history about South Africa. His style was light and entertaining. He was a raconteur. He captured yarns and stories about the past and he loved drawing out the characters of early Johannesburg. Rosenthal was trained as a lawyer but chose journalism and writing for a living. His books were popular in their day with large print runs and are therefore readily available today.