Sue Jean Taylor

My parents were very intrepid when they were first married and often went to the Lowveld in their battered old car. They took hundreds of photographs. At some point, my Londoner father decided he wanted to buy a farm in the Lowveld, and after pouring over the Farmer’s Weekly magazine for months, managed to find a small farm in the Elands River Valley in the Transvaal Lowveld, now the province of Mpumalanga. He was out of his depth immediately, an Engelsman amongst a very Afrikaner farming community.

If you thought climate change was still a debatable issue, look at the way the World Heritage Committee, the body responsible for international policy pertaining to heritage, is beginning to warn on the threat of climate change to heritage around the world. The World Heritage Committee, part of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), is responsible for establishing World Heritage Sites, which are sites with legal protection for having cultural, historical, scientific or other form of significance.

Laingsburg is a small Karoo town 250 km inland from Cape Town. The Buffels River flows along the western side of the town, with ‘flow’ being a rather abstract term most of the time. In 1981, this river flooded with catastrophic results and the suddenness with which the small town was annihilated by flood waters still resonates today.

Jeppestown, to the east of the Central Business District of the city, is one of Johannesburg’s oldest residential suburbs, proclaimed soon after gold was discovered in 1886. It was originally a neat little suburb for the middle classes of early Johannesburg. Most of the houses and small blocks of flats are now in desperate need of a coat of paint and repairs, but look like they were originally comfortable places in which to live, well-designed and part of a sustainable, liveable neighbourhood.

Certainties during most of human history were famine, death and pestilence and war, as per the ‘four horsemen of the Apocalypse’. We have the Pestilence ‘horseman’ galloping across the world right now, as in the Covid-19 pandemic. During this pandemic we contemplate our exposure to this ‘pestilence’ with a certain raw, ancient fear. We are waiting for the vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 virus (Covid-19) with some anxiety, hoping that this disease can be brought to an end.

From the mid-1940s, the Witwatersrand East Rand and its gold mining and industries were the powerhouse of the South African economy (Bonner, 2000) and these industries drew in thousands of work seekers, fast-forwarding urbanisation in this region and creating a huge struggle for housing and transport. But very few of these hopeful migrants became rich, and many lived in dire poverty and squalor. There were massive systems of conflict.

Even with Covid-19 still raging, Sandstone Estates was able to host a spring event from 19-22 November 2020, attended by hundreds of rail and transport enthusiasts, all wearing facemasks and practicing social distancing. This was a smaller event than the Stars of Sandstone event held in 2019, and which attracted visitors and specialists from all over the world.

The ice-cream cart or tricycle is not a new idea and goes back to the 1920s and to Mr Wall and Sons of London. They owned a butcher’s shop but the pies they made were only popular in winter. They got the idea to make ice-cream to use factory capacity during the summer months so they didn’t have to lay off workers when no-one wanted to eat hot pies. The First World War got in the way of their aspirations, but when finally launched Wall’s ice-cream, sold from ice-cream carts, the product was an instant success.

The Wits Art Museum (WAM) in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, has around 12 000 items in its stores, with a strong southern African ethnographic collection of beadwork, drums, headrests, wooden sculpture, ceremonial and fighting sticks, dolls, masks, basketry, sculpture, wirework and textiles. The WAM collection contains many fertility ‘dolls’ from southern African cultures, and has 58 items which are named as ‘dolls’ made by Ndebele or the closely related Ntwane group.

On a trip to Carnarvon in the Northern Cape, South Africa, in 2009 I had some spare time to walk around the town and admire the clean, bright ambiance of the place. I discovered that the town’s hot streets had been planted over the years with a variety of exotic trees, mostly Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus grandis). It was evident that the smooth pale bark of the Eucalyptus trees had become the irresistible surface for informal messages and designs.

Over a period of ten years (2010-2020), a set of 20 houses of different styles located on the UNISA (University of South Africa) Sunnyside campus in Pretoria was studied informally for their spectacular deterioration and accumulation of rubbish. Several times each year since 2010, the author (an art student on the campus) visited the houses and took photographs, building up a photographic record of increased dereliction. All in all, the appearance of the houses over the years became very forlorn, yet evocative. It was like seeing Time in action.

An article by Adrian de Villiers on The Heritage Portal in 2017 highlighted the history and importance of Kirkness bricks made in a Pretoria brickyard, starting in 1888 (click here to view). At the UNISA Sunnyside campus, bricks from this historic Pretoria brickfield were used and individual bricks are lying about in the gardens, as the photograph above (taken in 2020) attests. Many famous buildings in Pretoria like the Raadsaal f

The tiny town of Marikana (established in 1870) was never much of a town and for a long time was really no more than a railway station and a collection of shops. In fact, the outside world would not have heard of Marikana at all if it were not for the notorious Lonmin Marikana platinum mining strike and shooting, where 34 striking Lonmin miners were shot and killed by police in 2012.

This commemorative booklet on the life of General Jan Christiaan Smuts was found at the Hospice Witwatersrand charity shop on Louis Botha Avenue, Orange Grove, about two years ago. The sale of donated items helps Hospice Witwatersrand fund their hospice activities throughout Gauteng. The Orange Grove charity shop is a place where one can discover a wide range of interesting and useful items, and often, the items donated reflect a by-gone era. Having visited the Smuts House Museum in Irene on several occasions over the years, I decided this was the obvious place t

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