South Africa General

Carol Hardijzer is passionate about South African Photographica – anything and everything to do with the history of photography. He not only collects anything relating to photography, but conducts extensive research in this field. He has published a variety of articles (click here to view) on this topic and is currently doing research on South African based photographers from before 1910. He has one of the largest private photographic collections in South Africa.

Photographs produced on thin iron sheets? Yes, indeed! And it was cheap, even cheaper than the equivalent middle-class, paper based Carte de Visite. Photos on these thin iron sheets were actually referred to as a ‘plebian photographic end result’.

From their origin in the 1850s until the end of the twentieth century and beyond, these photographs remained popular because they were so inexpensive.

In September 2016, the Heritage Monitoring Project ran a campaign to draw attention to endangered heritage sites across South Africa. The result was a top ten list as well a long list that could be tracked over time. We recently put out a call for updates and have updated the relevant tracking threads hosted on The Heritage Portal (click here to view).

We South Africans live in a polyglot society, which under our Constitution, has 11 official languages that “must enjoy parity of esteem and must be treated equitably”. Mother tongues range from Afrikaans to IsiZulu, from isiXhosa to Setswana, however to stop us being a modern Tower of Babel we largely use one language to communicate between each other and that is English. In doing so we are reflecting a world wide trend. In today’s world English has become the “Lingua Franca” replacing French as the language of diplomacy and German in the field of science.

In 2001, the Journal of Heritage Studies published a fascinating article by Joan Henderson titled Conserving Colonial Heritage: Raffles Hotel in Singapore. In a section of the article that looks at the history of heritage conservation in Singapore, Henderson highlights four strategies that post-colonial societies can adopt when dealing with buildings inherited from the colonial era: renaming, neglecting, removing and using.

As a collector and researcher of Anglo Boer war related images the author, on occasions, finds original letters or newspaper clippings that relate to the “sitter” (person in the photograph) who was either a participant in the Boer War or simply a citizen caught up in the war.

Photographs in themselves tell stories, but to find personal letters either written by, or addressed to, the sitter enriches the story. The author feels compelled to record some of these personal stories – like this one:

Stereo photography is a craze that has swept the world since 1851, so much so that modern View Masters are still being produced commercially today. Stereo images (two photographs of the same subject, taken from slightly different angles but covering the same subject area, and mounted side by side) must be viewed through a special viewer where the two images then fuse into one giving a visual impression of subject depth – or a three dimensional effect.

I was recently given four photographs of early 20th century Cape Town. They are all in sepia brown shades. The dimensions are 8.5 x 11.30 inches. The edges of the photos are in poor condition but the main scenes are clearly visible. I would love to date these photographs.

They are clearly from the photographic studio of TP Ravenscroft and the one of Sea Point has a stamp on the reverse TD Ravenscroft. 

 

Heritage or Conservation Management Plans (HMPs/CMPs) are vital tools that provide an opportunity to conserve and manage heritage sites for future generations to enjoy. However, most of these HMPs/CMPs are developed specifically for site conservation in the context of tourism or research purposes. However, there is a clear gap for effective HMPs/CMPs within the development context when one looks at the amount of large scale operations such as mines, wind and solar farms etc.

An article published in the May 2015 “Popular Mechanics” magazine (RSA edition), was entitled “SUPERTRAINS coming down the line” in which it was stated “Let’s get one thing straight: we don’t send much freight via railway because the country’s extensive rail network is too narrow”. Yes it is true that South African wagons run on a narrow gauge track (1065mm) - narrow by definition being a gauge less than the standard gauge of 1435mm (4’-8½”).

Death, or more specifically images of the dead, remind us of our own mortality. During the mid 1800’s to early 1900’s, photography played a vital role in capturing images of loved ones, not only whilst alive, but also at the time of their death.

Where citizens could not afford a painted portrait of a loved one, photography was a cheaper and quicker alternative, providing the middle class with a photographic image in memory of a loved one who had passed away.

Rust by definition is a reddish brown coating formed on a ferrous metal (i.e. iron or steel) by oxidation, especially in the presence of moisture, which gradually corrodes the metal. Rust would seem to be Nature’s way of restoring iron and steel back to the state of the iron ore found in the earth’s crust. This process could well be called metallurgy in reverse.

The tragedy of the present day Migrant Crisis caused by the Syrian Civil War has an earlier precedent which occurred in the late seventeenth century when the King of France – Louis XIV (the Sun King) revoked the Edict of Nantes (a law protecting religious tolerance).  It was on the 22nd October 1685 that the King formally outlawed the Protestant religion in France, however, prior to that date the Huguenots (French Calvinists) had been persecuted rather like the Jews were in pre-war NAZI Germany.

When the British army first reached Pretoria in 1900 during the South Africa War, Lord Roberts (Commander of British Forces) increasingly realised that the railway was of great strategic importance and that its long lines of communication lay undefended. This was further underlined by the destruction of the railway line and the detrimental effect this had on the transporting of troops and supplies to the front by train.

 

In today’s world, large infrastructure projects such as the state of the art “Gautrain” rapid transit railway between Johannesburg and Pretoria (80 km in length) are constructed using mechanised plant and equipment for better productivity when working to tight project schedules (fast tracking). Occupational Health and Safety on construction sites has become a main concern when it comes to planning and executing large civil engineering projects with hazard operability studies (HAZOPS) and risk assessments being mandatory.

If you page through archive copies of Restorica, the old journal of the Simon van der Stel Foundation, one company has a regular presence as an advertiser: Gordon Verhoef & Krause. Below are adverts from the mid 1970s to the early 1990s showing significant restoration projects from around the country that the firm was proud to be involved in. Look closely for details. Thank you to the Heritage Association of South Africa (HASA) and the University of Pretoria for giving us permission to publish.

 

The recent discovery in the cellar of a home in Saxonwold, Johannesburg of an old discoloured, brass plaque is a heritage opportunity and opens space for reviewing the motives and outcomes of the Royal Visit to South Africa in 1947.

For many years, members of the heritage community have been talking about establishing guidelines for the blue plaque world. For a variety of reasons none have yet been set but renewed efforts appear to be emerging in Johannesburg. To aid the discussion we thought it would be helpful to publish the results of a survey we conducted during February and March 2014. 

“Be quiet and calm, my countrymen, for what is taking place now is exactly what you came to do. You are going to die, but that is what you came to do. Brothers, we are drilling the drill of death. I, a Xhosa, say you are all my brothers, Zulu, Swazis, Pondos, Basutos, we die like brothers, for though, they made us leave our weapons at home, our voices are left with your bodies.”

On 15 September 2016, the South African Heritage Resources Agancy (SAHRA) hosted a colloquium on 'Heritage and Development'. Heritage expert Herbert Prins attended and presented a paper arguing that the heritage resources management system has failed to achieve its purpose and that until equlibrium is restored there is no chance of achieving a balance between heritage conservation and development. The full paper is published below.

"For young black South Africans like myself," Nelson Mandela wrote in his autobiography, "it was Oxford and Cambridge, Harvard and Yale all rolled into one." Of the hundreds of pages in Long Walk To Freedom, barely a dozen recount Mandela's days at Fort Hare University. Understandably so. He spent less than two years of his 94 years as a student there.

It is hard to believe that it has only been a few decades since South Africa adopted the metric system. The shift had a profound impact on the economy and the daily lives of citizens. Many of South Africa's largest trading partners at the time were either using the metric system or had committed to moving over. This provided the impetus for South Africa to get going. The strength of the apartheid state ensured that implementation was highly effective.

The question is easy to answer; South Africa was formerly part of the British Empire, which decreed that the rule of the road was to keep left in order to avoid collision, end of story.

NO not the end of story. The real question to be asked, is why does Britain (and her former colonies) drive on the left, when 65% of the countries of the world drive on the right?

Her birthplace remains a bone of contention but Charlotte Maxeke's legacy as a woman visionary is cemented in the annals of South African history. She was born Charlotte Mmakgomo Manye on 7 April 1874 in either Fort Beaufort in the Eastern Cape, or at Botlokwa Ga-Ramokgopa, in Polokwane District, in the Limpopo Province, South Africa.

The old saying that “Good walls make for good neighbours” has been taken to heart in Johannesburg, where high walls have sprung up where once there were only low diamond mesh fences and hedges to keep the children and pets from straying onto the road.

Limit State Design shares the same acronym – LSD with the psychedelic drug Lysergic (Acid) Diathylamide, the “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” of the Beatles, even if John and Paul denied the association. Likewise more than a few Structural Engineers that studied in the “Swinging Sixties” are in denial over the merits of LSD, a design philosophy at variance with the time honoured pre-computer age method of ASD – Allowable Stress Design.

The zenith of long distance passenger travel by train world wide was during the period between the two World Wars (1919 to 1939) thereafter there was increasing competition from other modes of transport, notably the airliner and the motor vehicle (utilising modern road infrastructure), which led to a rapid decline in patronage for rail travel. At the ending of the Second World War (1945) there was a large surplus of Douglas Dakota twin engine aircraft that were sold off at bargain prices, this effectively kick started the modern airline industry.

Present day Southern Africa has inherited its railway gauge from a bygone era of 142 years ago, when in 1873 the decision was made to reduce the gauge from 4’-8½” to 3’-6”, when the Cape Government Railways (CGR) planned its extension from Wellington to Worcester for the reasons why see “Ox Wagon to Iron Horse” - click here to view.

In 1996, George Zondagh, then Chief Architect at the Department of Public Works, set out a few ideas about the role of the Department in heritage preservation. Although some parts of the article are out of date, many of the key principles are just as relevant today as they were two decades ago. The article first appeared in Restorica, the joural of the Simon van der Stel Foundation (today the Heritage Association of South Africa). Thank you to the University of Pretoria (copyright holders) for giving us permision to publish.

Born in Palermo on 1st October 1910, Giuseppe Maniscalco was one of a large family of 8 children. After the sudden death of his father, his mother was unable to support the children alone and therefore decided to leave Palermo and travelled to family and friends in Trapani. With the consent of Giuseppe's mother, the children were split up and were adopted by other friends and relatives.

Last month we published an article from the Restorica archives where the author spoke about the power of excursions to heritage sites to inspire the youth (click here to read). We are sure most readers can remember at least one phenomenal trip during their childhood that has left an impact to this day. Over the last few weeks we have been sent some wonderful stories and photographs of recent adventures.

On 28 April 2016, Benedict Wallet Vilikazi was honoured with the prestigious Order of Ikhamanga. This National Award recognises the profound impact Vilikazi had on South African literature. In the article below Veronica Klipp from Wits University Press traces the life and achievements of this South African icon.

We found the following article by B.I. Spaanderman in the 1991 edition of the old Johannesburg Historical Foundation's journal Between the Chains. It looks at a number of South African mills with a particular focus on Millbank, the closest to Johannesburg.

An ongoing task for heritage enthusiasts, history teachers, parents and others is to get young people excited about history and heritage. While browsing through the 1982 edition of Restorica, the old journal of the Simon van der Stel Foundation (today the Heritage Association of South Africa), we found a wonderful piece by Dr Ruth E Gordon on this matter. Her advice is still as relevant today as it was then. These days we have a spectrum of technological innovations to help us in this endeavour. We loved the letter from Claire Thompson by the way.

[Originally published in mid 2015] Following a spate of attacks on colonial monuments around the country, paint was splattered on a post-apartheid statue on Gandhi Square in downtown Johannesburg. Eric Itzkin takes up the case of Gandhi and his bronze effigy.

[Published in 2013] Heritage SA, the oldest and largest heritage organisation in the country, recently held its annual symposium. One of the highlights was the gala dinner and awards ceremony where individuals from around the country were honoured for their contribution to heritage. The Heritage SA Gold Medal, the most prestigious award recognising achievement on a national level, was bestowed on Dr Roger Fisher. Below is the citation that accompanied the Medal.

This is a recollection of my personal journey and association with Karel, through which I would like to pay tribute to a giant who championed the cause of heritage conservation far beyond the borders of the country where he lived, worked and passed away.

The fateful year of 1896 is one of the most momentous years in the history of South Africa, the reason being the coming together of events which provided the “Perfect Storm”.

The year started badly with the Jameson Raid, a blunder of epic proportions which polarised the attitudes of both Boer and Briton. However there was worse to come in the form of drought and pestilence, which would have an effect on all the people living in South Africa.

 

The competition between Structural Steelwork and Reinforced Concrete in the realm of building construction can be likened to the rivalry between the Springboks and the All Blacks, in the sense that each continually attempts to better the other. The rivalries both on the construction site and on the rugby field have been going for nigh on 100 years and both have their die-hard fans. Fortunately the competition has largely been a healthy one bringing out the best in both.

The development of structural steel as a building material and its attendant fabricating industry has played a major role in the growth of the industrialised world and has helped to create our modern way of life. Without structural steel the building of the railways, the building of bridges, the opening up of mines, the construction of factories for the manufacture of goods, and the production and transmission of power would never have progressed to the stage we are at today.

A few years ago a wonderful collection of old documents was found in the basement of a Johannesburg inner city building while the tenant (Nedbank) was moving out. One of the boxes we looked at contained details of Nedbank's 50th anniversary celebrations (circa 1938). It was here we found a remarkable set of images of a few Town / City Halls around the country. It appears as though the photographs were taken in the late 1930s. Enjoy...

 

The following article appeared in the 1998 edition of Restorica, the journal of the Simon van der Stel Foundation (today the Heritage Association of South Africa). Jonathan Mercer, then Assistant City Engineer Planning for Port Elizabeth, posed some tough questions about planning and enforcement in our cities. Many of his points are still relevant today. Thank you to the University of Pretoria (Restorica copyright holders) for allowing us to publish the piece.

The Settlers Park Monument is in fragments, the Horse Memorial is missing its Soldier, and Queen Victoria has a green dress.  All across the nation, monuments are covered in graffiti and paint. The bronzes are corroding, the marbles are stained, and the iron is disappearing everywhere, but this is all in a day’s work in the life of an art conservationist.

In 1975 the singer-songwriter, Chris De Burgh released his second album entitled “Spanish Train and other Stories”. The title track was immediately banned in South Africa on sacrilegious grounds, due to the mention of the Devil playing poker for souls of the dead with Jesus Christ and the album was re-titled and issued here as “Lonely Sky and other Stories”.

Over the last few weeks the seeds of a very important discussion have been planted with some big names in the heritage sector speaking out. In late September 2015 Dr Franco Frescura, Professor and Honorary Research Associate at the University of Kwazulu-Natal, published a critique of the heritage resources management sector in South Africa. This included statements about the performance of the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA) and the various Provincial Heritage Resources Authorities (PHRAs).

The catchphrase “Cape to Cairo” was first coined in 1874, by Edwin Arnold (editor of the Daily Telegraph) and was taken up by Cecil John Rhodes as a call for the “Civilisation” of Darkest Africa. To Rhodes civilisation meant the exploitation of the mineral wealth of the vast interior of the African continent. He was a controversial figure in his day and remains so today.

During the South African War of 1899-1902 blockhouses formed an essential part of British military strategy against Dutch forces. Initially these were fairly substantial and were used to guard key military points, but once the war moved into its final stages, they were used, together with barbed wire, as a means of limiting the movement of Republican commandos. All in all, some 8000 blockhouses were built over a period of two years, and although most were eventually dismantled, a number still remain in silent testimony of a bitter and foolish war.

On an earlier version of The Heritage Portal the following question was posted: "I need to repair the wooden flooring in my historic home. Any recommendations?" Adrian de Villiers, Chief Architect at the Department of Public Works replied with the following priceless advice.

This installment of the History of Southern African Railways series looks at the demise of the branch line network and will be relevant to many in the heritage community. Over the last few decades many lines have been closed and the heritage assets associated with them have fallen into disrepair. We certainly hope that Transnet's strategy to revitalise the branch line network will go some way towards turning this situation around.

In the previous installment of the History of Southern African Railways series Peter Ball looked at the role of the railways during the South African War. In this piece he looks at post war reconstruction, the completion of various lines and the contribution of the railways to political union in South Africa.

Following hot on the heels of the 'Race to the Rand' here is the third installment of the History of Southern African Railway Series by Peter Ball. The article looks at the role of the railways during the South African War (the Second Anglo-Boer War).

The county of Cornwall, in England’s south west, is a well known holiday destination renowned for its scenic beauty and it comes as a surprise to many a visitor that the county has an industrial past. From the mid-18th century Cornwall was as industrialised as the Midlands and North of England and it was one of the most important metalliferous mining areas in the world. In fact the metal Tin had been exploited in Cornwall by the Romans in the 3rd & 4th centuries AD, after their previous source - the Spanish tin mines, were worked out.

During the past few months a number of South African university campuses have seen a spate of student protests against the presence of statues honouring our colonial past. Rightly or wrongly, these have resulted in the vandalization and removal of some of these memorials.

Remembrance Day, or Poppy Day as it is sometimes known, is observed every year on 11 November, or on the nearest Sunday to that date. How many people these days know what this date signifies? Over the years, many South Africans have lost sight of the significance of the term 'remembrance' in the military sense. This short article will attempt to rectify this.

 

Headgears are the ultimate symbol of the mammoth Southern African mining industry. They tower over billions of rands worth of wealth and help to sustain vast underground cities. They are appreciated by millions around the world and we are blessed to have some of the finest examples. The article below provides an overview of the purpose and significance of headgears.

Corrugated iron was developed and patented in Britain around 1830 and has travelled the world. Born during the industrial revolution it travelled to the expanding colonies of the Empire, notably to Australia, India & South Africa; it also found popularity on the frontiers of the Americas and wherever it went it transformed the landscape.

Bookplates are a collecting subject in their own right and are a bibliophile's delight. A bookplate is very simply a sticky decorative label for pasting on the front inside cover or boards of a book proclaiming ownership and indicating that this particular book belongs to xxx library or person. Often the words "ex Libris" appear showing that the book is from a specific library, it could be an individual or an institution. When one acquires an old book with a bookplate it becomes part of the provenance of the previous ownership of a volume.

Last week The Monitoring Project broke the news that six sites have been removed from South Africa’s tentative world heritage list. In follow up we spoke to a number of people involved in the preparation of tentative lists and site nominations regarding the changes and what they mean for site conservation. We also received feedback from a variety of stakeholders working on site nominations at a local level. We provide a summary of responses received.

In what has come as a complete shock to many in the local heritage community, six local sites have quietly been removed from the country’s tentative World Heritage Site list. Jacques Stoltz from the Heritage Monitoring Project investigates. [Originally published 24 July 2015]

The sites in question are: 

[Originally published August 2015] Last week Roger Fisher of Artefacts fame (and so much more) got in touch to ask if the small memorial plaque in the Standard Bank, Commissioner St, Johannesburg, for Standard Bank employees killed during the First World War still existed. Letitia Myburgh, Head of the Standard Bank Heritage Centre confirmed that it still did and sent through some details. The email conversation inspired Kathy Munro to write a fascinating piece on the lesser known memorials located in corporate and institutional offices.

The question above is one that has been asked and answered many times over the years. We are repeating it now as we feel the South African Heritage community needs to continuously push the simple idea that we can help the country to achieve its development goals. This idea is expressed throughout the City of Johannesburg's Heritage Policy. Below are a few excerpts from this policy:

Heritage Tourism

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