Kathy Munro

Emily Hobhouse died in 1926 in London. The Manchester Guardian carried a substantial obituary which featured her humanitarian work in South Africa during and after the Anglo-Boer War. However, her obituary in The Times (of London) saw her as a propagandist and agitator of note and attributed the woes of the Boers in the concentration camps between 1900 and 1902 to the ignorance of the Boers themselves. This contrast in obituaries highlights the controversy that surrounded Emily Hobhouse in death as much as in life.

Roy Macnab (1923 - 2004) was a South African poet, journalist, broadcaster, diplomat and author. He used all these considerable talents in researching and compiling this book, published in 1962. This book is perfect for the armchair traveller, we are reminded that we are a country of immigrants and that South Africa like other colonies and the "new world" was a demographic melting pot.

This book could have fooled me! It is a large format, folio sized book in paperback binding. It is all about the Anglo Boer War. It is meant to look like a newspaper. It is a scrap book of the weekly edition of a local newspaper called the "War Reporter." Each issue is two pages long and the series runs from 1899 to 1901. It looks like a compilation of republished and neatly bound newspaper front pages. The paper is coarse grained and one step up from newspaper print. It is a large paperback.

I turned to this book on my shelves because I sought some background information on the Hal Hurst full length portrait of the elegant Mrs José Dale Lace. This now almost iconic Johannesburg society portrait hangs in the drawing room of Northwards. The illustration of the portrait features on the contents page of the Stevenson book but despite its prominent position in the book, there is very little discussion about the background to the portrait or the artist Hal Hurst.

This small publication (sponsored by the Goldfields Foundation) was published as a Johannesburg centenary venture in 1986 by the Parktown and Westcliff Heritage Trust (today the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation). It is interesting in the context of the bibliography of both where the heritage lobby was some thirty years ago and how topics of historical investigation change. It has become a sought after little publication, highly collectible though only 40 pages long.

These days overseas travel broadens the mind and empties the pocket. Sometimes on a journey abroad an encounter with a work of art, recalls a remembered and much loved treasure at home and in a flash a whole new understanding drops into the brain. I had just such an experience in San Francisco recently when I discovered the fabulous European art collection of the Legion of Honour Art museum. San Francisco was lucky enough to be the beneficiary of the Spreckles collection of Rodin sculpture.

In 1948 a book called Homes of the Golden City was published. The book is about Johannesburg. The initiator of the project was Allister Macmillan, who sadly died before the book was completed. The project was brought to completion by a young writer Eric Rosenthal (1905-1983) who went on to be be a prolific author on historical themes.

 

This book by Brenda Schmahmann, Professor in the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture at the University of Johannesburg, is the product of research supported by the National Research Foundation. It is serious, scholarly, provocative and very readable. The work gives a fascinating insight into transition and transformation through the medium of the visual arts, university insignia and art collections assembled by South African universities.

This is one of those dozen or so "must have in a Johannesburg collection of books". Published in 1979, it is a book that reminds one of the passage of time. How recent now seem one's young days and yet how long ago it all was. A friend recently commented that it is impossible to stop the march of progress, when I bemoaned the impact of the new Rea Vaya on Louis Botha Avenue which, as a result of the road works, instead of revitalization, has become a hazardous obstacle course.

In its heyday in the 1970s and 1980s, Ravan Press was regarded as the daring, oppositional anti-apartheid publisher in Johannesburg, ready to take an alternative perspective of South African society. The publishing firm was established by Peter Randall, Danie Van Zyl and Beyers Naude and the firm's name, Ravan was an amalgam of their three names. They were publishers of the left and they supported the academic struggle for a different view and ideological interpretation of social issues of the day.

Albums are normally highly idiosyncratic and personal to the individual who has assembled a collection of photographs or stamps or newspaper cuttings. In 1986 Dr Oscar Norwich, was a medical man with an insatiable appetite for collecting African maps and all information relating to Johannesburg history.

From Mining Camp to Metropolis the buildings of Johannesburg 1886-1940, Gerhard-Mark van der Waal, 1987, publisher Human Sciences Research Council and Chris van Rensburg publications, 268 pages, illustrated, with maps.

Observatory in Johannesburg is one of those rare "hidden treasure" type of suburbs in Johannesburg, located to the north east of the city and spreading across the high ridges of the Witwatersrand. It is a suburb that takes full advantage of the koppies, panoramic views and rocky terrain. Established more than 100 years ago, there are many fine old heritage houses on stands between half an acre and a full acre.

The Johannesburg and Pretoria Guide, An Illustrated volume for Reference for Travellers, containing information of every character for visitors and residents, including Guide to all Points of Interest in and around Johannesburg and Pretoria, Description of Building etc.  2nd edition, published by Dennis Edwards of Johannesburg and Cape Town (1905), 373 pages, illustrated.

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.

 

This book is one of those rare specialist items of Johannesburg history. It was published in 1976 some eight years after the death of the original researcher and author, Tony Spit and the project was brought to conclusion by Brian Patton and a number of other contributors and collaborators. It is a book that strangely was published in London and not South Africa and the intended appeal was to a small international group of enthusiasts of trams, trains and trolley buses around the world, as the publishers were the Light Railway Transport League.

Johannesburg is well into its second century and at a time when it seems that the roots of Johannesburg’s past are being altered, the physical landscape shifting and the street names honouring the city’s pioneers reflecting new histories, it is timely to pull out a book published at the turn of the twentieth century and engage with some early history. “Men of the Times” must have been one of the earliest “who’s who” type of publications. It dates from 1905 and was one of those large format works, very “coffee table” in looks, it weighs in at over 5 pounds or 2.5

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.

Review of  Tea  at Ansteys, photographs by Mark Lewis and words by Tanya Zack, Fourthwall Books, 2015, illustrated 35 pages. Price  R 200, First Edition 150 copies. Tea At Ansteys is number 6 in a series of 10 small book or rather booklets, Wake Up, This is Joburg, published by Fourthwall Books, 2015. With a first edition of only 150 it is an almost instantly collectable item of Johannesburg Africana.

The Golden Crown of Johannesburg by Gerhard Freiherr von Ketelhodt, edited by Willie van den Berg, published by Willsan Mining Publishers, 2007, paperback, 150 pages, illustrated. This is an authentic quirky small book of memoirs of an immigrant miner from Germany who worked underground as a miner at the best known of the Witwatersrand mines, Crown Mines, for some twenty years from the mid 1950s to the 1970s. He sets his own story against the backdrop of the early mining origins of Johannesburg.

Siyakha Mguni: Termites of the Gods San Cosmology in Southern African Rock Art, Wits University Press, 2015, 202 pages, Illustrated. ISBN 987 186814776 2. I adore books about journeys. Accounts of journeys can be about a personal adventure or a memoir or an ancestral tale or even a journey of research and discovery. This fine original book  combines all these elements as the author sets out on his travels to discover deeper meaning and the symbolic significance in his own life and in specific features of San rock paintings to be found in many parts of So

In the Footsteps of Gandhi An illustrated history of Johannesburg's Linksfield Ridge and environs by Alkis Doucakis, 2007, published by Colors, illustrated, 80 pages. This is a fascinating work of local history. It starts with the advantage of an appealing title, hanging the history of the north eastern suburbs of Johannesburg (Linksfield Ridge, Linksfield, Orange Grove, Norwood, Sydenham, and Observatory) to the association of Mahatma Gandhi and the Johannesburg German,  Jewish architect Hermann Kallenbach in the early years of the 20th century.   

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.

Gandhi's Johannesburg Birthplace of Satyagraha, Eric Itzkin, published by Wits University Press with Museum Africa, 2000, (st edition) 2001 (2nd printing) paperback, illustrated, 91 pages + 24 pages of colour plate illustrations, including the 1896 Plan of Johannesburg. Mahatma Gandhi has an even stronger presence in Johannesburg today than when he was alive and moving around the city in person.

The Pioneer Architects of Johannesburg and their buildings (1886 to 1899), with postcard illustrations is likely to be of interest to the Johannesburg heritage fraternity and will be a useful addition to the literature available on Johannesburg architectural history. The work of twenty architects and their buildings over the period 1886 to 1897 has been researched.

The Early Architects of Cape Town and their buildings (1820 – 1926) with postcard illustrations is a sizeable title for a small book (the main body of text is only 120 pages). It has been written and self published by Michael Walker (2012). The format is one of tracking down a number of important architects of Cape Town through their buildings as shown in souvenir vintage postcards. The principal focus of the book is on approximately 50 architects active in Cape town in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Michael Walker is a Cape Town local historian and resident. He has written a number of  books covering South African shipwrecks, railway journeys, coastal memories and then extended himself to the history of Simon’s Town, Muizenberg, Kalk Bay and St James. Now Michael has combined his interest in architecture and postcards to publish three works of interest to all interested in architectural heritage:

The Rand Club  1887-1957 no author (research/writing by L E Neame), published by The Rand Club, illustrated, 183 pages, first edition, with dust wrapper. This volume, published to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Rand Club in Johannesburg, was the first of the three official histories of the Club.

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.

It is often forgotten that Universities are custodians and repositories of many fine collections and treasures. In most disciplines there has been someone with a collecting bent or driven by a particular research project and this has motivated the desire to gather, study, analyse, explain and preserve all sorts of objects from indigenous musical instruments to botanical specimens.

Nasir Carrim: Fietas, A social History of Pageview, 1948 - 1988, published by Save Pageview Association, 1990. Softcover, A4 size, 191 pages, illustrated, maps. This book in its day was an item of campaign literature to Save Pageview from demolition and the ravages of apartheid social engineering. It was a sad and disgraceful story and the people of Pageview fought valiantly for their rights of ownership and a city presence for the Indian Community. Who wanted to move or be moved to Lenasia?

Western Provincial an album of Paintings and Drawings of the Western Cape, by Desiree Picton-Seymour and R I B Webster,  1952, Maskew Miller, Cape Town, 36 plates , 80 pages. This book was a collaborative effort by the artist (Picton-Seymour) and the author (Webster). The charm of this slender volume is that it captures in tipped in plates and scraper board drawings some of the architecture of the Western Cape.  It is an artistic and romantic gem.

Changing Space, Changing City, Johannesburg after Apartheid edited by Philip Harrison, Graeme Gotz, Alison Todes and Chris Wray. 2014, Wits University Press. Johannesburg is a city of vast expanse and substance. Within its short history it has become that the economic powerhouse of the subcontinent. It is a city that is changing rapidly and this book seeks to document what is happening right now and to place that change in a  time context. How has the city fared since 1994?

Early Johannesburg Its buildings and its People,  Hannes Meiring, with text by G-M van der Waal and Wilhelm Grutter, Human & Rousseau, 1986. 143 pages. This book has the feel of a album and was published in the Johannesburg centenary year. I think it was one of the most appealing of centenary publications. The inimitable Meiring style comes through in his light touch but detailed sketches of Johannesburg buildings. The project started as drawings in a series, "Ou Johannesburg ", for Die Beeld.

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 .

Parktown centenary Souvenir, 1892- 1992, The past with a future. Published by the Parktown and Westcliff Heritage Trust, Editorial board: Den Adams, Flo Bird, Leigh Jackson and Carmen Welz. This souvenir booklet in A4 format celebrated the centenary of Parktown in 1992, it has the feel of a home made newsletter with a strong promotional bias , it mixes snippets of history about institutions and people with advertisements by local sponsors . 1992 is now ancient history.

Wagon-tracks and Orchards Early Days in Sandton, Juliet Marais Louw: Pictura Africana Series, published by AD.Donker, 1976. Juliet Marais Louw was the sister of  the prolific author , Eric Rosenthal and also wrote popular local social history.  She died in 2001, aged 90  , her lifespan marked huge changes in her city . She was a well known teacher in Johannesburg and lived on a farm in Sandown.

Braamfontein Spruit Trail, edited by James Clarke, sponsored by AECI Ltd, published 1981. This soft covered pamphlet and handbook was published more than 3 decades ago has now become an item of Johannesburg Africana . It is 52 pages in length but is a dual book with text in both English and Afrikaans.

I recently acquired two hard to come by Johannesburg history books, both published by the City of Johannesburg in the early 1990s. I thought I would write up two short reviews to raise awareness about these titles.

Lionel Crook: Island at War. Robben Island 1939 - 1945  edited and published by the Naval Heritage Trust, Simons Town 2013, paperback, illustrated, 344 pages. Robben Island is a place of scenic beauty rich memory and a fascinating history. This "island of seals" is now a world heritage site and museum because it was an island prison during the decades of the 60s, 70s and 80s. For many years black South African liberation fighters and resisters against apartheid were incarcerated.

In 1906 there were 160 licensed drinking places in Cape Town including hotels, taverns, inns and bottle stores. The link between hotels, a license and a bed for the night was much deplored by the temperance movement who argued that "billiards and brandy, the two curses of Cape Town prevail". This book tells the story of the hotels established or upgraded in Cape Town over the two decades and beyond. It was the hey day of hotels that appealed because of their excellent beer, a soft bed and reasonable food.

Africana Repository, R F Kennedy. Published by Juta, 1965, illustrated, 178 pages. This book is modestly subtitled, "Notes for a Series of lectures given to the Hillbrow Study Centre". It is an essential and scholarly guide to Africana book collecting. Kennedy was the Johannesburg City Librarian and was able to draw on and also shape the resources of the JPL and the Africana museum. Kennedy knew what he was talking about, he shared his knowledge with a lay lecture audience, keen collecting enthusiasts, historians and librarians.

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