Professor Brenda Schmahmann’s new book, The Keiskamma Art Project – Restoring Hope and Livelihoods, will be launched in Johannesburg on November 30. Pre-launch copies of this excellently illustrated book can now be ordered from Print Matters. “The book, the first to be devoted to this project, is a definitive and authoritative resource covering the project’s extraordinary achievement,” says Print Matters creative and publishing director, Robin Stuart-Clark. He explained that the Keiskama Art Project was started by Carol Hofmeyr, in 2000 to provide opportunities for hundreds of people in the little Eastern Cape village of Hamburg. “It has enabled many to support themselves and their families through art.” The book covers the history of the project, its vision, mission, motivations, ideals and achievements. It also covers the effects of social problems, such as HIV and AIDS on this small community, as well as on-going environmental and ecological changes. “Those who have seen this richly illustrated book have termed it inspirational,’ says Robin. “It will be of value to art historians, but to all interested in visual art and rural development in South Africa.” Four versions are available – a hardcover collector’s edition, (R3 999), a hardcover subscriber’s edition, (R1 400), a hardcover standard edition, (R499) and a soft cover version (R399). Only the latter two will be commercially available and their prices include VAT and but exclude postage and packing. Brenda Schumann is professor and research chair of South African Art and Visual Culture at the University of Johannesburg.


The Karoo Development Foundation (KDF) is planning to create a battlefields route. For this development it has secured a grant from the National Heritage Commission (NHC) through its in-house NGO (Karoo Dynamics). The project research team will include Professor Doreen Atkinson, project leader, Lindile Fikizolo, managing director, Karoo Dynamics, Stefan du Toit, a habitat landscape architect, Adri Smit, webmaster, and Sindisile Madyo of De Aar, who is affiliated with the KDF. Nicki van der Heyde, who has recently written a book on battlefields tourism, will provide specialist input and support. The core towns, which will be included in the route are Bethulie, Philippolis, Springfontein (and by implication, Gariep Dam), in the Free State, as well as Colesberg, Norvalspont and Noupoort, in the Karoo. The first planning meeting will be held at the National War Museum in Bloemfontein, from 10:00 to 13:00, on Tuesday, September 27. Please advise if you wish to attend. Guest house owners, tourism agencies, District Municipality officials, museum personnel and private historic researchers should attend. The programme includes a tour of the war museum and a light lunch.


Dr. Cyril A Hromník will once again present a field lecture on the pre-European history of Southern Africa – particularly the Karoo – at Geelbek and Faberskraal farms, near Laingsburg on September 23 and 24. Visitors will be taken on journey through a series of ancient stone temples and be able to view rock paintings dating back 2 000 and more years. “Some are megalithic, some very simple, but all symbolic and very precise. The temples are so precisely built that they allow an exact calendar date to be given,” he says. During this tour visitors will be able to observe the sunset and sunrise of the Spring Equinox. Faberskraal/Geelbek farms, owned by David Luscombe, are 80km from Sutherland. This tour package costs R1 100 per person sharing and includes, accommodation, 4X4 transport at the farms, night time visits to the temples and all lectures. For those who prefer hotels, excellent accommodation is available in Laingsburg. David states that the farm also has some excellent hiking trails and camping facilities and that it offers game spotting drives. It is the ideal spot to use when visiting the observatory at Sutherland.


Deelfontein was considered one of the “most impressive and picturesque” sights seen by people on the funeral train carrying Cecil John Rhodes’s body to the then Rhodesia. Rhodes died in at Muizenberg, on March 26, 1902, at the age of 49, two months before the end of the Anglo-Boer War. The country was still under Martial Law and most of the central area was a huge battlefield, writes Francis Masey in The Late Right Honourable Cecil John Rhodes – A Chronicle of the Funeral Ceremonies. The funeral train had to travel through a warzone of about 2 000 miles (about 3 219 km). As it progressed through the Karoo it stopped at each little station to allow people to pay their respects. At Matjiesfontein a large crowd of Rhodes’s friends had gathered on the platform with Colonel Crewe. When the train stopped a woman, clad in the deepest mourning, boarded and placed a wreath on the coffin. When the train drew up at Beaufort West station, a little after 09:00, a huge crowd stood respectfully waiting, bordered by a double line of troops with reversed arms. General French and his staff stepped aboard to salute this great man on his final journey. All stations from Beaufort West to De Aar were draped in black and purple. At De Aar the large gathering, mostly of railway men and their wives, stood surrounded by troops. Masey says: “Little forts had been built along the route to accord the procession respect. At one pace a soldier had climbed on to the roof of a blockhouse and there stood silently to attention until the train had passed. The train reached Deelfontein and the Imperial Yeomanry Hospital at about 16:00”. One of the men reported: Here we were afforded one of the most interesting sights of the pilgrimage. The railway banks were lined with convalescents in their blue suits, interspersed with RAMC men, nurses with the scarlet and white shoulder gear, soldiers and officers. As we passed very slowly through the lines of varied colour all stood motionless and to attention. The effect was most impressive and picturesque.” 


One day, while out riding with Lord Grey, Rhodes came upon an Ndebele sacred place, in the Matopo Hills, 35 km south of Bulawayo. Its name was Malindidzimu – the place of benevolent spirits. He called the spot “View of the World” and decided to be buried there. A train conveyed his body with great ceremony to the then Rhodesia stopping at practically every station along the route to allow people waiting at the stations to pay their last respects. The line from Mafeking to Bulawayo had only been completed five years earlier by the British South Africa Company. From Bulawayo Rhodes’s his body was transported by ox-wagon to his final resting place along a road which until three weeks before previously had been merely a rough cattle track. Despite the work put into it after Rhodes’s death, it was still very difficult to negotiate. Where it entered the hills gangs of work men had been placed at various points to make quick and necessary repairs as the vehicles passed. At the main outspan the mules drawing the gun carriage were replaced by twelve black oxen, which had been specially trained, during the preceding fortnight, to mount the steep approaches with a heavy load. To the relief of those in charge, the oxen took the strain well and some said: “as quietly as if they were ploughing a furrow’. The oxen drew the gun carriage right up to the summit. Troopers of the British South African Police were stationed at the difficult sections to grab and hold guide ropes on the gun carriage as the oxen negotiated the slippery slopes. There were no cars for the mourners, but every imaginable conveyance was brought into use to get people to the funeral. Zeederberg’s mail coaches carried many, so did buckboards, ox wagons, utility and Cape carts. Some people came by bicycles and others on horseback. One of the most impressive incidents as the gun carriage approached was the Ndebele Royal Salute – a mighty roar “Bayethe” – given by thousands of tribesmen, stated a report of the final ceremony.

Note: A medal was struck for friends, dignitaries and railway personnel, like T Hampton, one of the engine drivers, who accompanied Rhodes’ body on the funeral trail from Cape Town to Bulawayo. Leander Starr Jameson is also buried in this area and there is a memorial to a Shangani patrol, killed in a battle between settlers and the Ndebele people.


The Brisbane Courier of April 10, 1901 salutes a brave British soldier. A short item states that Sergeant Sandford, of the Victorian Bushmen’s Contingent, had been recommended for the Victoria Cross for the great act of the gallantry he displayed during a skirmish in the Zuurberg Mountains, in the Eastern Cape Karoo part of the Colony. There the Victorians were surrounded by an overwhelming number of Boers and they came under a heavy fire. Seeing a comrade hit by a bullet and fall, Sergeant Sandford, with the assistance of three other Victorians, rode towards the man, dismounted, helped his comrade onto his own horse, mounted again and rode off bringing his friend to safety. He was highly praised for this deed.


At the turn of the last century Ernest Graham Little wrote an article encouraging the not-so-healthy people of Europe to come to South Africa. He discussed the climate, described “healthy” places across the country and stressed the value of the clean, dry, fresh air of the hinterland. One of the most important resorts in the Southern Karoo, he said, was the “pretty little Dutch town” of Ceres. Here in picturesque surroundings and with pure water derived from mountain springs, it had a small sanatorium manned by competent medical personnel. Winter rains made it uncomfortable for phthisis patients, but from October to March, they could sleep in the open air. Ceres, he said, was an ideal halting-place en route to the higher plateaux. He hailed Grahamstown as one of the prettiest places in South Africa and one of the most English, adding that it had excellent educational facilities, a good public library, magnificent museum and “a society more cultured and intellectual than many other Colonial towns.” The Great or Central Karoo and the Northern Karoo offered “a crescendo of advantage which increased with the altitude”. He claimed that this was one of the most perfect climates in the world for the treatment of tuberculosis. “This area is so healthy and invigorating that1 would defy even the most miserable hypochondriac to remain uncheerful in these bright, sunny, glorious uplands. They offer the same exhilaration as Swiss altitudes, but with the vivifying influences of sunshine. Remember, sunshine and pure air, are the strongest anti-bactericidal agents.” Little mentioned that Dr Latham and Mr. West, of St. George’s Hospital, had lately won the King’s prize, for offering solutions in respect of treatment at various sanatoria. Among those recommended as suitable for invalids was one near Beaufort West, as well as the town itself, Cradock and Middelburg. All had sanatoriums, as well as accommodation opportunities on farms. He, however, warned that fierce heat and dust storms mitigated against permanent residence.


In a lecture at St George’s Hospital in the early 1900s Mr. Clinton Dent, expressed his astonishment at the surgical triumphs made possible by the pure, healing air in the Karoo. He explained that it was the dryness and consequent clearness of this air that contributed to inferior shooting of British troops when they first arrived in South Africa to fight in the Anglo-Boer War. They invariably sighted their rifles too low, because their targets were far more distant than seemed possible. Sunstroke was rare in the Karoo, he said, because high temperatures were tempered by relative absence of moisture. He mentioned that the records of the huge military hospital (the Imperial Yeomanry Hospital) in the set up on the plains showed that even during the hottest months of August to April there was not a single case of sunstroke among 3000 medical cases treated. These observations had been made by the late Dr Washbourn, a highly respected and gifted physician. Among the medical cases he had treated were 546 of enteric (typhoid), 379 of dysentery, 296 of muscular rheumatism, 258 of malaria, 187 of “continued fever,” 152 of diarrhoea, 93 of jaundice, 70 of tonsilitis, 71 of influenza, yet only 43 of bronchitis and chest affections. Dr. Washbourn concluded that the air in South Africa was as good as the food was bad. The soil of the Karroo was astonishingly fertile when watered, said Ernest Graham Little. He recommended that irrigation be widely adopted wherever possible. In places where this had been done the most satisfactory results had been obtained, he said. For example, Matjesfontein, a small oasis in the middle of the Karroo applied intelligent methods of irrigation and entertained many visitors from abroad at an excellent table. “It is to be hoped that energetic and progressive settlers will do the same, as farms change hands after the financial stresses of the Anglo-Boer War. Modern agricultural methods will ensure better fresh food at moderate cost and the country will become ripe for more sanatoriums and places for invalids.


Alexandria’s Dr Pascoe Bevil Grenfell had a colourful career, states the Adler Museum Bulletin of December 2009. In addition to many adventures in the course of his travels to visit patients and his service as a medical doctor with the British Army during the Anglo-Boer War. On one occasion Dr Grenfell had to perform a craniotomy and frontal lobectomy in the field with very rudimentary equipment as the horse carrying the major part of his medical equipment was washed away when he had no alternative but to cross a river in flood. This daring operation was successful, and the patient lived for many years to tell the tale, despite the fact that many considered him to be “a bit funny in the head”. When and where given permission by British commanding officers, Dr Grenfell also attended to wounded Boer soldiers. He was captured by General Jan Smuts’s Commando in the Zuurberg Mountains area of the Eastern Cape Karoo but freed again when Smuts realised he was a doctor. He always felt that Smuts had released him after being told that he had also treated Boer soldiers in the field.


The birds and plants of the arid plains fascinated David Arnot once he moved to the Karoo. David, who was born in Uitenhage on June 26, 1821, was educated at the South African College, in Cape Town from 1836 to 1838. After that her moved to Colesberg to open a business as a general agent. In 1860 he was appointed agent of the Griqua chief Nikolaas Waterboer. Motivated by self-interest and British-imperialist tendencies he devoted his energies to promoting the interests of the Griquas of Griqualand West and opposing those of the settlers in the Orange Free State. He worked aggressively towards trying to help the Griquas gain possession of the territory south of the Vaal River and west of the Ramah-Platberg line. It has been said that it was largely due to his efforts that Griqualand West (including the diamond fields) was proclaimed British territory in 1870. David, who was described as an emotional, ostentatious, unscrupulous, and highly intelligent man, made a number of land claims in the territory and was eventually granted the farm Eskdale and another block of farms near the confluence of the Orange and Vaal rivers. In 1874 he became a member of the Legislative Council of Griqualand West. With his friend F.H.S. Orpen, civil commissioner and surveyor-general of Griqualand West, David, in 1875, co-authored a book entitled The Land Question Of Griqualand West: An Inquiry Into The Various Claims Of Land In That Territory; Together With A Brief History Of The Griqua Nation. He settled on his farm Eskdale in the 1870s but moved to Cape Town in 1880.


David Arnot was a naturalist with wide interests. During his stay in Colesberg he collected plants, particularly succulents, and round about 1859 sent a box of living succulent plants to the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, in London. Curator, W H Harvey, thanked him in the preface to Volume 1 of the 1860 Flora Capensis. David’s contribution included living aloes, stapelias, crassulas, mesembryanthemums, and cotyledons. Later he contributed some Stapeliads to Sir Henry Barkly’s collection. In due course the species Stapelia arnotii, Talinum arnotii, Haemanthus arnotii, and Hypoxis arnotii were named in his honour, as was the land snail Sheldonia arnotti. He also had a keen interest in ornithology and Arnot’s Chat, Myrmecocichla arnoti, carry his name. Among other material he collected were included fossil reptiles and mammals. He was elected a Fellow of the Linnaean Society and of the (British) Geographical Society in 1875 and became a corresponding member of the South African Philosophical Society in October 1877. He died in Cape Town on June 6, 1894.


Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, who took over as head of the Jewish Board of Deputies’s Community Department in 1993, was an avid historian. In an article on a search for Jewish roots in the hinterland, a senior researcher, David Saks, says that during his tenure the rabbi unearthed some fascinating stories. At De Aar he discovered a shopkeeper whose business was right across the road from a onetime shul. When it was turned into a church, he painted over his shop window so that he would not have to look at it, said the rabbi. “Despite the fact that he had married out and had no Jewish children, it greatly pained him to see the shul in which he had had his barmitzvah functioning as a church”. Sometimes, vestiges of a long-vanished Jewish presence appeared in the most unexpected places. In the Eastern Cape hamlet of Kirkwood, Rabbi Silberhaft discovered an unusually ornate and attractive stained-glass Magen David over the doorway of what had once been the local shul. At the time the building itself was being used as doctor’s rooms. When he approached the doctor there to see whether the glass could be removed for preservation in a Jewish institution, the latter politely refused. This was his lucky star, he explained. He felt that as long as it was there, people would continue to get sick and he would continue to make money and prosper.


Rabbi Silberhaft also told the story of Isaac and Millie Kahn, who in 1940 arrived for their honeymoon at Hamlet Hotel in Prince Alfred Hamlet, about 15 km outside Ceres. The newly-weds liked the hotel so much they never left. They bought it outright thereby becoming one of the long line of South African Jewish hoteliers. Their sons, Joss and Michael, took over the management of this establishment from them. On a more poignant note, the rabbi described the lonely graves of I B Schlesinger and his wife on the abandoned and derelict grounds of the once-thriving Zebedielia citrus estate. At its height this estate was the largest citrus plantation in the world.

When I graduated from high school, it was during the depression and we had no money. I couldn’t go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years. – Ray Bradbury