“Labels in Latin naming unknown genera and imagined species,
made up from this hair and that breast, freakish monsters.
And who were the artists,draftsmen and litho men
drawing up images for the explorers, interpreting
sketch and notebook, creating a new world, visualised
through a myopic haze of exoticism and romance,
feeding European powers’ dreams of lust and greed?
And the new territories portrayed as virgin queens,
prostrate legs prised open, in their taking,
regardless of the eons of wisdom and patience
left bleeding into mother soils”.
Coincidences of birth and origin
The coincidences of birth and origin are intriguing, often hidden in the wrinkled footnotes of history. A part of my own family on my father’s side, still live on a farm not 5 miles from the Dolobran Hall, the original home of Llewellyn Lloyd, Charles John Andersson’s father. And that is why Charles Llewellyn Andersson named the mansion he built in Johannesburg after the family seat in Wales. Steve Dyer is one of my closest friends. We have worked together with image and sound for many years after meeting in Gaborone in 1986. When I began this project I had no idea that Steve was related to Hugo Hahn or about the curious proximity of the original Dolobran hall to my great uncle, Fred’s farm, ‘Moidog’, on the outskirts of Welshpool. Meeting Phillipe and Beryl in the Dolobran House, Johannesburg was the beginning of a journey of discoveries that has linked friends and locations across Southern Africa, Sweden and the UK. It is fascinating to discover the lives and deeds of the men and women who lived and worked generations before ours and to compare their ways of life with our own. How many differences and similarities of purpose and achievement are un-covered on this journey through time and how many more histories are there to find? It seems to me, that the search is endless and the continual re-telling of these stories is a life’s work.
Dolobran house, Parktown, Johannesburg – 2016
“Have you been to Cleveland, the ‘comeback city’ in the United States of America? Well I have and I have seen what happened when that city slid into ruin just as the old city centre of Johannesburg has slid and is sliding now.”
Philippe Andersson continues:
“This happens to city’s all over the world, fortunes rise and fall and the infrastructure rises and falls with them. It recovers in time, just as Cleveland has, perhaps in our case, Johannesburg, in many years time.”
He is responding to my descriptions of the ‘End’ and ‘Nugget’ street, downtown hell that I have passed through to reach Parktown from Kensington.
Philippe lives in Dolobran House in Parktown at the Oxford end of Victoria Avenue, on top of the hill overlooking the M1. His great, great-grandfather was the Swedish explorer, hunter, trader and naturalist, Charles John Andersson. Dolobran House was built by Phillipe’s great, grandfather Charles Llewellyn Andersson in 1906. The original Dolobran Hall in Wales is in what is now known as the county of Powys, and was built by the Lloyds, Quakers whose seat was located in the village of Meiford near the town of Welshpool. The Lloyds were a branch of the Lloyd family that established Lloyds Bank in London. Their residence in Meiford dates back to 1486 with additions made in 1830.
Beryl, Philippe’s wife pours a hot stream of rose-coloured rooibos into my pretty china cup. There is a framed print of a dark brown Thomas Baine’s oil painting on the wall above the sofa where she has returned to sit after serving us with tea and biscuits.
The painting depicts:
“Hugo Hahn Addressing the Herero before the battle against the Oorlam-Nama Afrikaners, June 1864”.
Hugo Hahn, German missionary and linguist set up the Rhenish mission station and theological seminary at Otjimbingwe in 1863.
The battle between the Namaqua and the Damara took place at Otjimbingwe, South of Windhoek, on the 22nd of June 1864. The latter led by none other than Charles John Andersson who had been elected their leader after the Damara had come to the conclusion that their own chief was not popular enough to rouse his men into battle. The battle was won but at great loss, termed a ‘disastrous victory’, and Andersson was seriously wounded by gunshot in the leg, a wound he never fully recovered from, dying at the age of 40, on a fatal journey to Angola in 1867. The flag depicted in the painting was designed by Baines for the Damara, the Herero Nation and was carried by the sortie of nearly 2500 men, who had set out for battle on the 6th of June 1864.
Andersson wrote in his diary (11 May 1864);
“Baines suggested a National Flag. Thought of the same thing, only did not broach the subject as it seems almost premature… Sketch 3 or 4 different coloured flags. We must have an eye more to effect than prettiness, as a flag, as a rule, is rarely exposed full to view, the wind generally causing it more or less to fold, and consequently details are lost. We tried yellow but neither creates effect nor is it clearly visible at any distance. A red cross on a blue field, with a large star appearing just behind the cross, looks well and effective.
My wife must make a silken standard, if I become the chief of this country. In the meantime we ought to have something for use.”
The painting depicts a flag surrounded by a throng of wigged and beaded warriors, some wearing top hats with red or green hatbands, armed with spears, knobkerries and rifles. The majority of the army sit upon the ground around an ox-wagon on which are seated two men in suits. The man in black garb and broad-brimmed hat must be Hugo Hahn and to his left, the man in a white suit and hat, wearing a little goatee is I believe Charles John Andersson. Looking at the painting carefully, I see a woman in a white dress seated beside the wagon, to her right is a woman in black, Hugo Hahn’s wife Emma, perhaps? Is this woman Sarah Jane Aitchison, Andersson’s wife of four years? I wonder if she ever made him that silken standard?
The Baine’s flag was never used again after that day.
A TRIP TO TRAIL BLAZERS’ CAMP- GHANZI 2017
The dust lies on every surface at this time of year, it hangs in the curtains dulling bright colours and dirtying the whites. It forms a thin layer that becomes ingrained in the grooves of fingerprints and is grit between the teeth.
It was in this season that I drove the seven hours Northwest from Gaborone to Ghanzi to visit friends living there in the Kalahari Desert.
On the first morning of the visit I woke early, just before dawn and left the hut to see the stars paling as the old moon’s crescent sank towards the low Kalahari scrub and the sun began to rise. Before breakfast we walked with a group of Gui people through the winter grasses, the group’s stiff, new leather cloaks hiding a couple of sleeping babies. One of the young men twirled a stick with a Korhan feather attached to its end. It made a purring murmur as it swung through the morning air and the babies woke up. The people showed us various leaves and roots that encouraged conception, could be used for abortion, made soap, tanned and dyed leather and cured constipation and headaches. The small party wandered about us, amongst the herbs and scant trees, pulling at a branch here and poking with a stick there. For a moment it felt like peace. We the tourists took photographs of them in the clear light, sunlight illuminating a bright eye balanced upon a smooth or wrinkled cheekbone. The men’s bare legs, both young and old, curved shapely from calf to buttock. They made fire with a hard stick that bore down into a soft stick and fed it with dry grass. Afterwards we found our short way back to camp.
I visited the ‘Gat’, a hole left by a quarry Julian Butler had been digging, that had suddenly and miraculously filled with fresh water. He abandoned the quarry, one of many he had worked for profit on the land he owned in the Ghanzi farms. The calcrete dug out of the hole there had helped build the sparse town and its dusty roadways. He began to pour all his spare energy into enhancing this substantial water hole that had welled up out of nowhere like a cool dream. The Ghanzi ridge holds ground water near the earth’s surface, rainwater collected over millennia adding to and becoming fossil waters. That is why the Naro people and other bushman groups have lived in this area for thousands of years. The fossil river-beds of Deception, the Okwa and Hanahai valleys, crossing the Kgalagadi, where there is no permanent surface water, have always been the home ranges of bushman peoples. Perhaps it was from here in the Central Kalahari that language spread, eventually reaching as far away as Japan. Japanese linguists come here to carry out research, investigating among others, the !Kung people’s speech which mysteriously holds the roots of Japanese. The mother tongues of the different bushman peoples still living in this area are not always mutually intelligible. Naro can speak with Gui and Gui with Naro but neither can speak with !Kung! Africaans not Setswana is the lingua franca in the Ghanzi District.
The ‘Gat’ lay turquoise and serene in the late afternoon haze, a blue eye staring up from the desert into outer space. A cooling breeze sprung up announcing the end of the afternoon’s heat and the beginning of a mild evening. A spotted eagle owl called across the water and we saw him fly out from his cover in a tree that was growing green by the water’s edge. He perched half way up the vertical rock face of the quarry wall, invisible but for the fact that we had seen his silent flight. Glossy starlings began mobbing him in bird-rage, spreading the news : “He is here, he is here, he is here!”
The dance had already started when we got back to camp and we joined the truckloads of visitors around the fire, over-landers who had arrived for one night’s stay and ‘the bushman experience’. The band of Gui people we had walked with in the early morning were now staging their ‘traditional dance’ show around an open fire under the stars. The women sat behind the flames on the dark side and clapped rhythmically as they started up each new song, thin yodeling cries that rose and fell in time with the rattling of strings of Mopani worm cocoons strapped around the men’s ankles. The men performed in front of the fire, their footprints tracing patterns in the sand. At the finale they invited the audience to join in.
I once made the drive to Ghanzi, leaving Gaborone far too late for safety, driving into the evening light when cattle stand silent and almost invisible on the road. I drove at some speed into a herd, slowing to break as I wound my way through them with thumping heart, I had missed an accident by a cat’s whisker.
In the gloaming that followed I had slowed to a crawl as I came up towards the cattle grid that marks the entrance to the Hardbattle farm. In the twilight I saw a Caracal, a desert lynx slip across the road in front of me, its tufted ears leading the way as it disappeared on long legs into the scrub, a feline spirit. John Hardbattle the owner of those farms had been my friend before he died, like Julian too soon, before his work was done. He was the child of an English settler and a Naro woman and became an activist on behalf of his marginalized people, the Bushmen of the Ghanzi district and the Kgalahari desert. My memory searched for him each time I passed that crossing. After this particular journey I always look for the caracal in the same spot on the road, its shadow and John Hardbattle’s memory have became entwined. Some years later I was talking about animal totems and the caracal came up. I was told that John’s totem was the caracal cat.
Long ago I was part of a trance dance that began in the early evening and then went on all night. It was a healing dance. One of the dancers spat into his cupped hands and then applied his saliva to my upturned face. Hot hands were laid, pressed upon my upper back, the length of my arms and the soft round of my belly. The women’s song and their clapping formed a wall of sound that ran right up into the sky, enclosing the fire, the men falling in and out of trance, encircling all of us. Sparks and voices rose upwards in a single spiral from earth to the stars in the heavens.
What remains in the present of our past lives and those who have filled them? Where do the dead go? Like sparks from the fire, things unravel and become immaterial, floating away on the air. I feel like the Caracal, almost invisible, carrying secrets as I slip through the twilight from one day to the next.
Richard Charles Eaton arrived in Ghanzi in the mid 1950s, a young land surveyor from the Kimberley area in South Africa. He was employed by the Bechuanaland Administration, to survey all the Ghanzi farms, that had long been issued but not fenced. After five years living in a tent he married Hilda Burton, the youngest daughter of Arthur Burton who had come to Africa in the early 1900s, originally from New Zealand, to fight with the British in the second Boer War. When the war ended he found himself in Ghanzi and met and fell in love with Maria Lewis, whose family had been farming in the area for some years. Maria was Africaans and spoke no English and Arthur was English and spoke no Africaans. A long and happy marriage ensued. Richard Eaton bought land adjacent to the Burton farms and settled with Hilda in the Ghanzi District on the land around the original Ghanzi Pan. He served on the Ghanzi District Council from 1966 at Independence, retiring in the 1990s and is still the longest serving councilor in the history of Botswana. He is respected and loved throughout the community. He still lives on the farm with his eldest son Clive Eaton. His youngest son Dr. Peter Eaton, lives and works in Gaborone but owns the original family farm house situated in walking distance from the Ghanzi pan.
In 1895 the Bechuanaland Protectorate was established amidst a tangle of political maneuvering. Paul Kruger’s Transvaal forces had just quashed the Jameson Raid, dampening the ‘would be’ British Empire building ambitions of Cecil Rhodes in the region. Added pressure on the British Government, came from the three Tswana chiefs, Khama, Sebele and Bathoen who travelled to Great Britain in 1894 in an effort to secure their land rights, subsequently meeting with Queen Victoria herself, and gaining the popular support of the British public. The Protectorate was established and in accordance with British interests, the south-west border (what is now the Ghanzi District) was offered to settlers, forming a buffer against German interests in South West Africa, now Namibia. In this way the ancient, traditional hunting and gathering ranges of the indigenous peoples in this area were given away and they quickly became serfs on their own lands. The German genocide of the Herero and Nama between 1904 and 1908 caused significant migration of the remains of these nations across the border into the Bechuanaland Protectorate, causing further losses of home range to the Bushman peoples. The establishment of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in 1961, covering 52,800 square kilometres, making it the second largest game reserve in the world, completed the loss of land to the Naro, the |Gui, the Ju|’hoansi, the /=Hua, the||Ghana, the/Qaa, the !Xoo, all traditional inhabitants of the area. Were it not for the resettlement plan in Botswana in the mid 1980s, the ‘remote area dwellers’ would today have no access to land at all. The seven settlements that were put aside for them account for 2% of the land in the Ghanzi District.
Charles John Andersson came riding through this area in 1859 and describes the place in his book:
“Lake Ngami; or explorations and discoveries, during four years’ wanderings in the wilds of South Western Africa.”:
“In the course of the following day’s march we had traversed dense brakes which annoyed us excessively, for the thorns, not only tore our flesh and clothes, but subtracted several articles of value from the pack-saddles. Amongst other losses I had to bewail that of two magnificent flags-the British and the Swedish- which had been expressly made to have unfurled on the shores of the far-famed Ngami. All my efforts to recover these valuable standards proved fruitless, some hyenas having probably swallowed the Anglo-Saxon Lion and the Swedish Cross.
At dusk, after having been ten hours in the saddle, we reached a famous place called Ghanze, where we pitched our camp.”
“Having enjoyed a good deal of shooting, and feasted ourselves and Bushmen on rhinoceros flesh to our heart’s content, we left Ghanze on the 23rd of June. The first portion of the country through which our road led was very thorny; but the bush gradually opened, and we journeyed with more ease.”
Charles John Andersson’s journey continues northward as he describes in detail his hunting exploits and the wild fauna encountered along the way. Eventually he arrives at Lake Ngami:
“…almost overwhelmed me. It was a mixture of pleasure and pain. My temples throbbed, and my heart beat so violently,that I was obliged to dismount, and lean against a tree for support, until the excitement had sunsided…I felt the unfeignedly thankful for the unbounded goodness and gracious assistance, which I had experienced from Providence throughout the whole of this prolonged and perilous journey……My companions were mostly savages. I was exposed to numerous perils by land and by water, and endured torments from wounds inflicted by wild animals. But, I was mercifully preserved by the Creator, through the manifold dangers that hovered round my path. To him are due all homage, thanksgiving and adoration.”
He continues to describe the lake, which he found shallower, smaller and in many respects a bit of a disappointment: