27 April 2008

South African painting fetch high prices

Irma Stern's paintiog, Pondo woman, which she painted in 1929, and Maggie Laubser's Woman in a blue kopdoek, were recently sold at an art auction in Johannesburg for more than R5 milllion. Stern's painting went for R2,82 million, while Laubser's went for R2,42 million - way more than the expected R1,5 million and R1 million respectively. The Stern painting came from the private collection of a collector in Israel. Stern was born in South Africa in 1894. After the Anglo-Boer War, she left for Germany with her parents. In the 1920s she returned to South Africa but her work was criticised negatively. It was only in the 1940s that South Africans started appreciating her work. She died in Cape Town in 1966.

From harbour master's house to luxury hotel

The Dock House Hotel opened its doors recently. The luxurious hotel is in a renovated historic building which was built in 1863 and once was the home of the harbour engineer. It was also one of the last remaining heritage sites at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. All the rooms feature relics from the past, with some being adapted to function in the modern designs. The building has Victorian architectural details, thick walls, and the landmark Timeball Tower, which at one time guided vessels at sea. The property is perched on a cliff above the waterfront. The hotel belongs to the Ambassador Group, headed by the Markovitz and Swersky families. Neil Markovitz, son of the late Leon Markovitz, a former Cape Town mayor and property developer, runs the company. Abe Swersky is a divorce lawyer and racehorse owner.

Audio-visual guide for tourists

South Africa's first multi-lingual audio-visual guide for cellphones is ready for tourists. Mobiguide is a virtual travel guide and provides tourists with information about popular attractions. It is downloaded to a cellphone or personal media player. Mobiguide was created by Canadian Dan Seidman and South African Amanda Forsythe, who spent three years developing it. It was launched in Cape Town last month. Mobiguide delivers information in English, French, German and Mandarin. It will soon include Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, Xhosa and Zulu.

Baakens River Valley under threat

Another of South Africa's green lungs, the Baakens River Valley in Port Elizabeth, is under threat as developers exploit a legal loophole to build high-rise buildings on the edge of the once pristine valley. Ecologists claim developers are killing off local fauna and flora, while environmentalists claim developers are illegally connecting storm-water drains to an already-overloaded sewerage system. Despite a municipal ban on buildings higher than 8,2 metres on the Walmer side of the valley, there is no current height restriction for buildings on the Central side. In March 1997, the municipality adopted the Walmer Policy Plan to ensure the protection of the Baakens River Valley by restricting the heights of buildings. This was after an outcry after the construction of The Knysna, a luxury apartment block at the end of First Avenue. Already an eight-storey block of luxury apartments, Eco Edge, is being completed behind Greenwood Primary School. Another six storey-plus block on the adjoining erf, The Birkin, already has ground cleared for development. Another 11-storey luxury development is planned for the plot at the end of Jutland Crescent.

Albany Club headed by female

One of the oldest gentlemen's clubs in South Africa, the 113-year-old Albany Club at 114 High Street in Grahamstown, was saved by the woman who now heads the club. Club members include judges, advocates, attorneys, doctors, teachers, academics, farmers and business people. Eleanor Louw was recently elected as the first female president of Grahamstown‘s Albany Club. She is the financial manager of Kenrich Motors and a former national president of women‘s service organisation Soroptimist. Women were first admitted to the Albany Club in 1992. Before that women could only sit in the lounge and wait for their husbands. It was through the efforts of Port Elizabeth businesswoman Jenny Hartle, who settled in Grahamstown in the early 1990s and worked for Standard Bank, that women gained admittance. She was a member of the Port Elizabeth Club and had reciprocal rights, except at the Albany Club. Before Jenny could become a member, she was transferred and Eleanor became a member. In the mid- to late-1990s, the club was declining. Eleanor's husband, Neville, is an honorary life member and was on the club committee. She decided to help him and started started looking after the club‘s financial and administrative systems. The membership eventually grew to 250. The club‘s decor, much of it dating back to the 1890s, has been restored and the complex repainted. Membership costs R550 and is through a proposal system, followed by an approval period.

Deelkraal land claim

The farm Deelkraal in the Potchefstroom-Fochville-Carletonville area was subdivided a few years ago and the present owners are still waiting to hear whether their farms will be appropriated. Farmers believe the land claim is not valid, yet they cannot go on with developments or investments on their land until the Land Claims Court makes a decision. There are graves dating to 1865 belonging to Afrikaans people who lived there. According to research done by Dr. Sonja van Eeden of the North West University, the area was given to farmers on 03 June 1839. By 1839 a Harmse family was living on the present-day Buffelsdoorn farm in the Gatsrand. The farm Deelkraal was granted to W. Meintjies on 12 October 1839. The Land Claims Court can only look at the period after September 1913.

World's largest national flag

The Magaliesberg area recently saw the biggest national flag in the world displayed on Silkaatsnek. The replica ZAR flag is 18 250 m², weighs more than 3,5 ton and covers more than 1,8 ha. It took more than two hours to spread the flag out over Sikaatsnek. The flag was a Guinness world record attempt, organised by Edwin Leemans and the Brits community.

Memorial at Abrahamskraal

On 28 January 1902 there was a fierce battle between the British Royal Sussex Regiment and Boer commandos at Abrahamskraal in the Free State. Seven British and two Boers, including the farm owner, were killed on the battlefield that day. Three wounded British soldiers later died of their wounds. Last week a remembrance ceremony was held on a hill above Kalkfontein Dam, where Abrahamskraal used to be in the early days. A memorial plaque was unveiled, in honour of those who fell and the the 139 soldiers of the Royal Sussex Regiment who lost their lives during the Anglo-Boer War. The ceremony was attended by Brig. Andrew Mantell, the British military attaché in South Africa, and Maj. Charles Wilmot of the Royal Sussex Regiment Association.

Moffat Mission Station

The Moffat Mission Station in Kuruman should be declared a heritage site, according to Miss Dipuo Peters, the Northern Cape Premier, speaking at a recent plaque ceremony at the site. The Scottisih missionary, Robert Moffat, lived there from 1820 to 1870, and built the Moffat Church which was completed in 1838. The first Tswana Bible was also translated and printed there.

Khoisan have oldest genetics?

The Khoisan have, on their maternal side (mitochondrial DNS or mDNS), the oldest surviving branches of the human genetic family tree. They are said to have separated from the rest of the population about 90 000 and 150 000 years ago, and over a period of thousands of years, migrated to southern Africa where they lived in genetic isolation until 40 000 years ago. This is according to the Genographic Project and its initial findings published in the American Journal of Human Genetics. Researchers travelled the world to collect the mDNS of 624 indigenous people. According to Dr. Spencer Wells, director of the Genographic Project, the Khoisan's long isolation gave them a unique appearance.

Prestwich Place bones find a final resting place

The remains of about 2500 people, including slaves and Khoisan, uncovered during building operations in Prestwich Street, Green Point, in 2004 were given a final resting place in a newly-built ossuary at St Andrew's Square. Prestwich Place (corner of Prestwich and Alfred Streets) is one of the few known and identifiable burial places of the time, which served the city's poor. Bones were also found underneath the Grand Parade in 1960 when the Post Office tunnel was dug. A few years later, a Vredehoek resident also found bones when building a new driveway on his property. Bones have also been found in Mechau Street, Chiappini Street, Buitengracht, Adderley Street and Milnerton beach. Last year bones were found where the new Greenpoint Stadium is being built. The Prestwich Place discovery led to emotional scenes. Dr. Pallo Jordan, Minister of Arts and Culture, made a decision that the bones could not be scientifically studied as it would upset some communities. After the discovery, archaeologists from UCT determined that the bones dated back to the 1800s and the site was declared a heritage site. After the bones were carefully recovered, they were locked up in the Woodstock Hospital's Mortuary. Tim Hart, one of the project co-ordinators and co-director of archaeology contracts for the University of Cape Town (UCT), said that after initial observations, the bones could be the remains of slaves because some had dental formations uncommon to the Cape and some were not buried in coffins, and instead huddled together in shallow holes. The Prestwich Place Project Committee appealed decisions by the South African Heritage Resources Agency to continue with excavation, but failed to stop the digging until all of the bones were removed.

19 April 2008

The Old Rectory in Plettenberg Bay to be developed

The Old Rectory, at the corner of Bull and Meeding Streets in Plettenberg Bay, might be developed as a boutique hotel. An application and basic assessment report for the development of the buildings has been submitted to the Bitou council by Domenico Property Developments of Plettenberg Bay. The Bitou council tabled a resolution stating that permission had been granted for rezoning of the area, subject to certain conditions. The complex was originally two separate structures linked by a yard with a cookhouse. The buildings were constructed in 1789 by the VOC (Dutch East India Company) as barracks for troops stationed in Plettenberg Bay. In the early 1900s the barracks, cookhouse and yard were combined to create a single, large T-shaped building. Close by is a rough outbuilding, the School House, and the Old Timber Shed built for the VOC by Johann Jerling in 1788. These buildings, together with the replica of the processional stone erected by Baron Van Plettenberg, form the historic heart of Plettenberg Bay. The buildings are in a neglected state. Domenico‘s plan allows for restoration of the existing buildings and the construction of new buildings for a boutique hotel with 22 rooms. The Van Plettenberg Historical Society said that they understand that the upgrading and redevelopment of the site would include a historical library that would display old photographs and historical memorabilia.

Glen Dirk Estate in Constantia to be rezoned

The historical landmark in Constantia, the Glen Dirk Estate, will be partially subdivided into residential properties if the current application for rezoning and subdivision is approved. Owned by the Menell Family Trust since 1948, Glen Dirk Estate is a 55 ha property, off Klaasens Road in Constantia. The two large houses on the property were designed by Sir Herbert Baker. About 60% of the estate is under vines. The application is complicated by the fact that the Constantia Valley is earmarked as a possible World Heritage Site. According to the Constantia Valley Association, the Cape winelands, including the Constantia Valley, was one of the nine candidates for World Heritage Site status that South Africa submitted to UNESCO in 2001. A Notification of Intent to Develop (NID) must be submitted to Heritage Western Cape before any changes to the status of a property such as Glen Dirk Estate can be made. This will enable Heritage Western Cape to decide whether a Heritage Impact Assessment will be required. He declined to comment on the possible World Heritage Site status of the estate. The Menell Family Trust said the motivation behind subdividing the property was to generate funds to manage the farm. The application is open to inspection at the City of Cape Town, South Peninsula region, in Victoria Road, Plumstead. Objections must be lodged in writing at the office on or before 28 April.

Molteno hand-over of village

Molteno Brothers (Pty) Ltd, one of Elgin's oldest farming operations dating back to 1903, through its Molteno Brothers Trust, has given an entire farm village to farmworkers. The Oaks Village, comprising 106 houses and including a school, a crèche, a library, sports fields, swimming pools, a clubhouse, a church, and a retirement home, was handed over to the families who have worked on the fruit farm for up to four generations. This gave the village's 720-odd residents ownership of their homes. The deal made use of the government's R16 000 housing subsidy. The Oaks Village is now managed by a body corporate. The farm paid a monthly subsidy of R250 to residents employed by the farm and to its pensioners, to help pay electricity and other costs. The farm also paid for the teachers at the crèche. Residents will be entitled to sell their properties. To encourage residents to keep their homes, clauses stipulate that they will only personally take 100 percent of any profits after eight years, increasing on a sliding scale starting at 12,5 percent after the first year. The remainder of any profits would accrue to the body corporate, for the benefit of the community. The houses were last upgraded in 1992, all are either two- or three-bedroomed units with garages.

Bethlehem's sandstone heritage buildings damaged

Professor Deon Knobel, a former resident of Bethlehem in the Free State, has protested about the heritage destruction in Bethlehem.Various sandstone buildings have already beeen damaged or lost in the name of "development". Prof. Knobel, now living in Cape Town, cites the example of Dr. Jannie Loubser's old house which was demolished a few years ago, with the then mayor of Bethlehem's approval. Despite pleas by the community, the house could not be saved and today the site stands empty and neglected without an development. The old Royal Hotel and the old Standard Bank building have been damaged. Now a new development in Pres. Boshoff Street has the old Bungalow building in its sights. This building was one of those around the NG Church in Bethlehem that were built of sandstone. Pleas to the heritage agencies have fallen on deaf ears. In the case of the Bungalow building, the architect was not aware of the heritage laws in place that protect historic buildings older than 60 years.

Old technology museum

Malcolm Anderson's private museum is for anyone who loves technology - machinery, equipment, engines. Anderson (62) lives on a property overlooking the Byrne Valley in KwaZulu-Natal. He's been collecting old things for about 50 years. The museum is open to the public and is situated on Minerva private nature reserve. He has several business interests in Richmond. There are several thousand items on display, including a jaw harp, an iron lung and a Morse code machine. The museum houses a collection of old vehicles, petrol bowsers, woodworking equipment, dentistry equipment, water pumps, steam-driven machinery, household items like typewriters, irons, fans, lights, kitchen equipment, telephones and valve radios, agricultural machinery, including a rare Rollo tractor built in Scotland, a winnower and a potato sorter, both built in the 1800s. Anderson and a friend, Chris Tilbury, work with a team of artisans to restore engines before they are put on display. His collecting tris have taken him to Mozambique, Namibia, the Western Cape, the Karoo and the Eastern Cape. In Prince Alfred he found an old washing machine with a hand-operated mangle. In the Karoo he found an engine used to pump water from a borehole when there was no wind to drive the windmill. It was built in Australia in 1917. In a Richmond attic he found an automatic soda water machine built by Flugel and Company of London. The iron lung, built by the German company Lubeck, was found in Umkomaas. To safeguard the future of the collection, Anderson has created a trust. He and Tilbury are members of the Natal Vintage Tractor and Machinery Club. The museum has a pub housed in a converted railway cattle car that includes the original “hole in the floor” toilet. There is a self-catering guest house on the 3 500-hectare nature reserve.

Rhino horn stolen from museums

Thieves recently stole two horns from a mounted white rhinoceros at the Iziko South African Museum in Cape Town. The theft is the latest in a series targeting rhino horn at museums. The thieves smashed a reinforced glass cabinet and ripped the horns off one specimen, but could not remove those from another, even though the museum had 24-hour security. The two rhinos on display were historical specimens, dating back to the late 19th century. In 2002 a thief stole an 80cm horn off a specimen of white rhino in the Transvaal Museum in Pretoria. Two years ago thieves broke into the Reinet House Museum in Graaff-Reinet and made off with the horn of a rhino shot in the area 120 years ago. A group of armed men had also stolen horn from the King William's Town Museum.

The Apple Express - steam train memories

A 1904 narrow-gauge railway coach has been restored to its former glory. Coach NG59, an 18-seat, four- compartment carriage with its own toilet, was built by the Bristol Carriage & Wagon Company in the UK. The restoration team included coachbuilders Clive Nel and Pieter van Rooyen, undercarriage builder Willie Schaap, steam fitter Nico Bezuidenhout, process worker Manie Mampen, and Vuyani Dakuse, Theo Drinkrow and Lindi Ndyambo. The restoration work was unveiled recently in Humewood, painted in the green-and-white colour scheme of the Apple Express. n its early years, the coach was used to transport fruit pickers along the Langkloof between Twee Riviere and Misgund. The restoration team has another eight coaches to restore. The Apple Express is seeking sponsors for its heritage coaches. Sponsorship of R5000 per coach will be acknowledged by a brass plaque inside the coach as well as the sponsors having exclusive use of the coach on one trip per year. The Apple Express currently has 22 heritage coaches. The Apple Express is only one of two narrow gauge steam trains still operational in southern Africa. It also runs across the highest narrow gauge bridge in the world – the Van Stadens Bridge, approximately 77 metres (250 ft) – and has one of the longest working narrow gauge tracks. The Van Stadens Bridge was built in 1904 and remains operational for train excursion purposes.

Santarama Miniland

Santarama Miniland, on the banks of Wemmer Pan in Johannesburg's southern suburbs, was opened in 1973 as a fund-raising venture for the South African National Tuberculosis Association (Santa). The 8-acre parkland houses miniature replicas in 1:25 scale of many South African landmarks such as Jan Smuts Airport, the Union Buildings, the Snowflake flour mills in Isando, the Telkom Tower in Johannesburg, and Robben Island. Until a few years ago, companies paid a monthly donation to keep the park in tourist conditions. In 2004 a new management company took over. Funds are needed for much-needed renovations and maintenance. New landmarks such as Sandton City, the Ponte Building, Unisa, and Maropeng are among the planned new features. Santarama Miniland hosts about 67 200 school children and 13 000 adult visitors annually. Santarama Miniland also hosts children’s birthday parties, which they set up in the Kids Zazoo Party and Play Centre. The only other miniland in South Africa, is Mini Town in Durban.

Ghostly coffee shop in Springs

Planet Springs is a unique coffee shop with a history. The corrugated iron house, with its green roof and chickens in the yard, belongs to Gert (aka Swanni) Swanepoel, who is passionate about the town's history. The house is the oldest one in Springs, the earliest record dating back to 1886 which mentions that the owner wanted to give some of his pears to President Paul Kruger. The same pear trees are still there today. In about 1904, nearby houses were lost to sink-holes. The house has a resident ghost - according to those who've seen or heard the ghost, it is a five-year-old boy named Robin, the only person who died in the sink-hole tragedy. The coffee shop was named for its South African celebrities theme.

Valuable donation to museum

The Van Tilburg Museum at the University of Pretoria (UP) houses a collection of about 8000 ceramic pieces. The latest addition comes from the van Zyl family. A rare porcelain serving plate, made in England in 1901, was donated by Lynette van Zyl. The plate belonged to her grandmother who bought it during the Anglo-Boer War. The plate was made by Ceramic Art Company Ltd. of Crown Potteries in Stoke-on-Trent. The donation is in accordance with Lynette's parents' wishes. Percy and Jeanette van Rooijen passed away in 2007.

Bram Fischer birthday exhibition

Bram Fischer would have been 100 years old this year. The National Museum in Bloemfontein recently received a collection of objects that belonged to him. They were donated by his daughters, Ruth Rice and Ilse Wilson, and include the christening robe in which Bram was christened, the rugby jersey and shorts he wore during the Test match between the Free State and the All Blacks at Ramblers in 1928, and a wooden toy chameleon made for him by one of the rebels who was involved in the 1914 Rebellion. Bram had strong family ties with the city - he was born in Bloemfontein in 1908 and died there in 1975. To celebrate his birthday centenary, an exhibition on Bram will be opened by Ilse at the National Museum on 23 April.

Heirloom wedding dress

David Taylor and Catherina (aka Katrien) Mattheus recently got married at Stuart's Garden, Fernkloof Nature Reserve. Dave, from Bristol, England, is a businessman and former rugby player for Bath Rugby Club in Somerset, England. Katrien, the only daughter of Adli Swart, wore a family heirloom wedding dress. The dress belonged to her great-grandmother and was made of pure silk chiffon imported from France. Katrien, an anaesthetist, works at the Royal United Hospital in Bath. The couple live in Southstoke, Bath.

Century-old hotel

Southern Right Hotel, a century-old Glencairn landmark hotel, is looking at possible new landlords as an auction is set to take place on Tuesday 15 April. The land and buildings housing the hotel, Flukes restaurant, the Blowhole pub and several small businesses are to go under the hammer. The hotel has been a prominent feature of the False Bay coastline since 1904 and was previously known as the Glencairn Hotel and the Just Nuisance Inn. In 2004, a century after it was built, it was reopened as the Southern Right Hotel by the current owners of the land, Frans Hollenbach, Paul Jaques, Bovain MacNab, Guido Richert and Andrew Weeks. It is the land and buildings that are for sale, not the hotel as a going concern. The hotel, restaurant and pub have valid leases for another seven years. The hotel is a heritage building, built in 1904 by the Scottish architect John Parker, initially as a private residence and later established as a grand hotel.

Krige family burial vault rebuilt

Johan Krige, of Caledon Villa Guest House in Stellenbosch, has helped reconstruct a Krige family burial vault that was built in 1842. Six years ago he received a photo of the neglected vault at the Stellenbosch Dutch Reformed Church. The vault was built by Carl Otto Hager for Willem Adolph Krige of the farm Uiterwyk. Hager was a well-known architect who built many churches. Willem Adolph Krige was the grandson of the Krige progenitor, Wilhelm Adolph Kriege, a VOC official that arrived at the Cape in 1721. In 1942, Willem jnr bought the burial plot at an auction held by the church council. Willem and his wife, Elizabeth, were buried in the vault. Shortly afterwards, the church council opened a new burial ground at Du Toitstasie. In 1967 the Krige family vault was demolished. The original vault could house 12 coffins. With the reconstruction, 120 cremation recesses were built, of which 50 have already been sold to descendants of the Krige progenitor. The Krige Family Association was founded in 1976.