African tribes have recently received much publicity through two films. Protestors in Port Elizabeth and East London, the major population centres of the Xhosa-speaking world, stopped the launch of Inxeba (The Wound). They maintained that the film misrepresents Xhosa initiation. Less controversial has been the screening of Black Panther, which has broken box office records in Africa and elsewhere. Xhosa actor John Kani, originally from Port Elizabeth’s New Brighton township, plays the hero’s father T’Chaka, king of the tech-savvy Wakanda nation.
Kani’s T’Chaka bears a striking resemblance to an African leader depicted in Alfred Duggan-Cronin’s The Bantu Tribes of South Africa: Reproductions of Photographic Studies. Chief Muhlaba is described in the volume on the Tsonga or Shangaan people as “head of the powerful Nkuna clan, … one of the greatest chiefs of the Transvaal VaThonga.” Patrolling in the area of today’s Kruger National Park during the Anglo-Boer War, Harry Wolhuter met Muhlaba, or Mhlava, and seems to have greatly enjoyed the experience, according to his description in Memories of a Game Ranger: “Chief Mhlava was a very intelligent man of forceful personality, he could read and write well and was most anxious to hear all about the war. He invited me to an excellently prepared meal of curried chicken and rice, but did not sit down at the table with me.” Nkuna is a well-known name along the fringes of the Kruger Park, and we know several Nkunas who work as Tsonga translators.
This month we are proud to offer three volumes of Duggan-Cronin’s great work, described as “A series of magnificently illustrated volumes portraying physical types and scenes from daily and ceremonial life.” Included is the book on the Shangaan tribes, with the portrait of Muhlaba. We state in our catalogue notes that “Duggan-Cronin occupies an equivalent position in southern African ethnological portraiture to Edward S. Curtis in North America.” Like Curtis, Duggan-Cronin dedicated many years of his life to capturing the traditions of tribal peoples in words and images. Both men became ethnographers through photography. With assimilation and urbanisation of African tribespeople, customs and dress have, in so many cases, become blurred or disappeared. We are indebted to Duggan-Cronin and his North American counterpart for furnishing a visual record, just in time, of the way things were.
Xhosa resistance to the advance of European settlers provides the backdrop to Francis Fleming’s important work Kaffraria, and Its Inhabitants, first published in 1853. This month we offer the author’s own copy of the first edition, with his bookplate, inscription and notes. The book has benefitted from a recent sensitive rebinding. We also have an original sketch of a Xhosa woman from around this time. The picture originates in a set of documents dating from the Eastern Cape Frontier Wars, and is a lifelike depiction of a typical tribeswoman during the subjugation of the colony’s border.
When the “white tribe” of Africa suffered its first losses in the Anglo-Boer War, military captives were sent to the Atlantic island of St Helena from early 1900. Some men spent almost the duration of the conflict in the isolated spot. In his book on Boer War memorabilia, Pieter Oosthuizen points out that “the prisoners turned to making curios, carving toys and many different kinds of artifacts.” Boer prisoner of war handicraft has become a fertile area for collectors. This month we are pleased to offer a bone serviette ring, made by G. Schoeman, krijgsgevangene on St Helena.
Afrikaans literature receives some overdue attention in this month’s list. We have a lot of books in this field, and will be cataloguing them in the next month or so. As the books generally did not have long print runs, they are rather thin on the ground. However, we have noticed that dealers sometimes run ahead of the market in pricing this material. We have avoided this snare, as our very reasonable prices will show.
Other highlights this month include some uncommon, early motoring books, and marvellous works on southern African vernacular architecture, featuring the photographs of Arthur Elliott and James Walton.
With over one hundred books described and photographed, we are sure we have found something for you. The list can be found here:
Lindsay and Wendy
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Christison Rare Books · P O Box 24093 · Sherwood · Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape 6034 · South Africa
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