No. 85, December 2020


Book reviews



The December 2020 issue, in many ways, is the beginning of another phase in the history of the New Contree Journal. Not only was a website for the journal launched as a long term dream, at last coming true, but did the journal’s name also shorten to simply New Contree. The vision is accommodative yet especially focussed on accentuating micro and macro histories of regions in countries and across regions. Readers are encouraged to visit the New Contree website for more information. Coincidentally all these developments happened in an abnormal time of the global pandemic, Covid19. Despite the impacts of lockdowns and curfews impacting on movement, the New Contree Editorial Board pushed forward and decided to maintain business as usual. Though the length and contributions in this issue seem to carry the scar of researchers’ inability to properly attend to research in 2020, the Editorial Board appreciates what has been possible under the circumstances.

This New Contree issue departs with Wessel Visser’s 19th-20th water provision history of Beaufort West, the largest town in the arid Karoo region. That the town council, since its establishment in 1937 up to the present day, periodically struggled to provide townspeople with water suff?iciently, is a major focus. The woes of floods and droughts and the search for new ways forward as bother avenues towards water provision – amidst the dynamics of military and political interventions in the water procurement efforts of Beaufort West – are discussed.

Hendrik Snyders keeps the reader’s attention to the Western Cape with his intriguing Cape guano economic history inclusive of its politics. Greater sensitivity for nature conservation started to emerge. In turn, this overlapped with increased demand from Cape farmers for legislative protection of a wide range of “useful animals” for guano collection. A “shortage” of guano in the early 20th century seems to have also been an issue in Snyders’ discussion, leading to legislation against exploitation. Yet, farmer’s demand for guano as natural fertilizer remained challenging in the supply thereof. Resorts to chemical and fake fertilizers also entered the market, which had to be managed with an array of newly adopted legislation to manage this commodity in a harmonious relationship with nature.

Sebola Mokoko’s article is about issues of land and mineral injustices against the copper miners of Musina from a different angle on regional economic activity. Mokoko is critical of some studies by archaeologists and ethnologists who, according to him, hides some historical realities on the actual ownership of the Musina copper mines in Messina in early 20thcentury colonial South Africa. A revision of the Musina copper history – inclusive of the Musina clan’s oral history – is encouraged.

Archaeologist Anton van Vollenhoven’s interest in Pretoria’s jacaranda trees’ cultural, historical significance brought forth interesting information. Though many might known that Pretoria is also informally known as the “Jacaranda City”, it’s not that common that jacarandas were imported to South Africa in the 1830s. Neither that the first ones that were planted in Pretoria were in 1888. However, as an alien declared tree, the Jacaranda’s history shows the activity of interventions pro and against the tree. Van Vollenhoven’s emphasis is on valuing the cultural, historical, aesthetic, and social significance of the Jacaranda, specifically Pretoria’s inhabitants.

With New Contree’s book editor not in good health at the time of finalmaking this issue, the book review section, unfortunately, is on the slim side. Emile Coetzee’s review of some criminal history in South Africa through the eyes and memory of the criminal Allan Heyl as a member of the infamous Stander gang captures the mind. The book is titled: Bank robber: My time with André Stander.

In this issue, tribute is also paid to the late historian Belinda Bozzoli.

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