The de-colonization project – a pretty prickly issue

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Where to begin?
Colonization is as much a thing of nature as it is of culture and is happening all the while we read and write here. Bacteria colonize organisms. Vikings raid and colonize foreign lands.
Comets are colonized.

In scientific parlance:

DARMSTADT, Germany — For the last two years, the Rosetta spacecraft has danced around a comet. Today, it finally made contact with the icy body — and sent its last signal.

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“Comets are primitive cosmic objects, left over from the time our solar system was just starting to take shape 4.6 billion years ago. Exploring the structure, composition and activity of these icy bodies could shed light on the evolution of our solar system, and help scientists write a more comprehensive history of how the building blocks of life were first delivered to Earth.” (www.space.com)

Foreign lands are explored, mapped out and subsequently colonized:

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John Thomson’s 1813 map of Africa. (Wikipedia)

“This hand colored map is a steel plate engraving, dating to 1813 by the important English mapmaker John Thomson. It is an early and historically important representation of the continent of Africa. Much of the continent is simply labeled “unknown parts”. Those sections that are known are surprisingly detailed. Caravan routes, temples, and even the distances between Oases are generally noted. Across the center of the continent Thomson details the mythical mountain range known as the “Mountains of the Moon”. The mountains of the moon were first postulated by Ptolemy to be the source of the Nile. This mysterious range remained on maps until the mid 19th century explorations of Burton, Speke, and Livingstone.” (Wikipedia)

Is colonization part of an regenerative process of shaking up existing states of things for their own good?

Is it, seen from the angle of the colonizer, an act of exploration only with the aim to gain knowledge about unknown parts of the world and universe? Or is it in any event a violent, destructive, rapacious intrusion of a well established natural or cultural realm for the intruder’s good?

Can it ever, from the angle of the colonized, be seen as an impulse to cultural renewal, testing the strength of defenses and developing capabilities to defend itself, absorb and digest?

Colonization is a good thing, of course. It means making the land and its people productive. Developing natural and cultural resources.

Colonialism however is not a good thing. It means the imposition of a foreign rule and exploitation of natural and human resources which can never be condoned.

To say colonialism was not all bad, it brought infrastructure etc. is tantamount to saying Hitler was not all bad, he built the Autobahn. Sorry Helen, this was, if not a calculated provocation definitely an unfortunate glitch.

Where to begin then with the project of decolonization?

Here are a few propositions what to do and not to do.

  • Do not tear down statues of classical colonizers.
    They are to be kept as reminders of the people’s history.
    To besmirch and pull down the statute of Cecil Rhodes is infantile.
  • Research and uncover knowledge disregarded by the colonizers.
    This might cover medicinal practices but also ways of looking at the sky and interpreting ways of being in this world.
  • Look at the difference between colonization and colonialism and separate the wheat from the husks. As much as colonialism is to be condemned, colonization has a lot to offer. This is where Helen got it wrong.
  • Empower all who are vulnerable, that is, all of us.
  • Try to dislodge the new colonizers, that is those in power who have usurped the position of the colonizers of old and are raping the country as of old.

The pricklyness of the de-colonization project lies in that the virus has disguised itself and has usurped the position of old under the mantle of liberation.
What are we to do?
What were the people of northern France and England to do when they were raided by Viking mobs?
They had to endure and bury their slain.
What are the Syrians to do in the enclaves of Mosul? They have to endure and bury their dead.
And South Africans? What are they to do to get rid of their new colonizers under the disguise of liberators?

We all are in a pickle. Attacked by all kinds of new challenges. To de-colonize is one of the least exciting issues. Let’s attend to the agenda of renewed colonial invasions in the guise of new forms of energy: fracking the Karoo to smithereens and Russian power plants dotted all over the country – the new colonial masters having been handsomely paid for their acquiescence already.

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With love from
Walter & Colleen
Stellenbosch 5 April 2017

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Autumn equinox in the Karoo – exploring remains of ancient Quena cosmology in Southern Africa

Portrait of a Quena/Ottentotou/Hottentot/KhoiSan woman by Samuel Daniell (1775-18811)

 

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Saturday 19th March 2016 we gather at a basic farmhouse in a part of the Karoo called Moordenaars Karoo and after being briefed about the route for the afternoon we head into the field. The plan is to experience a point in the universe or cosmos where, seen from earth in the direction of a setting and a rising sun, night and day will be equally long, after which the southern hemisphere will go into autumn and winter mode while the northern half will experience the first signs of spring and summer returning. Going back two thousand or more years in history, how and why were people here interested in such a phenomenon and how would they have known when this point in earth and cosmological time had arrived and how and where to observe and possibly celebrate it.

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First heap of stones.

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Markers in the veld.

If you think these are just a few stone scattered in the veld, you have not yet developed an eye for the purposefulness of these scatterings. There is, for the trained eye, among the stones an arrow pointing to cleft in the distant mountain range. This indicates and arrowhead, pointing 28.5 degrees southwest, to a V-shape gap in a distant mountain, where the sun sets at the summer solstice.

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Another group of stones, pointing to another distant mountain top.

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A rough 4×4 ride brings us to this dry riverbed where Marius introduces his father and scientific leader of our expedition: Dr Cyril Hromnik who’s politically challenging research into and publications about ancient Africa have met with sharp criticism from his academic peers. He for instance points out that the golden rhino from a burial site at Mapungubwe is not of African but Indian origin.

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An Indian rhinoceros with one horn only. (Photo provided by Sian Tiley-Nel, Manager & Chief Curator, University of Pretoria. Wikimedia)

We are now investigating a river front cave entrance where the walls are strewn with faintly visible images of tall figures, an eland, imprints of hands with one finger missing and clusters of red dots. All these representations would according to popular belief have been done by Bushmen or San people. Cyril Hromnik explains these as referring to ceremonial aspects of ancient Indian customs. You can imagine our surprise and disbelief because we are by now so well conditioned to think Bushmen/ San/ Kung! are the people who created these images. There is, of course no final proof of their originators or what true significance these images have.

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The representations here were, according to Dr Hromnik, not done by “Bushmen” as academics would have it, but by Quena people, who were influenced by contact with Indian gold and ivory traders.

From here we drive on and then walk up a hill side along a dry packed wall which looks like a fence but is in fact part of a cosmologically significant demarcation.

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This 72m long wall has basically 3 main functions: 1. Its northern end in connection with the Brandberg mountain and the stone Seat navigates you towards the rising of the Moon at the Moon Major Standstill Rising — once in 18.6 years. 2. The gap in the wall (not in the middle) gives you the Equinox Sunrise. 3. The length of the Wall gives the time within which the Full Moon switches the sides: from South in Summer to North in Winter and vice versa (source: Cyril Hromnik).

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The stone seat from where to observe the rising moon at the Moon Major Standstill Rising which happens once in 18,6 years. – The celestial event of the Moon Minor Standstill was observed by Dr Hromnik’s group in the Moordenaars Karoo on the night of last Tuesday the 26th of April 2016. This celestial event occurs also only once in 18.6 years.

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The observational seat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quena – according to Dr Hromnik’s research, presently disputed in main stream archaeology, a dravidian Indian word meaning “mixed people” connected to the trade of gold and ivory from Westafrica to India, a mix of Indian and indigenous bushmen origin, called Hottentots by early European travellers and subsequent settlers and today referred to as KhoiSan.

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Sunset at autumn equinox in the Karoo.

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Equinoctial sundowners.

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An oil lamp hollow to signal events to people on the opposite mountain side.

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Sunrise at the autumn equinox between two upright markers.

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Another temple site connected to the autumn equinox.

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Two parallel walls demarcating a corridor for celestial observations.

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Structure from a recent age: a Voortrekker bread oven.

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The temple mound from where the chosen souls may take their final way to the celestial North.

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Cyril – our guide and teacher.

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Bringing it all together.

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Cyril maintains the dead were burned here according to Indian tradition. To the left in the river bed a perennial spring feeds into the river.

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Karoo landscape near Laingsburg/Western Cape/South Africa.

This two-day exploration opened our eyes to things in the landscape which are normally dismissed as cattle kraals or similar earth-bound mundane objects.
Who would think of celestial clocks laid out in the Karoo two thousand years ago?
The fascinating aspect of this exploration is that you need no archeological diggings to look into the past – it is all there in front of your feet. All you have to do is open your eyes to the celestial connections in the night sky for it to fall into place.
The obstacles are as always, in the mind. This exploration opened our minds under the patient guidance of our tutor Dr Hromnik.

We should not be surprised to hear that he is called a maverick scientist.

 

Stellenbosch 2015 Vintage

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View of the Hottentots Hollands mountain range from Annandale Road.

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Rows and rows of cultivated land.

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Against the Helderberg mountain range.

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Entrance gate to a farmstead and vineyards on Annandale Road.

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Pin oaks turning their colour with the vines.

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Simonsberg and Stellenbosch mountain range behind.

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Strong reds already in the barrel.

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A homestead with Table Mountain in the distance.

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Polka Drive. Vlottenburg.

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Stellenbosch Kloof.

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Rising the dust on our ride home.

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Shadows fall and mountains turning blue.

Stellenbosch, 13 May 2015
With love from
Colleen & Walter

Namibia Impressions IV – Swakopmund – Capricorn – Windhoek and back home

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On the road again into the blue distance.

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Making the best of the last bit of shade in the early afternoon.

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At Solitaire.

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Capricorn rest camp – far from the madding crowd.

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You have not been to Namibia, if you didn’t loose at least one tyre on the trip.

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Kuiseb river.

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Walvisbay. The ocean liner “The World” docking in the background.

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Lunchtime with Stefanie Eins in her Swakopmund studio.

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Artist colleagues and friends Stefanie and Colleen.

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The contrasts of desert and sea, dunescapes, the strength and quality of light, sharp and fading lines, illuminations and illusions of near and far between earth and sky play into Stefanie Eins’ work.

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The icy cold Atlantic at Swakopmund jetty.

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A very jolly encounter at The Tug restaurant with cousins Brett and Leon.

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The jetty at night from Brett’s restaurant.

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Moonscape east of Swakopmund.

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Motoring home south from Windhoek to Grünau.

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Kokerboom forest near Keetmanshoop.

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Stop-over in Grünau for the night before our last stretch home to Stellenbosch.

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Departure at dawn.

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Much hoped for rain at last.

With love as always from
Colleen & Walter
Stelllenbosch, 26 April 2015

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Namibia Impressions III – Farmscape

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Namib landscape by Colleen. 1990. Owned by Peter & Gerda Klostermann. Farm Süderecke/Namibia.

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From Lüderitz we are travelling in a north-easterly direction to Peter and Gerda’s farm near Helmeringhausen.

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There will be rain soon – a Namibian farmer’s constant hope during the rainy season. Their water supply is pumped up from reservoirs hundred and more meters below. – The Brukkaros, an extinct volcano, in the background.

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You are asking me what to do? I say, live wild and dangerously, Arthur!

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A dried-out river bed which after a heavy downpour can come alive very quickly.

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A housing estate of social weaver birds, looking a bit tatty but still in use. The colonists left at our approach.

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Farmland picnic. No lions or rhinos around here, but sheep, goats, cattle, horses, springbok and oryx antelopes.

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Peter – farmer, shopkeeper, entrepreneur.

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For years providing for basic needs in the farming community.

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The farmyard at dusk. Virtually all their power demands are met by photovoltaic roof panels.

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On the road again towards Swakopmund with an overnight stop at Capricorn rest camp.

Thank you, Peter and Gerda!

With love from
Colleen & Walter
Stellenbosch, 25 April 2015

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Namibia Impressions – II – Lüderitz – ǃNamiǂNûs*

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Crossing the Namib desert on the way to Lüderitz.

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The Diaz memorial cross overlooking the bay.

The town of Lüderitz, named after the German merchant Adolf Lüderitz (1834-1886) who bought stretches of desert along the Atlantic between Angola and South Africa from various Nama captains, is a unique town. It still bears some trademarks of Germany’s ill-fated colonial ambitions. Without any hinterland to support it, it would eventually have been covered by the shifting sands of the Namib desert and be forgotten. However, the town is coming to life again. The old railway line has been restored and a new motorway constructed. There is still no hinterland as yet, but a boom is in sight. The prospecting for oil has begun. And with it the desert will come alive with all the elements of trade and industry. Lüderitz is a unique and attractive town in the desert and on the ocean. The desert experience is what we will see as some of the major tourist attractions.

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The new railway line with new station buildings integrated into the new waterfront complex  – major developments are taking place and will turn this town around in astonishing ways. The signs are all there.

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A new road connecting the desert town to the interior.

We found the remnants of the town’s colonial past worth exploring and visited the beautifully restored Goerke house, commissioned in 1910 by Hans Goerke, then manager of the Emiliental Diamond Corporation, today used as guest house by the Namibia Diamond Corporation that also funded its restoration.

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Whoever enters well disposed, shall fondly here be well proposed.

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We are imaging the Goerkes in this room.

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Luise and Hans Goerke

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Such fabulous, lordly living lasted for two years only, when Luise urged her husband to go back to Berlin.

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A view from the winter garden.

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To keep body and mind in good shape.

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View of the town from the church hill.

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The waterfront with direct access to the railway station.

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Waterfront.

This is part 2 of our Namibia impressions.

Stellenbosch, 21st April 2015
With love from
Walter & Colleen

*ǃNamiǂNûs – the name of the Lüderitz constituency in Nama, the original inhabitants of the region. ǃ and ǂ are indicators of click sounds which make the Nama language so melodious.

Namibia Impressions I – The Great Wide Open

We took friends to a conference at the University of Namibia in Windhoek and used the opportunity for a short ten days journey into Namibia. You might think – ten days is not that short, but, be assured, for Namibia it is. Your are rushing through it, madly, almost.

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After an eight hour drive from Stellenbosch to the border post at Vioolsdrift, crossing into Namibia.

At first, the impression is of a great wide open nothingness until, by and by magic happens. The landscape is beginning to transform you to see it for what it means: wide and open. You within yourself are becoming wide and open. From an observer you are changed into someone who is enabled to experience its awe, until, eventually, your are completely absorbed by it.

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After an overnight stay at Grünau, we are travelling north-west. Our target is that strange former colonial outpost of Lüderitz, with a detour past the Fish River canyon.

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Fish River canyon. The second most impressive canyon in the world.

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From the canyon connecting with the road to Lüderitz.

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Approach to Lüderitz at dusk. The dunes of the Namib desert to the north.

This is the first part of our account of a short visit to Namibia.

With love from
Walter & Colleen
Stellenbosch 20 April 2015