Sir Henry Rider Haggard (1856-1925) was born on 22 June at Bradenham, Norfolk. His academic career was undistinguished and after failing the Army Entrance examination he was sent to London to study for the Foreign Office examination. There he became unofficially engaged to Mary Elizabeth Jackson, known as Lilly, but the romance was put on hold when in 1875 Haggard's parents arranged for him to join the staff of Sir Henry Bulwer, Lieutenant-Governor of Natal.
In Pietermaritzburg, the Natal capital, Haggard met Theophilus Shepstone, Secretary for Native Affairs, who became his friend and mentor. In 1876 while accompanying Bulwer and Shepstone on a tour of Natal Haggard witnessed a Zulu ceremonial dance that provided the material for his first article written for publication. The Zulus named Haggard Lundanda u Ndandokalweni -"The tall one who travels on the heights".
In December 1876 Haggard joined Shepstone's mission to annex the Transvaal. During the trek to Pretoria Haggard "heard many a story of savage Africa" from his travelling companions and also from Mhlopekazi who, as Umslopogaas, features in Allan Quatermain (1887), Nada the Lily (1892) and She and Allan (1921). Another black man, Haggard's Zulu servant, Mazooku, with whom he had several adventures, features in Haggard's autobiography The Days of My Life (1926) and Diary of an African Journey (2000), and the novel The Witch's Head (1884).
Haggard helped run up the British flag in Pretoria on May 24, 1877. Shortly afterwards he was appointed Master and Registrar of the High Court. In Pretoria Haggard met Arthur Cochrane and together they built a small cottage, "The Palatial". HereHaggard learned that Lilly Jackson had decided to marry someone else. The news "left me utterly reckless and unsettled." He had an affair with a married woman, Johanna Catherine Ford, who became pregnant with his child – a girl named Ethel Rider - who subsequently died.
Looking for a new start, Haggard and Cochrane resigned from the Pretoria Horse and bought a small farm, Rooipoint, just outside Newcastle, where they intended to farm ostriches. The farmhouse was named Hilldrop and still stands today used as a guesthouse filled with Haggard memorabilia.
In August Haggard went on a visit to England and in 1880 Haggard married Louisa Margitson. The couple returned to South Africa just as the First Anglo-Boer War broke out. The British were defeated in three battles fought close to Newcastle: Laing's Nek, Ingogo and Amajuba. Hilldrop was rented by the authorities to negotiate the peace terms. "It was a strange fate which decreed that the Retrocession of the Transvaal, over which I had myself hoisted the British flag, should be practically accomplished beneath my roof."
Haggard's first child, Arthur John Rider (‘Jock’) was born at Hilldrop on 22 May 1881. But the change in British fortunes convinced the Haggard family to leave South Africa.
Back in England, while studying for the Bar, Haggard wrote Cetywayo and HisWhite Neighbours (1882), a work of non-fiction. This was followed by two novels: Dawn (1884) and The Witch's Head (1884). Haggard's third novel, King Solomon's Mines (1885), proved an instant bestseller. On the strength of this success, Haggard quit law and embarked on a literary career. A series of popular novels followed, including She (1886) and Allan Quatermain (1887)
The death of Jock in 1891, however, signalled the end of Haggard's most creative period and, as he emerged from his grief, the beginning of Haggard's life as a farmer and "man of affairs". He ventured briefly into business and also stood for parliament but failed to win a seat.Haggard's agricultural studies, A Farmer's Year (1899) and the two-volume Rural England (1902), brought him recognition as an authority on land issues. Hetravelled to the United States to investigate schemes for the resettlement of the urban poor and also served on the Royal Commission on Coast Erosion and Afforestation. He was knighted in 1912 for his public services.
Haggard revisited South Africa in 1914 while serving on the Dominions Royal Commission. During the trip Haggard returned to old haunts, toured Zululand, interviewed John Dube, first president of the African National Congress, and was reunited with Mazooku.
During World War One Haggard toured the dominions to investigate the post-war settlement of serviceman. He briefly visited Cape Town in 1916.
Haggard died on 14 May 1925.
From King Solomon's Mines (1885)
Behind and over us towered Sheba's snowy breasts, and below, some five thousand feet beneath where we stood, lay league on league of the most lovely champaign country. Here were dense patches of lofty forest, there a great river wound its silvery way. To the left stretched a vast expanse of rich undulating veldt or grass land, on which we could just make out countless herds of game or cattle, at that distance we could not tell which. This expanse appeared to be ringed in by a wall of distant mountains. To the right the country was more or less mountainous, that is, solitary hills stood up from its level, with stretches of cultivated lands between, amongst which we could distinctly see groups of dome-shaped huts. The landscape lay before us like a map, in which rivers flashed like silver snakes, and Alp-like peaks crowned with wildly twisted snow wreaths rose in solemn grandeur, whilst over all was the glad sunlight and the wide breath of Nature's happy life. Two curious things struck us as we gazed. First, that the country before us must lie at least five thousand feet higher than the desert we had crossed; and, secondly, that all the rivers flowed from south to north. As we had painful reason to know, there was no water at all on the southern side of the vast range on which we stood, but on the northern side were many streams, most of which appeared to unite with the great river we could trace winding away farther than we could follow it. We sat down for a while and gazed in silence at this wonderful view. Presently Sir Henry spoke. 'Isn't there something on the map about Solomon's Great Road?' he said. I nodded, my eyes still looking out over the far country. 'Well, look; there it is!' and he pointed a little to our right.
1884. Dawn. London: Longman, Green and Co. 1884. The Witch's Head. London: John and Robert Maxwell publishers. 1885. King Solomon's Mines. London: Macdonald. 1886. She. London: Longman, Green and Co. 1887. Jess. London: Smith, Elder and Co. 1887. AllanQuatermain. London: Hodder & Stoughton. 1888. Maiwa'sRevenge. London: Longman, Green and Co. 1889. Cleopatra. London: Longman, Green and Co. 1889. Allan's wife and other tales. London: Griffith, Farran, Okeden & Welsh.
1889. Doctor Therne. London: Longman, Green and Co.
1890. Colonel Quaritch, V.C : A Tale of Country Life. London: Longman, Green and Co.
1892. Beatrice: A Novel. London: Longman, Green and Co. 1892. Nada the lily. London: Macdonald. 1894. The People of the Mist. London: McKinlay Stone & Mackenzie.
1896. Heart of the World. London: Longman, Green and Co. 1896. The Wizard. London: Kessinger Publishing. 1899. A Farmer's Year. London: Cresset Library. 1899. Swallow: a tale of the Great Trek. London: Longman, Green and Co. 1900. Black Heart and White Heart and Other Stories. London: Longman, Green and Co. 1900. The Last Boer War. London: Keagan Paul, Trench and Trubner. 1902. Rural England. London: Longman. Green and Co. 1905. Ayesha: The Return of She. London: Ward Lock. 1905. AGardener's Year. London: Longman, Green and Co. 1906. Benita. London: Cassell Publishers.
1906. The Brethren. London: Cassell Publishers. 1908. The Ghost Kings. London: Cassell Publishers. 1910. Queen Sheba's Ring. London: Eveleigh Nash. 1912. Marie. London: Macdonald. 1913. Child of storm. London: Macdonald. 1916. The Ivory Child. London: Macdonald. 1917. Finished. London: Macdonald. 1917. Elissa: the Doom of Zimbabwe. Fairford: Echo-Library.
1918. Love Eternal. London: Cassell Publishers. 1920. The Ancient Allan. London: Cassell Publishers. 1920. Benita: an African romance. London: Cassell Publishers. 1921. She and Allan. London: Hutchinson Publishers. 1923. Wisdom's Daughter. London: Hutchinson Publishers. 1923. Heu-Heu or the Monster. London: Hutchinson Publishers. 1926. The days of my life: an autobiography. (2 vol.). London: Longman, Green and Co. 1980. The Private Diaries of Sir Henry Rider Haggard 1914-1925 (ed. D.S. Higgins). London: Cassell Publishers. 2000. Diary of an African Journey: the return of Rider Haggard (ed. Stephen Coan). Durban: University of Natal Press. 2007. Mameena and Other Plays: The Complete Dramatic Works of H. Rider Haggard (ed. Stephen Coan). Durban: University of Natal Press. 2008. Short Works of Henry Rider Haggard. Charleston: Bibliolife.
Author Map (Battlefields)
Wednesday, 07 February 2007 04:15
Durban-born Aziz Hassim (1935 - 2013), spent most of his early years fraternising on the streets in Durban's Casbah area. The Casbah, a predominantly Indian - but also multicultural - area had a kind of romance and bittersweet lifestyle during the fifties and sixties, which lives on only in the minds of those that inhabited it at the time. Hassim's debut novel, The Lotus People, which won the 2001 Sanlam Literary Award for an unpublished novel, spans the events and moods of this era and served as a form of catharsis for Hassim. While he calls the cleansing process his "personal TRC", he also wished to record a past he is convinced has disappeared forever for the younger generation who think he is "making up stories" when he tells them about that era. Although Aziz Hassim carried the novel within himself, it is by no means autobiographical, but rather a product of the environment he lived in during those days. Of this novel, poet and author, Stephen Gray says, "Hassim's unputdownable tale is the sort that vindicates what Sanlam is doing. It is one of those one-off, unpredictable things ... an absolute masterwork that has never seen the light of day." Hassim launched his latest novel, Revenge of Kali, which takes place in Durban's Warwick Triangle in the 1960's and 70's, in July 2009. This second novel, which has come under some scrutiny for the title's allusion to the Hindu deity Kali, tells the tale of indentured Indian South Africans and the infamous "Grey Street System". The book is dedicated to the veteran struggle activist and author Phyllis Naidoo. In Hassim's words, "While The Lotus People is a novel about what the apartheid regime did to the Indian community, Revenge of Kali is about what the Indians did to themselves".
Aziz Hassim passed away in 2013. His death received considerable media attention with tributes published by The Daily Maverick andBooks Live. In 2015 a new annual literary award in honour of Hassim, the Minara Aziz Hassim Literary Awards, was initiated and sponsored by the Minara Chamber of Commerce (MCC).
From The Lotus People (2002)
Within a few minutes they were back on the street, at the corner of Commercial and Grey Streets. At last, Jake stopped and lit a cigarette. "The Casbah is another world, Sam. Another country. When you know your way around an army of cops wouldn't find you. You could disappear for weeks, move around freely. And don't ever think this is the only such place. You can lose yourself just as easily in the Dutchene or May Street or in any of a dozen other mini Casbahs." "But we're not ducking from anybody, Jake. Why didn't we just walk on the pavements?" "It's not wise to be seen all the time. The less anyone knows where you are the better. It's a good rule to follow." Jake was on the move again. A hundred yards in front of there was the West End Hotel, at the corner of Pine Street, and he headed for it. After a few minutes, they entered the non-European bar. Sam saw Sandy, sitting on a stool. As soon as Sandy saw them he stood up and signalled to the elderly barman and whispered something in his ear. The barman nodded and jerked his thumb over his shoulder, pointing to a room behind him. Sandy ducked under the swing top and Jake and Sam followed. They settled around a rickety wooden table, the uncomfortable globe chairs creaking under their weight. Sandy wasted little time on preliminaries, getting straight to the point. "Sam, there's something we would like you to do for us. It's very important and if you're game we'll make sure you do well out of it. It isn't anything heavy and, if you're sharp, you won't get into trouble. How do you feel about it?" Sam simply shook his head up and down, feeling a little excited at the prospect of being a part of whatever Jake and Sandy had in mind. Sandy studied him carefully for a long while before he spoke again, choosing his words with care. "How much do you know about the gangs in town?" Sam's forehead began to crease as he thought about it. "I've heard of the gangs, we talk about them in school all the time. But I only know some of the Dutchene guys, to say hello to ..." Sam had led a fairly cloistered life and was still too young to understand the structure of the many street gangs that operated in the various Indian and Coloured communities around the city. Their status was clearly defined and, although all of them were of mixed orientation, mainly Indian and Coloured, there were a few African members within each grouping. Regardless of which race group predominated, the leader was always the best street- fighter or the most fearless and daring amongst them. In the school-grounds it was these leaders whose names were mentioned in awe and a touch of hero worship.
2002. The Lotus People. Johannesburg: STE Publishers.
2009. Revenge of Kali. Johannesburg: STE Publishers.
Author Map (Grey Street)
Wednesday, 07 February 2007 04:14
Bessie Head (1937-1986), one of Africa's most prominent writers, was born in Pietermaritzburg's Fort Napier Mental Institution. The child of an "illicit" union between a Scottish woman and a black man, Head was taken from her mother at birth and raised in a foster home until the age of thirteen. Head then attended missionary school and eventually became a teacher. Abandoning teaching after only a few years, Head began writing for the Golden City Post. In 1964, personal problems led her to take up a teaching post in Botswana, where Head remained in "refugee" status for fifteen years before gaining citizenship. All three of her major novels - When Rain Clouds Gather, Maru, and A Question of Power - along with other works were written in Botswana during this period. Bessie Head died in Botswana in 1986 at the young age of forty-nine.
Though Bessie Head's life might be seen as sombre and traumatic, her works present love and light alongside the pictures of hardship and isolation that she paints. Head uses intense imagery and vividly describes the beauty found in both human and environmental nature. She praises good as she condemns evil, and expresses her hope for peace and change with her criticism of the apartheid. Head wrote that she viewed her activity as a writer as "a kind of participation in the thought of the whole world'.
Head remains a constant source of academic and critical interest. In 2015, her unpublished letters were included in a collection, entitled Everyday Matters, which was edited by Margaret Daymond. In the same year she was listed as one of the six best African writers by digital news publication Connect. Namwali Serpell, a 2015 Caine prize shortlisted author, paid tribute to Bessie as an African author who inspired her.
From Maru, 1971
When people of Dilepe village heard about the marriage of Maru, they began to talk about him as if he had died. A Dilepe diseased prostitute explained their attitude: 'Fancy,' she said. 'He has married a Masarwa. They have no standards.' By standards, she meant that Maru would have been better off had he married her. She knew how to serve rich clients their tea, on a snowy- white table cloth, and she knew how to dress in the height of fashion. A lot of people were like her. They knew nothing about the standards of the soul, and since Maru only lived by those standards they had never been able to make a place for him in their society. They thought he was dead and would trouble them no more. How were they to know that many people shared Maru's overall ideals, that this was not the end of him, but a beginning? When people of the Masarwa tribe heard about Maru's marriage to one of their own, a door silently opened on the small, dark airless room in which their souls had been shut for a long time. The wind of freedom, which was blowing throughout the world for all people, turned and flowed into the room. As they breathed in the fresh, clear air their humanity awakened. They examined their condition. There was the fetid air, the excreta and the horror of being an oddity of the human race, with half the head of a man and half the body of a donkey. They laughed in an embarrassed way, scratching their heads. How had they fallen into this condition when, indeed, they were as human as everyone else? They started to run out into the sunlight, then they turned and looked at the dark, small room. They said: 'We are not going back there.' People like the Batswana, who did not know that the wind of freedom had also reached people of the Masarwa tribe, were in for an unpleasant surprise because it would be no longer possible to treat Masarwa people in an inhuman way without getting killed yourself.
1968. When rain clouds gather. London.: Victor Gollancz. 1971. Maru. London: Victor Gollancz 1974. A question of power. Johannesburg: Heinemann Publishers. 1977. The collector of treasures and other Botswana village tales. Sandton: Heinemann Educational Publishers. 1981. Serowe, village of the rainwind. Johannesburg: Heinemann Publishers. 1984. A Bewitched Crossroad : an African saga. Johannesburg: Ad Donker. 1989. Tales of Tenderness and Power. London: Heinemann International. 1990. A Woman Alone : autobiographical writings. ed. Craig MacKenzie. Johannesburg: Heinemann. 1993. The Cardinals: with meditations and stories. Sandton: Heinemann Educational Publishers. 1991. A gesture of belonging : letters from Bessie Head, 1965- 1979. (ed) Randolph Vigne. London: Heinemann.