The author in Strasbourg, France, after completing his manuscript for Knot of Stone. Courtesy Hans Brandt. Below: Book signing at Europe House, London, 2011; Exhibition catalogue, SA National Gallery, Cape Town.
Born in Cape Town of post-war Dutch emigrants, Nicolaas Vergunst (1958) has worked as an artist, teacher, designer, curator and freelance journalist. After a varied career with the country’s national museums—now Iziko Museums of South Africa—he resigned to write Knot of Stone and has since lived with his wife Ellen, a Dutch diplomat and historian, in Kiev, Kinshasa, Strasbourg, Zagreb and Dusseldorf. They currently live in Leiden with their adopted cat and dog. He regularly returns to Cape Town to visit his parents, now in their nineties, as well as friends who helped with his research. And to go mountain biking.
Nicolaas Vergunst grew up in a Commonwealth environment which, when South Africa gained its independence in 1961, became ever more alienated by its apartheid legislation. Old tensions between Afrikaans nationalists and English liberals—as too between reformists and revolutionaries—left their mark and appear in Knot of Stone. While still at the SA National Gallery he curated an exhibition on the shifting perceptions of the local landscape: Hoerikwaggo: Images of Table Mountain. The catalogue sold out within weeks and has been reprinted twice since. His subsequent promotion to Head of Exhibitions broadend his contacts with artists, art historians, archeologists, curators and scientists. He resigned to write Knot of Stone in 2005, leaving South Africa that same year.