Author Archives: Nicolaas Vergunst

1. East meets West, where?

Modern technology has transformed our societies, bringing remote and distant corners of the world together. Watch this animation to see how industrialisation, transport networks, electricity and telecommunications have united people around the globe. This video was produced for the 2012 Planet Under Pressure … Continue reading

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5. First encounters, lasting legacies—part two

Patric Tariq Mellet and Nicolaas Vergunst continue their discussion of the Almeida-Khoena conflict and what its diverse interpretations mean for descendants and historians today. Patric Tariq Mellet: As the ‘Coloured’ or Camissa people we know a few things about ourselves with certainty. We … Continue reading

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6. Earliest battle site rediscovered—part one

The location of South Africa’s first recorded battle and earliest known war memorial was lost to history for five centuries. Already in 1512, a mere two years after the event, returning sailors were unable to identify the site. Thus, while researching Knot … Continue reading

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6. Earliest battle site rediscovered—part two

Bird’s eye view of the alleged battle-burial site (encircled), seen adjacent to the Salt River Canal and hemmed in between Voortrekker Road and Ysterplaat Station, c.2011. In 1512, two years after the massacre, a wooden cross and stone cairn were erected to mark the … Continue reading

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7. Seeking Prester John in Africa

A recurrent theme in Knot of Stone is the quest for an esoteric school of thought—sometimes known as Grail Christianity or Rosicrucianism—that survived suppression by Catholic Rome and which helped unite centres of independent learning in Europe and Africa. Our East meets West post also … Continue reading

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8. Historical parallels in America

First encounters between settlers and natives are strenuous affairs and, like a blind date, tend to be full of anxiety, uncertainty and disappointment. Past experiences linger in the mind and are, invariably, recalled with alarming differences: what may be viewed as a ‘conquest’ by one … Continue reading

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9. In praise of the ancestral spirits—part one

Following in the wake of Heritage Day—when freedom-seeking exiles and heroes of the liberation struggle were given precedence over peacemakers—Chris Thurman reviews A Living Man from Africa. With his usual splendid skill, Thurman (BusinessDay, 4 October) draws our attention to one … Continue reading

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9. In praise of the ancestral spirits—part two

“You’re giving us the skulls, but where is the flesh?” asks political activist Ueriuka Tjikuua as twenty ancestral skulls in Berlin return to Windhoek for a memorial service on 5 October. Repatriation For Festus Muundjua, patron of the Ovaherero Genocide Committee … Continue reading

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10. Exploring past and present lives—Dalai Lama

Heritage Day—Saturday 24 September—while South Africans recognise the heroes of their liberation struggle and commemorate their own years in exile, the pending visit of the Dalai Lama struggles for recognition. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, addresses the Biannual Conference … Continue reading

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10. Exploring past and present lives—Dag Hammarskjöld

Today—Sunday 18 September—we commemorate the extraordinary life of Dag Hammarskjöld (1905–1961), diplomat, economist and author, killed on a ceasefire mission to the newly independent Congo. Dag Hammarskjöld, Secretary General of the United Nations, photographed in 1959. This picture appeared in … Continue reading

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11. Why South Africa isn’t Brazil

The 1510 massacre of Francisco d’Almeida and his sixty compatriots was, until recently, seen as “one of the greatest tragedies in the history of Portugal”.1 Yet today the event receives scant attention since most historians are quick to overlook it, journalists tend … Continue reading

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Why tie a knot in stone?

Though it seems difficult to tie a knot in stone, it has been done by sculptors since antiquity—most notably in the tied sashes and knotted shawls of Roman statuary. The finest symbolic knots, however, are found in Portugal and were … Continue reading

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Legends of the Odilienberg

To celebrate the publication of Knot of Stone, we invite local friends on a walking tour of the Odilienberg on Sunday 26 June. Walk in the footsteps of the book’s two main characters, Sonja Haas and Jason Tomas, as they search for … Continue reading

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