A rich source of information

2009-01-07 00:00

First published in 1970, Natalia continues to record, in the words of its editor, “what is valuable, good and precious in our KwaZulu-Natal heritage”. Traditionally, each issue reprints an extract from a 19th-century publication and this year’s choice, taken from Eliza Feilden’s My African Home, describes the Umgeni River flood of 1856.

There are four articles. Paul Thompson uses contrasting historical sources in a fascinating assessment of the veracity of Bhambatha ka Mancinza’s family tree. Kalpana Hiralal writes about passenger Indians, their family businesses and the legal challenges they faced in Natal from 1870 to 1950. Bill Bizley uses newspaper sources to reconstruct an intriguing few months in Pietermaritzburg in mid-1925 starring a singer, a Comrades marathon horse and Edward, Prince of Wales. Sylvia Vietzen moves 10 years on, assessing the impact of the visit of the Fabian, George Bernard Shaw, to Natal.

This year’s notes and queries section contains an amusing take by Adrian Koopman on the 1895 by-laws of the city of Pietermaritzburg that deal with traffic matters, contrasting them with today’s complaints about our roads.

More soberly, Natalia is known for its obituaries, which contain a rich source of information about the province’s past. This year, there is the teacher and Inkatha politician, Oscar Dhlomo; together with the farmer and Drakensberg tour guide, Robin Guy, and Michael Daly, former Pietermaritzburg city councillor and well-known lawyer and businessman. The other four were all part of the local university: campus principal Deneys Schreiner, publisher Mobbs Moberly, ornithologist Gordon Maclean and geologist Vic von Brunn.

The editor emphasises that, apart from production costs, every aspect of this annual publication is based on voluntary effort. It is a credit to all those involved and a measure of their dedication to the region’s history, and richly deserves to be more widely read.

• Copies are on sale at BookWorld in Cascades, ABC Bookshop in the Quarry and White Cottage Books in Nottingham Road. For readers in the Durban area, they are on sale at Imagine Books in the Heritage Centre in Hillcrest and Ike’s Bookshop in Florida Road.

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