Part of a Vintage Film Collection “Shadows Over Stones”
Mapungubwe koppie is a World heritage site. Situated in a region surrounded by mineral wealth. The name means Place of the Jackal. Its origins are unknown. At the peak of its civilization, some say Mapungubwe had 9000 inhabitants. It was a hierarchical, class-based society unlike the kin-based San communities – their approach to life drove the San away. The king and queen lived on summit of the koppie, and as the rank in the tribe diminished, so did their position on the koppie, ending with the peasants at the bottom. It was tough being a peasant in those days, because in a waged war they would be hacked down first, and their screams acting as an early warning system.
Mapungubwe koppie is famous for its three burial graves with richly adorned gold. Beautifully crafted ceramics influenced by trading Chinese were also found. The summit was reserved for royalty, where their sacred leader resided, probably secluded from his underlings in the surrounding valley. His power and wealth lay in farming, flourishing trade and the mining of minerals. The Mapungubwe society traded their gold, ivory, indigenous cotton, ostrich feathers and other precious items for glass beads imported via the East African Coast. They negotiated with traders from Egypt, India, Persia, South East Asia and China.
Mapungubwe itself is a flat-topped sandstone koppie with vertical steep cliffs. In ancient times, in order to reach the top, wooden poles would be wedged between the rocks, up a narrow cleft. Today 147 wooden steps make my ascent far easier. However I have to negotiate a large and rare Wild Fig tree named Ficus Smutsii, named after General Jan Smuts in 1933 on Mapungubwe’s discovery. But be warned if you’re not used to steep climbs, don’t pack a heavy lunch, just a few high-energy bars.
My guide and driver is Mr. Ali Chauke, a very knowledgeable Shangaan gentleman. Standing at around 180 cms, he’s slim and smiles warmly, immediately drawing me to his disposition. Both Mr. Ali Chauke and the Land Rover game viewer are courtesy of San Parks. He’s a very able assistant. Stopping traffic while I wait for the magic light (you know there are boy racers, even in the bush). He helps me set up my tripod and makes suggestions on art direction.
It is in the early hours of the morning when we arrived in front of Mapungubwe koppie. Dawn was seeping through from the east towards Musina – this is my fourth attempt to photograph her. SA Weather promised thunderclouds a week ago, none appeared. Looking southwards into the distance, Wildebeest wandered in the subdued light, closely followed by Zebras. They live in harmony, always traveling together – both are plain grazers. The Wildebeest chows the grass first and when it gets to a certain level where he can’t eat any further because of its mouth structure, the Zebra takes over.
On top of Mapungubwe, on the east side, stand two Shepard trees bound in matrimony. The Shepherd tree got its name from, surprise surprise, a Shepard. While guarding their flocks, they needed protection from predators. As it wasn’t a thorny tree, shepherd would watch their flocks from its branches. The tree also provided valuable sustenance. In the 1600’s the Bantu-speaking people, in times of drought would dry the roots, grind them and make a dish similar to mealie pap – they also used the powder to make a coffee-like drink. The fruit is edible and still eaten today. Berry like; you squeeze the juice and flesh into your mouth. We helped ourselves to several sweet tangy berries.
The discovery of Mapungubwe goes back several decades to 1883. Francois Bernhard Lotrie, also know as Lottering, was responsible for the first recorded discovery. Lotrie was born in Grahamstown on 11th February 1825. He was a nimrod, a skillful hunter, a pioneer, a lover of nature and an odd character. Well educated and the son of a French botanist, he chose a life of adventure, exploring darkest Southern Africa, prospecting for gold and hunting game. At the age of twenty-four, Lotrie acted as a guide to the famous Dr David Livingstone and accompanied him from Kuruman to Lake Ngami in the Kalahari. Lotrie was an eccentric character, his adventures attracted much attention and rumours spread that he had explored a forbidden koppie and found priceless treasures of gold. Lotrie took up residence in a secluded cave at the base of Mapungubwe, while still in his early eighties. He died a hermit in February 1917 at the age of 92. It was this wandering recluse who gave his African friend Mowena, an unusual earthenware pot, who more than thirty years later, led to the discovery to the Mapungubwe gold.
Mapungubwe’s name originates from the ramblings of, by then, an old, partially blind Mowena who upon meeting Jerry van Graan, told him that a white man, by the name of Lotrie had taken the earthenware pot, among other items, from a mountain where kings were buried. Jerry van Graan enquired as to where the mountain was, Mowena refused to point out the koppie’s location. In late December 1932, Mowena’s son, for a few silver coins, agreed to show a group of adventurers, consisting of the Van Graans, the van der Walts and du Plessis, Mapungubwe koppie.
As dawn flew away, Nimbus arrived with her voluminous body, cascading across the sky. The forlorn tree in front of me, lit up in the early morning backlight and the Mapungubwe rock face shone like wet mussels shells on an undiscovered beach. The shadows over Mapungubwe had finally arrived.
This Vintage Film Collection “Shadows Over Stones”, originally exhibited at Nedbank, Waterfront, Cape Town in 2012 and is now available as special limited edition print run.
The authentic effect of photographing on film is the natural film grain that is produced in its reproductions, this was intended by the photographer Mike Rossi as a genuine representation of capturing images with his Hasselblad XPan film camera.
Also available as a Limited Frame Print Edition.
Collectors Print: Limited Edition #02
Black & White printed on Ilford Baryta paper: 315 g/m² silk finish with a 2 cm white boarder around image. Authentication Label on back of print including a printed signature of the Photographer. Supplied within a protective photographic sleeve. Authentication Certificate included with each print purchase.
This is a unframed print.
Overall Print Size – 58 cm x 24 cm (54 cm x 20 cm image size).
Total number of Prints available in this Limited Edition print run – 10 off.
This is a “Bespoke” order.
Go to “Choose an Options” to select a Numbered Print from this Edition.
Please refer to the Product Guide for more information about Ilford Baryta Black & White prints.