Koppie | Skelmkoppies – Collectors Framed Print: Limited Edition #03



About this piece

2005 – Rosmead, South Africa

Part of the Vintage Film Collection “Shadows Over Stones”

The story of how ‘Skelmkoppies’, got its name was told to me on June 17th 2010, by Mr. Hennie Coetzee, Middelburg, curator of the Museum. He has lived in this vast land of sheep for all of his 75 years.

The San people who lived in Middelburg area from the middle ages, lived mostly in caves – rock paintings of fish and buck on Teebus and Koffiebus, bear testament to their lives as hunters and gatherers. In those days the karoo plains were littered with wildlife. Herds of over a 100 000, grazed the karoo bush – Springbok, Rhebuck, Gemsbok, Steenbok, Kudu and Eland. To the San Bushmen, this was their land – their animals.

The immigrant Dutch and German settlers arrived in present day Middelburg area, in the late 1600’s. Conflict began immediately as they hunted the game. The settlers tried to introduce the San Bushmen to cattle farming but the San resisted – they were hunters and gatherers. Instead they chose conflict. But the bows and arrows were no match to the Dutch settlers flintlock guns. Thousands of the San Bushmen were killed.

The settlers traveled in ox wagons. It would take up to two weeks to journey two kilometers across rocky terrain. Life was tough. In winter, the days were hot and the nights bitterly cold. In the daytime they worked the land, while their children stayed in ox wagons. The San warriors always watched and waited, looking for opportunities to retaliate.

In the early 1700’s, one family clan, the ‘Venters’ worked the land, 40 kilometers northeast of Middelburg. One day, the San bushmen, while hiding behind a small group of koppies, now called ‘Skelmkoppies’, saw that the settlers had wandered some distance away from their ox wagons. Seeing this as an opportunity, they came down and entered the ox wagons. They took the screaming children, onto the koppies and in full view of the settlers, slaughtered them.

Angered, the Venter’s wanted vengeance. A cunning plan was hatched. The women dressed as men, got onto horseback and rode away, in full view of the San Bushmen. The men in turn, dressed as women, went about their ‘womanly’ chores, around their ox wagons. The San now believed that the ‘women’ were unprotected. When the San arrived, they fatally realised their mistake.

The settlers vengeance, continued. They hunted down the San Bushmen. Terrified, they sought refuge deep within the caves of Thebus and Koffiebus, which became their tombs. The settlers dynamited their entrances sealing the San bushmen and their families in. Hundreds of men, women and children perished of starvation.

The Venter family buried their children on that land. They stayed for several generations – the family graveyard, always a reminder of their ancestor’s hardship. When they finally sold that portion of the farm in the 1800’s, the contract stipulated that the family’s graveyard, had to be maintained by the new owners and any subsequent owners. Today Skelmkoppies, stands on Moordenaarspoort farm, owned by the Peter McEwan family. If you travel from Middelburg towards Rosmead you’ll see the Shelmkoppies road sign. And if you do, say a prayer for those sadly departed souls.

The distance between the koppies you see and the camera position is were I envisioned the Venter family clan stood when they heard the screams of their beseeching children. The camera angle and height is approximately the average tallness of a person in 1650 – 1.65-meters.

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 Print only Edition.


Collectors Print with Custom Frame: Limited Edition #03

Black & White printed on Ilford Baryta paper: 315 g/m² silk finish with a 1 cm white boarder around image. Complete with a Hamburgs 2 cm x 3 cm Black Stained Oak Solid Wood Frame with a 5 cm White Passe-Partout mount. Mirogard museum high quality glass. Authentication Label on back of frame with printed signature of Photographer. Authentication Certificate included.

Overall Frame Size – 69.7 cm x 35.7 cm (54 cm x 20 cm image size).

Total number of Framed 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 and Solid Wood Frames. Other frame types, finishes, colours and mounting methods are available.  Please contact us with your bespoke requirements and we would be happy to assist in finding the right solution for you.

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