A project of the
Herman Charles Bosman Literary Society.
Generously supported by the
Department of Sport, Arts and Culture,
According to the family Bible, Herman Charles Bosman was born on 3 February in Kuilsrivier , near Cape Town. No birth certificate could be traced anywhere. The date on the stone in Wespark cemetery, where he was interred, suggests that he was born on 5th February 1905, and died 14 October 1951. He spent most of his life in the Transvaal.
qualifying as a schoolteacher, his first appointment was to a little two-man
school in the Groot Marico on the farm Heimweeberg in 1926. His stay was of
rather short duration. During the winter school holidays back at the family home
in Johannesburg he got involved in a shooting incident in which his step-brother
was killed. Bosman found himself sentenced to death. The sentence being commuted
to 10 years hard labour, after 4 years he was paroled and returned to
Johannesburg in 1931, to live the life of a poet.
He subsequently, from 1934, spent some years in England as a journalist, returning at the outbreak of World War 2.
During his life-time, three of his books were published. He died of a stroke aged 46 years.
Predicting that posterity would recognize him for the writer he was 50 years later, he has in fact become South Africa's best loved author, with all his writings still in print, and for the first time, republished in a newly-edited and restored definitive form, known as the anniversary edition, to coincide with the centenary of his birth in February 2005.
The series include some 14 volumes, containing, apart from 3 novels, over a hundred short stories, many essays and a considerable body of poetry. The majority of the short stories have the Groot Marico and its people as background.
Herman Charles Bosman Literary Society (HCBLS)
A group of Marico locals, with shared ecological and literary interests, got together in the autumn of 1993 on top of Groot Lotteringskop in the Dwarsberg range and founded a literary society.
This was after visiting the little farm school at Heimweeberg, not far away, and it seemed appropriate to name the society after the celebrated author who had made the Groot Marico into a household word in South Africa.
Some of the founder members had also been involved in establishing the first Visitors Information Centre in the town of Groot Marico during the 1980's. and perfectly understood the inducement supplied by the writings of Bosman in enticing visitors to our region.
Two major assets possessed by this otherwise materially deprived region, are the marvelous biodiversity, and an unique cultural component. The writings of Bosman supplied more that just a glimpse of both. We found ourselves tempted to believe that preservation of the humble farm school, an example of old Transvaal vernacular architecture from the beginning of the previous century, could only be of benefit to our region and its inhabitants.
In our imaginations it soon became an important icon, a metaphor for cultural continuity. In the African bush, any neglected man-made artifacts soon vanish, leaving hardly any trace.
Preservation of the farm-school would not only be a tribute to a great author, but to all human artistic and cultural endeavour. Some of us were even moved to view it in the light of a singular benediction rendered visible on the face of the landscape and exerting an intangible influence over the spiritual lives of the inhabitants of our region.
In all honesty it has to be conceded that not everyone in the Marico displayed the same ardent disposition regarding Herman Charles Bosman.
The barbed comments of some solid local citizens disclosed considerable resentment at the lending of credibility “to a disreputable character whose representations had done the Marico so much irreparable harm”.
They waxed particularly acrimonious about the disgraceful conduct of local Bosmanophiles “sitting on the veld around a fire, consuming endless mugs of black coffee while reading the same old stories over and over.”
With the aid of Honorary Life President, Patrick Mynhardt, the HCBLS commenced their project 12 years ago, to raise funds for the restoration of the Heimweeberg school. The many trials and tribulations experienced during the intervening years have been recorded elsewhere.
Suffice it to say that the Herman Charles Bosman Living Museum is the outcome of concerted and enthusiastic perseverance over these many years.
The original little farm-school at Heimweeberg has unfortunately fallen into ruin. The present building is an exact replica, constructed out of authentic materials obtained from the immediate surroundings.
The bricks were salvaged from old Marico structures donated to the society by inhabitants sympathetic to the cause. These bricks were produced by the old inhabitants of a century and more ago from the local Marico earth.
The HCBLS organized many “ working weekends” during which building materials were collected and stored.
In this way everyone had an opportunity to experience the actual effort of grappling with the material world under local conditions. Seeing the completed structure today brings along all kinds of memories: cutting English poplars and dragging the logs through dense riverine vegetation; reclaiming bricks and knocking off ancient layers of plaster while watching out for scorpions ; cutting thatch with a sickle after the first frost in early winter and combing the sheaves; carrying rocks through the bush and collecting clay and cattle dung for plastering walls.
The building was constructed with the aid of plans and specifications supplied by Transvaal Museum Services in the early 1990's. The advice and assistance of older Marico inhabitants with experience of the building methods of yesterday, proved invaluable, in fact indispensable.
What we see today is a terrain, purchased by HCBLS several years ago, called the Herman Charles Bosman Living Museum, and the school replica is one of the more tangible components of that Living Museum. It must be clear by now that what is intended by “ Living Museum “ is a matter of process , rather than a static final product ; of a probe - an instrument of ongoing discovery- instead of a finished package.
In fact, this approach is entirely original, going back to the very origins of the meaning of a museum. One of the earliest known examples of a museum is, perhaps not surprisingly, from Africa. Around 280BC in Egypt under Ptolemy 1 was established a research centre and repository of Greek learning known for almost 7 centuries as the Museum of Alexandria.
The meaning of the word museum is derived from muse, of which the ancients recognized at least nine. They were daughters of Mnemosyne (Memory) and Zeus (the supreme godhead). Words like music and mosaic stem from the same root.
A museum was therefore a place sacred to the muses who variously personified glorious events of the past, folk art, the performing arts, music, poetry etc. In short, those intangible, evanescent aspects of human spiritual endeavour embodied in our cultural life.
Bosman often fondly referred to the “eternal verities” these lie at the very origins of the word museum and in a sense, therefore, the term Living Museum is a tautology. However, some distinction seems called for since even in Roman times, the term museum had become curtailed to imply a display of artifacts and treasure looted by powerful warlords and was thus limited to a celebration of the military arts and the passions of greed and vanity.
The following lines from an essay by Bosman may serve as a fitting conclusion:
“The essential soul of a culture is that it must be indigenous. Its roots must be deeply entangled with the dark purple of the raw tissue of the life that is at hand. It must start off with depth. And it can't go deep enough. Afterwards it can be enriched with the opulent splendours of other cultures. But it must start off alone, like every individual thing born into the world alone. And that essential soul that is the distinguishing characteristic and the creative power of every culture is the organic life force through which there can be given to a people , and eventually, if need be, to the whole world, an abiding beauty, a loveliness that shall not pass for ever from the earth. That is life. That is the ultimate beauty of life. Man and his mortality and the dark surges passing through that strange and incredibly naked thing that is his heart “
“An Indigenous South African Culture is Unfolding.”
The S.A. Opinion . Jhb . (April 1944)
What we are inaugurating on 5th February 2005 in
Groot Marico is therefore : a temple dedicated to the muses ; a hearth for the
cultural life of the Groot Marico community (may its embers never be allowed to
die out); also a shrine for those pilgrims on life's road who recognize in
Bosman a somewhat larger-than-life, somewhat extravagant (wandering beyond the
boundaries defining the known), confirmation of the poetry of human existence
and a celebration and enhancement , a regeneration of the privilege that is
We somehow find ourselves at the launch of a twenty-first century African space probe for exploring inner space and the mystery of the creative spirit in the universe.
Ex Africa sempre aliquid novi.
Egbert van Bart
Dear Bosman Friends
This was a very special weekend for all of us.
Thanks Santa, Egbert, Koos, Willemien and all the other people who worked very hard to make this an outstanding occasion. We appreciate your efforts!
Photo's about the occasion will be published here as soon as possible. Kyknet asked me for my video material for use in a tv programme they plan to broadcast on Wednesday 9th February (approximately 20:00). I will only be able to publish photos once I have received my videocassettes back from them.
My sincere thanks to Martin McGhee's quick reaction to my message above - he send the photo's below.
We'd like to hear about your experiences of this weekend. Please email your messages to firstname.lastname@example.org for publication.
Looking forward to hear from you.
Groot Marico Webmaster
083 707 2952
Photo's by Martin McGhee
Click on any of the pictures to load a larger version.
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