AGM was a momentous occasion as the great majority of the members
present, as well as others voting by proxy, decided that the time
has come to change the name of the Van Riebeeck Society. The name
was originally chosen as a compromise and an attempt at unifying the
Dutch/Afrikaans and English groups in the country. The name has lost
relevance and is in any case not descriptive of the range of
publications produced by the Society. The new name is to be
Historical Publications Southern Africa – formerly the Van Riebeeck
Society. The acronymn will therefore be HIPSA.
The AGM was held,
as it was last year, by kind permission of Patrick Esnouf at his
elegant and historic home, Ravenswood House in Hatfield Street, Cape
The meeting was
well attended, and members heard the Chair, Prof Howard Phillips,
Prof Phillips outlined the various activities undertaken during the
year, and introduced the events which will be undertaken during the
Society’s forthcoming centenary. The financial position of the Society is secure, and a
recruitment drive will be undertaken during 2018 in an attempt to
increase the membership.
Prof Phillips also
reported that the Society had received the prestigious Archives
Advocacy Award for 2016-17 from the Western Cape Department of
Cultural Affairs at a glittering ceremony in Somerset West. The
award citation read in part: The publications are prestigious,
with contributors from a wide variety of experts in their field and
are available in libraries across the world. Without their valuable
work, much history would be hidden.’
The award had been
presented to the Society in the form of a stylised calabash, which
was displayed at the meeting. For more see below.
After the AGM
attendees enjoyed light snacks and drinks in the cool and graceful
courtyard at Ravenswood.
Members enjoying refreshments in the courtyard of Ravenswood
trophy on display, another valuable addition to the historical
archive was launched in the second part of the evening. Seleksies
uit die Briewe van President M.T. Steyn, 1904-1910/Selections from
the Letters of President M.T. Steyn, 1904-1910 was edited by Con
de Wet, who initiated the project and selected and transcribed the
letters, and Elizabeth van Heyningen, who contributed further
historical context. Translation of the Dutch and Afrikaans letters
as well as introductory material was ably done by Chris van der
Merwe. Similarly to last year, we were fortunate to be able to
welcome several direct descendants of the author of the material
published to the launch.
Both editors and
the translator gave their respective accounts of the story behind
the book, with light being shed on Steyn’s life, and the course
history might have taken if he had not been unwell.
To read these speeches click here.
Council member Anton Ehlers, of the University of Stellenbosch,
rounded off the launch with a few words about the significant
financial contributions to the volume associated with his
The editors and
translator of the Steyn volume during the lauch at Ravenswood
House. From left Dr Con de Wet, Prof Chris van der Merwe and Dr
Elizabeth van Heyningen
The Steyn letters
were launched a second time in Bloemfontein, appropriately at the
War Museum of the Boer Republics, which is also the site of the
Vrouwemonument, one of MT Steyn’s most significant projects. About
20 people attended, including Wilhelmina and Jacky Steyn of Onze
Rust, Steyn’s farm just outside Bloemfontein. Unfortunately Con
de Wet could not join us, so Chris van der Merwe and Elizabeth van
Heyningen both spoke after being introduced by Rodney Constantine.
There was lively discussion afterwards, some of it concerning the
‘Steyn must fall’ protests at the University of the Orange Free
State. We also sold a number of volumes and our thanks go to Biebie
van der Merwe, Chris’s wife for her assistance.
Wins Prestigious Cultural Award
VRS has won the prestigious Archives Advocacy Award for 2016-2017
presented annually by the Western Cape’s Department of Cultural
Affairs. The citation for the award reads:
Van Riebeeck Society, founded in 1918, has done a lot of good work
over many years promoting archives by publishing transcribed primary
sources. In this way, the society has made available archival
sources to many people and has made the public aware of the richness
of history and sources available. The publications are prestigious,
with contributors from a wide variety of experts in their field and
are available in libraries across the world. Without their valuable
work, much history would be hidden."
photos below show the award being presented to the Society’s chair,
Professor Howard Phillips, by the Director of the Department’s
Archive Service, Ms. Nikiwe Momoti, at a grand function at the Lord
Charles Hotel in Somerset West on 25 March 2017
The 97th AGM of the VRS was held at
Ravenswood House, Gardens, Cape Town on 6 December 2016.
Attended by just over 60 members, it elected a new Council to serve
for the next three years (see ‘About Us’ for a list of this Council)
and heard the chair, Professor Howard Phillips, spell out the
Society’s publishing plans for the next seven years and the major
challenges which it would have to address in this period, viz.
recruiting new members, solidifying its financial base, taking
advantage of the digital revolution to enhance its product and
streamline its marketing and, possibly, re-branding itself when it
reaches its centenary in 2018. One suggestion made was to re-name it
the ‘Historical Publication Society (formerly the Van Riebeeck
Society)’. The full report is available on the AGM/Minutes page.
The Society’s chair, Professor Howard
Phillips, delivering the annual report, flanked on his right by the
treasurer, Danie de Villiers, and on his left by the secretary, Rolf
Part of the large audience at the AGM
in the garden of Ravenswood House after the AGM
in Cape Town and
Our 2016 volume,
From Cattle-herding to Editor’s Chair: The Unfinished Autobiography
and Writings of Richard Victor Selope Thema, edited by Alan
Cobley, was launched at three separate venues in December 2016, two
in Cape Town and one in Johannesburg.
All three launches
were very well attended and addressed by the editor, Professor Alan
Cobley of the University of the West Indies, who had specially come
to South Africa to do so from his home in Barbados. Two of these
launches were, memorably, also graced by the attendance of members
of R.V. Selope Thema’s family whose joyous presence turned them into
celebrations of their forebear. As much as the Thema family
expressed its gratitude to the VRS for putting RV’s autobiography
into print at long last, so was the VRS honoured by their
enthusiastic and meaningful participation in the launches. It was
very obviously a ‘win-win’ situation.
At the launches the
significant financial contribution of the Sowetan (the linear
descendant of RV’s newspaper, Bantu World) towards the cost
of printing the volume was readily acknowledged, while the
owners/managers of the three venues which hosted the launches –
Patrick Esnouf of Ravenswood House in Cape Town, Nicol Stassen and
Wayne Northcote of Protea Books in Rondebosch and Doron Locketz of
Bookdealers in Johannesburg – were publicly thanked for their
editor, Professor Alan Cobley, presenting a copy of From
Cattle-herding to Editor’s Chair to Mr J.J.R. Masemola, the
86-year old son-in-law of Richard Victor Selope Thema (‘RV’)
presenting a copy to RV’s grandson
Jacob Masemola addressing the audience about his father-in-law
Phekane Ramarumo, RV’s great-niece, thanking Alan Cobley and the VRS
on behalf of the Thema family
Nicol Stassen from
Protea Books, Alan Cobley and Howard Phillips at the Launch at
Protea Books in Rondebosch
Society held an extremely successful launch of the new volume at the
Blubird branch of Bookdealers in Johannesburg on 13 December 2016.
Between 90 and 100 people gathered to meet Alan Cobley and to be
present at the launch (the first formal gathering of the Society in
Gauteng since the since the launch of Peter Limb’s edition of AB
Xuma’s Autobiography four years before), following the two launches
in Cape Town the previous week.
It was good to host members of the Society again in
this region, but the members who were present were greatly
outnumbered by other bibliophiles and interested members of the
public, as well as many descendants of RV Selope Thema. The launch
could best be described as a blend of a more formal launch and a
joyous family celebration. Alan Cobley’s address was followed by
presentations and reminiscences from three family members, John JR
Masemola (the oldest living descendant of the volume’s subject),
Godfrey Mhlongo and Phekane Ramarumo; Siyabonga Gama, the chair of
the RV Selope Thema Foundation Trust; and Duma Nkosi, the former
mayor of Ekurheleni, who represented the African National Congress.
The historian Jane Carruthers, who recently stepped down as a member
of Council, rounded off the proceedings before all guests shared
some very enjoyable drinks and snacks.
The Society is very grateful indeed to Doron Locketz
and Vivienne Yudaken of Bookdealers for their support in hosting
this event so generously.
Professor Alan Cobley
addresses the Gauteng launch of his volume on RV Selope Thema
Nick Southey, the Gauteng member of
Council, hands a complementary copy of the volume to the journalist
representing the editor of The Sowetan, Philani Mgwaba
Phekane Ramarumo, granddaughter of Samuel Thema (RV Selope Thema's
brother) and Godfrey Mhlongo, eldest granschild of RV selope Thema,
express their thanks on behalf of the family to Alan Cobley and the
Van Riebeeck Society for the new publication
Some of the many guests who attended the
was followed by the first of three spirited launches of An
Entirely Different World, at which a copy was presented to our
special guest, the Russian Federation’s consul-general in Cape Town,
Mr Roman E. Ambarov. After the editor had explained to a fascinated
audience how he had come to compile the book, everyone filled the
house’s formal garden to enjoy a rich array of refreshments until
well after sunset.
Members settling down for the AGM
socializing in the lovely garden of Ravenswood after the AGM and
just before the launch...
spread for the party afterwards. which went on till late
spoke entertainingly again about the book at two further launches,
the one next day during UCT’s Summer School, at which he presented a
course on ‘Russians at the Cape’.
Boris Gorelik at UCT
and the other at Bookdealers bookshop in
Johannesburg on 11 February. Also, he was interviewed about his
volume on radio twice.
Boris and Council member Professor Jane Carruthers at the Bookdealers' launch in Johannesburg...
...and the obligatory party afterwards!
2015 Visit to PaarlMedia, our Printer
We started a tradition last year! On Tuesday 15th Ocotber 2015,
seven or our members visited PaarlMedia to see our book for this
year ('An Entirely Different World': Russian Visitors to the Cape
1797-1870) rolling off the presses! They were conducted round
the vast building by Jermayne Dryden and Rhosa Chamba who went out
of their way to make the visit entertaining, informative and just
unforgettable. Coffee and biscuits afterwards concluded a memorable
PaarlMedia's impressive frontage
And here they all are: Jackie Loos,
Allain Ravelo-Hoerson, Andrew Duncan, Sandy Shell, Francois Verster,
Peter Wight and Elizabeth van Heyningen...
... and their faithful cicerones, Rhoda
Chamba ans Jermayne Dryden
Sandu Shell holds up the cover
Jermayne displays the pages telling Posyet's story
Elizabeth van Heyningen was at there from
23 – 25 October to talk about Olive Schreiner’s letters. The talk
was well received, four new members were gained and a great time was
had by all. The Bookbedonnerd Fair has been running for several
years now. It's organised by Darryl David of UKZN, Pietermaritzburg,
who brings a delightfully relaxed and friendly atmosphere to the
event. Since there were no parallel sessions, everyone was able to
attend all the talks and, in between, authors and readers were able
to meet and chat.
A cheerful Elizabeth and other speakers!
Very fifties, isn't it?
Can you spot the Schreiner for sale?
The sessions, which were very bilingual, ranged
from talks by a Natal vet, to a number of poets reading in both
English and Afrikaans, a history of Barrydale and a volume on
Eastern Cape bridges. The latter sounds dry but the author won us
all over by his enthusiasm, as did many of the other speakers.
Richmond is a long way from anywhere and accommodation is limited
but it is a really worthwhile Fair.
In the evening, an "Elvis" concert!
Elizabeth says: "If I can possibly work it, I’d
like to make the VRS presence a regular. I had such fun that I’m
quite happy to go on my own account if Darryl can’t fund everyone.".
Here's the Boekbedonnerd website:
Book Fair Friday
13th to Sunday 15th June 2014
Our brave, noble and beautiful
volunteers: Sandra Commerford, Howard Phillips, Nigel Amschwand,
Tanya Barben, Stephen Craven, François Cleophas, Yvonne Reynolds and
Cora Ovens staffed the tiny "Publishers' Pavilion" in three shifts
every day. They recruited 12 new members and sold 23 of our
beautiful volumes. We thank them heartily!
Sandra and Nigel beguiling a customer!
Cora looking a bit apprehensive!
It was lovely meeting members new and
old and networking a bit.
Since we had received a lot of complimentary tickets from the
organisers, we sent out a quick email to Western Cape members
telling them that the first ten to phone would get a free ticket,
and members Patrick Tummon, Chris Rainier-Pope, the Librarian at the
Iziko Museum, Mike Bosazza, Ian Rauch, Joe Tyrrell, John Plummer,
Alain Ravelo-Hoërson, Wilhelm Snyman and James McFarlane got there
Moreover, Howard Phillips was interviewed on Fine Music Radio by
Gorry Bowes-Taylor and we offered a prize of one of our volumes to
the person who first phoned in the correct answer to a simple
question. Renate Krentz was the lucky winner!
Renate Krentz, holding the copy of
Trials of Slavery she has won
We have quite a few
soundbites on VRS matters! Gillian Godsell
interviewed our member Gerald Groenewald (whom some of you may have
heard lecturing on our volume 36, Trials of Slavery, which he
co-edited with Nigel Worden, in January 2009 at UCT’s Summer School)
about the VRS on Radio Today, a Johannesburg radio station, on
Tuesday 22nd September 2009. Click on
interview to listen in!
also have Randolph Vigne's
interview with Gorry
Bowes-Taylor on Thomas Pringle.
And the websites of two interviews with Peter Limb on A B Xuma, at