31 May 2010

Anthropology Staff

Ms Phumeza Mntonintshi - Curator: Anthropology

Ms Nomthunzi Api - Assistant Curator: Anthropology


On the 25th of May 2010 the Mobile Museum Service presented an International Museum Day program. The co-ordinator of the Mobile Museum Services,Ms N. Madinda and her team, Ms B.Tana and Mr Z.Taljaard aimed to bring the Museum to the disadvantage area of Farmerfield. The purpose of the day was to celebrate International Museum Day which had been celebrated around the world on the 18th of May annually since 1977. Our theme was ‘Museums and Social Harmony’.

The team interpreted the artefacts: Ms N.Madinda interpreted Mobile Museum objects and Anthropology artefacts. Ms B.Tana presented one of Archaeology artefacts called the stone tool. Her introduction was based on what archaeology is and what it means to be an archaeologist. She explained this to the people. Mr Z. Taljaard of Exhibitions Department explained the differences between 2D and 3D displays, colour and design of these boxes in front may have been ever so slight boring when competing with a rolling drum. The day was all in all well presented and enjoyed, and as he found himself wedged back into place in the back of the van,he realized the importance of the exchange of Culture and knowledge just freshly obtained.

The motivational speaker Mr R. Solwandle D.O.E (Department of Education) thanked the museum staff for bringing the event to the farm school. He emphasized that social harmony refersto our individual well – being in relation to other people and to nature."Museums need to build bridges to reach out to others to practice social harmony. We are part of nature and also managers of nature".

One of the parents Ms N. Matika told us that it was the first time she saw Museum objects and thanked the principal of the school Ms N. Khakhana and the museum staff. Mr N. Tafane took pictures and Miss S. Klaas assisted with the display of objects. The principal summarized the speeches and encouraged the learners to learn and visit the museum. She said one day one of the learners can be an archaeologist. It was a lively day full of joy. Learners; teachers and parents were singing and dancing and also the vibe of praise singers.

The chairperson Mr Zethu did the vote of thanks and encouraged the learners to learn and visit the museum.

Refreshments were served and I would like to express our deepest thanks for the recent donation that we received from Mr Jon Campbell, Manager of Pick ‘n Pay Supermarket at Grahamstown.

Traditional Doll Making

The traditional doll making process is a common occurrence amongst African ethnic groups in Southern Africa. Mostly people would use domestic objects available in their homesteads or areas. Each and every ethnic group would use dolls as symbolic items that marks maturity stages of young girls, for healing processes, and as toys that are less expensive to get. Materials used to manufacture these traditional dolls vary from society to society according to their cultures and their purpose also differs. In our Ethnological study of the African doll making process is that there are various effects considered in order to be recognised as a remarkable doll maker such as gender roles in this case females, age mostly old women ,period markers like primitive or modern stages, et cetera.

It is not only African people who possess the skill of traditional doll making, almost every ethnic group does even globally. As mention earlier on African dolls would reflect a common continental symbol based on the exposures and experiences of the maker as well as universal doll making would be affected by international trade purposes.

The explanation in this case refers mostly to African doll making process based in Ancestral beliefs, customs, norms and values thus reflecting our ways of life. Although the latter used to be of primitive style it has now changed as influenced by modernity which is something we cannot run away from easily. Again our argument is not to prove modernism as negative in our lives but a dominant factor. To say we can restore the past might not be possible at times. We therefore acknowledge the fact that cultures do change for better or worse all we need do is to attach meaning and value when necessary to these treasured items.

Also we can try and restore value by analysing History for modern societies to understand that there is no less important or dominant culture above one another.


Doll making amongst African ethnic communities has been gender based for many centuries to be a women’s role passed to their daughters through generations.
This occurrence has existed for many centuries unchallenged to keep women and children busy at home whilst their husbands and sons are out in the fields ploughing, hunting, et cetera.
In this case elderly women would spend most of their time doing house hold chores including doll making as a hobby and tradition.

The reason why newly weds were not often part of this process it is because they would do some other house hold chores like cooking, drawing water from nearby rivers and therefore do not have time to stay around.

A young girl would be made a doll according to her stage and when she grows she will be given a certain type of a doll aligned to her marital stage.
Young women would learn on how to make dolls from their mothers sometimes but mostly from grannies which became a symbolic thing.

Some dolls are made for specific reasons for instance when a young girl has reach maturity, the mother would make a fertility doll for her to show that she has reached a permitted stage for marriage.

Some dolls are made to mark belief systems amongst traditional ethnic groups such as a doll that you carry when you are sick believed to be a curing doll.
There are times where dolls are made for mourning where a doll would wear Black clothing and it will be a female structure. There are reasons attached to that since people who physical mourns in our societies using dress codes are women.

Sometimes traditional healers uses dolls to keep their magic charms and for consultation purposes.
For instance barren women would be advised to consult traditional healers and be given a doll when treated, it is not known whether the doll carries a medicine inside or becomes a symbolic gesture.

Modern doll making process

Again Traditional dolls are still made in communities by women irrespective of the places of manufacturing e.g. in local projects or at home. This is a result of the famous belief that dolls are for women although when manufactured in factories are done by anyone. Modern dolls are more decorative than the usual ones for economic reasons.

You can now see colourful clothed dolls unlike in the past where some were made from animal skins. The symbolic meaning has shifted for money making ventures thus hindering past cultural significance attached to them. Currently we are not sure whether that the economic move was a good idea since it takes away cultural values attached to our heritage artefacts.
In an Academic way it’s good to improve or develop our culture, but when one looks at the impact of the changes you can argue the other way round.

Currently people who still make dolls do it at their will, and no longer appreciate it as was before. Also they are taken as just dolls or decorative items no meaning attached specifically.
Kieskamma art project in Hamburg near Peddie makes dolls for economic reasons for tourists ,that is a good example of Eco-tourism influence so to speak.

This is a collection of Anthropological dolls at Albany Museum.
Pictures were taken from Kieskamma Art Project in Hamburg by Pumeza N.Mntonintshi –Curator of Anthropology in May 2010.
Nomthunzi Api assisted in Curation.

24 May 2010


Welcoming address by Cllr Vumile Lwana, Executive Mayor of Makana Municipality , on the occassion of the opening of Shared Legacies exhibition at Albany Museum on 21 May 2010.

Public Diplomacy Officer , Mr Mark Canning from the US Consulate,
Advocate Les Roberts , Chair of the Board of Trustees of Albany Museum,
Members of the Board of Trustees of Albany Museum,
Mr Ismail Mohammed , Director of the National Arts Festival,
Mr Bongani Mgijima , Manager of Albany Museum
Academics and students from Rhodes University,
Councillors and citizens of the Makana Municipality and beyond,
Heritage Practitioners,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Program Director ,
On behalf of the community of Makana Municipality , I am delighted to welcome you at Albany Msueum on the occassion of the opneing of the Shared Legacies exhibition. This is indeed a very important achievement on the part of the museum. I have been made aware that this exhibition has been made possible as a result of a partnership between the Albany Museum , Mcgregor Museum , the United States Consulate and the National Arts Festival office.

I have also been equally advised that three days ago on 18 May 2010 the world has been celebrating International Museums day. It is quite befitting therefore that an exhibition of this nature should happen in this month when we are celebrating international Museums day.

The exhibition we are going to be opening today is entitled :Shared Legacies. It consists of photographs by Edward S. Curtis , a renowned North American photographer and a well known South African photographer , Alfred Duggan Cronin. These photographs demonstrate than we as South Africans have very much in common with our North American friends. In America they talk of a triple heritage made up of American , European and African origins. We too , in South Africa , we talk of a triple heritage derived from Europe , Africa and Asia.

Whereas some of us always think of msueums as places dedicated to old disconnected dusty objects or as institutions ran by absent minded academics , this exhibition we are about to unveil today reaffirm the notion that museums indeed can contribute to social harmony. Social harmony can only exist when we begin to realise that we as the people of the world we have so much in common than differences.

As President Neslon Mandela pointed out during his Nobel Prize lecture , and I quote:

" Thus we shall live , because we will have created a society which recognises that all people are equal , with each entitled to liefe , liberty , prosperity , human rights and good governance".

Museums , therefore , hel us to understand that our humanity depends on us working together to create a world at peace with itself. Again , I would like to applaud the US Consulate , the National Festival Office and the Albany Msueum for bringing this exhibition to our shores. The Makana Municipality is increasingly becoming the Cultural Capital of the continent.

In a few days time , our Municipality will again be welcoming multitudes of visitors and artists who will be gracing our annual National Arts Festival. I am told that thsi year , because of the 2010 FIFA World Cup which we as the continent are hosting for the first time ever , the festival is going to be much bigger and much more memorable than the previous festivals.

The Shared Legacies exhibition , in the words pf President Barack Obama , reminds us that and I quote:

"It took a bit of blood , sweat and tears to get us where we are today, but we have just begun. Today we begin in earnest the work of making sure that our world we leave our children is just a little bit better that the one we inherit today."

With those few words , ladies and gentlemen , allow me to welcome you to Makana , a great place to be.

I Thank you.

21 May 2010

Many came to share legacies

By: Zongezile Matshoba
The who is who of Grahamstown graced the official opening of the Shared Legacies exhibition at Albany History Museum on 21 May 2010. Steering the ship was Gugulethu Mhlungu, the charismatic Station Manager of Rhodes Music Radio. The Police Brass Band played some lovely tunes and both the national anthems of the United States of America and South Africa.

Councillor Vumile Lwana, the Mayor of Makana Municipality, said during his welcoming address that
“It is quite befitting that an exhibition of this nature should happen in this month when we were celebrating International Museum Day”.

Shared Legacies exhibition consists of photographs of Edward S. Curtis and Alfred Duggan Cronin, two renowned photographers from North America and South Africa respectively.

Lwana added that these photographs demonstrate that South Africans have much in common with Americans.

Mark Canning, the guest speaker, was introduced by Professor Julia Wells, a member of the Albany Museum Board of Trustees, and an academic. Canning is a Public Diplomacy Officer of the US Consulate. He has well travelled, having been a diplomat for more than two decades in Warsaw, Johannesburg, China, Prague and Cape Town. He has worked as a college professor, a journalist and a translator who speaks Chinese, Polish, Czech, and French among other languages.

Canning talked more about the sad story of Curtis and his struggles to have his passion for photography recognised.

Curtis, born in 1868, made his own camera at the age of 12 and pursued photography as a hobby in the beginning. After 30 years he had opened a studio, entered and won competitions, had four kids, and got divorced because of photography. He battled to raise money despite having influential friends like President Theodore Roosevelt who was an enthusiastic supporter of his work.

“He never made any wealth and died poor in 1952,” Canning said.

And what about Duggan-Cronin? Well, you will have to wait until the second opening during the National Arts Festival!

The Chairperson of the Albany Museum Board of Trustees, Advocate Leslie Roberts thanked the huge support and interest shown by everyone. He also thanked everyone who played a crucial role in ensuring that the exhibition is brought to Grahamstown, as its official opening was a massive success.

The exhibition is on until the end of the National Arts Festival, from 09h00 till 17h00 at Albany History Museum, Somerset Street, Grahamstown.

Other Links:
Mail & Guardian: the News in Photos
Mail & Guardian: the News in Photos

Museums step out

Babongile Zulu

Artefacts and exhibitions from the Albany Msueum lined High Street on Tuesday. This was to celebrate International Museum day which has been celebrated around the world on 18 May annually since 1977.

Every stall was manned by experts and volunteers from the different research departmetns of the museum, who answered questions from curious passers-by. People who were walking past thought displays were funny , but after we explained to them what they were all about , they left the stand more knowledgeable," said Theunis du Toit of the taxidermy department. A few interested residents who did not quite know the significance of having the artefacts displayed along High Street , enquired if the exhibitions were on sale.

" One lady said it was awesome when she saw the exhibitions. A few people suggested that we do more things like this as a museum", said Boniswa Tana of the archaeology department.

The point of International Museum day is to bring the museum out to the streets and closer tot he people." It was just an effort to show people what they can find in museums", said Albany Museum Manager, Bongani Mgijima.

The theme for this year's day was Museums and Social Harmony. Mgijima took the mobile museum bus with him to Burgersdorp to take part in the activities which were held there. ' This day tried to encourage social interaction and nation-building so its wonderful to be able to take artefacts out here and show people", added Mgijima.

Communications and Marketing Officer for the museum , Zongezile Matshoba was very happy and satisfied with the outcome of the day. "It was good for the community to have a glimpse of what is going on inside the museum".

Source: Grocott's Mail Friday , 21 May 2010

18 May 2010

International Museum Day celebrated @ High Street

By: Zongezile Matshoba
Awesome! Wow! Brilliant! Great idea!

These are some of the reactions that the Albany Museum staff received when the museum was brought to the people as part of ICOM’s International Museum Day on the 18 May 2010. With Makana Municipality’s blessing, the Museum identified five spots in the busy High Street footpath in Grahamstown. Museum objects, mostly from the mobile service and anthropology were displayed.

One matriculant learner could not believe that her birthday is associated with such an important day. Some looked worried that they did not know about this day as they would have brought their children along. Other surprises were people who were interested in buying the museum items, thinking that the National Arts Festival has started earlier than they thought. Many seize the opportunity of free admission on this day by visiting the Observatory Museum mainly to see the obscura camera.

The bottom line is that many, including business people, professionals and academics still find it too difficult and too busy with their work, studies, cellphones, smoking, driving, shopping, eating, and chatting than to visit the museum even when the entrance fee is free of charge.

13 May 2010

Albany Museum Mobile Service

Albany Museum Mobile Service is an educational outreach project designed to take educational museum resources to rural and urban communities that are unable to visit the Albany Museums. It aims to organise and supply lessons to rural and urban schools in the form of Mobile Museum Service up to 100km radius of Grahamstown and can even go beyond 100km by invitation. Albany Museum Mobile Service visits are free of charge, but have to be booked and as a co-ordinator.

The Mobile Museum owns a customized vehicle that is equipped with Museum artefacts Each box consists of a display unit of different galleries, for example Earth and Space, Fossils, Blue planet, Invertebrate, Mammals, Egyptian Mummy, the San, Birds and Wild Life. The Mobile Museum also encourages the educators to loan the artefacts so that their teaching can be made more meaningful in a classroom context.

Special events have included the Mandela Day last year (2009) where the museum staff collected various items such as toys, gardening equipment and/ or clothes which were distributed to the neighbouring farm schools. Mandela Day commemorated 67 years which former President Mandela spent in fighting for peace, humanity, social justice and equality. The call is for all of us to spend 67 minutes making a difference to our communities, 67 minutes is symbolic to 67 years. This number was converted into minutes where a helpful service was provided to somebody in the community.

The Mobile Museum services decided to target some local farm schools - the schools reached were: Manley Flats, Zintle, Wilsons Party and Martindale farm schools.

The delighted faces of both the teachers and the learners made the day well worth while! The learners sang beautifully to the presenters as the Mobile Museum van rolled onto their school grounds! Tea was served and it was a happy day for everyone. As the van drove away, learners could be seen bouncing their new balls and excitedly looking at the newly acquired presents. This event received massive media coverage.

The Mobile Museum would be delighted if more items could be brought to the Museum for implementing another occasion such as this one.
Items such as toys, writing/reading equipment, clothing for both teachers and learners; office or gardening equipment; table cloths, curtains, basins, cups, plates, or anything which could be useful to render the learning environment more efficient or attractive.

12 May 2010

International Museum Day celebrations

Albany Museum will join museums of the world in celebrating ICOM’s International Museum Day on the 18 May 2010. This year’s theme is Museums and Social Harmony” . Museum artefacts will be taken to the people in the streets of Grahamstown. Everyone will be targeted, the young and old, the businesses, and all those who find it very difficult to visit the museums.

Admission will also be free to all our museums which are Natural Science Museum and History Museums in Somerset Street, and Observatory Museum at Bathurst Street.

Come and join us, and learn more about our museum. We will be in High Street from 10h00 until 15h00!


The Albany Museum in collaboration with the Unites States Consulate General invites you to the opening of
The Alfred Duggan-Croni and Edward S. Curtis Photographs
Curated by Siona O' Connell and Dale Washkansky
Guest Speaker: Dr Alberta Mayberry
Consul General of the USA
Albany History Museum
Somerset Street
Opening 21 May 2010 at 17h15
RSVP before 15 May 2010

Shared Legacies : The Alfred Duggan-Cronin and Edward S. Curtis Photographs

Siona o' Connel and Dale Washkansky
We are passionate about photography; we delight in the magic of the camera and its ability to play with and capture light. In particular whilst we accept and celebrate that the medium may be an excellent vehicle for those of us wanting to tell a story in a language other than the written word , we are aware of the pitfalls and restrictions of photographic representation. A photograph is intrinsically a visual medium. To see a photograph , one not only looks at a photograph , one penetrates its surfaces and glimpses into what was . By association , the gaze is therefore inevitably entangled within this act of looking and knowing. But how much can one know through fact that leads down Alice's rabbit hole- to a den of otherings , classification, difference and power?

We are cognisant too of the role that the camera has played as it imaged the colonial path. This is part of our personal dilemna, how do we come to terms with the photograph. Particularly , in curating Shared Legacies : The works of Alfred Duggan Cronin and edward. S Curtis we asked 'how can we ethically look? How can the eclusivity of the gaze and the frame become inclusive and dialectical'.

This exhibition brings together the works bt these two renowned photographers Alfred Duggan - Cronin and Edward S. Curtis who were respectively photographing in southern Africa and northern America during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with the intention to document the indigenous peoples at a time when modernity supposedly threatened their way of life. We have chosen to focus in recognising these photographs as potraits , rather than ethnographical and anthropological representations . Bt re-interpreting these images , we are attempting to articulate the forcibly interred by situating them in the art historical canon, where the genre of portraiture has its own legacy.

It is our aim to translate , remember and reimagine the images of these subjects which share hauntingly similar stories. By revisiting these images against the historic canon , we endevour to recognise the 'truths' and 'untruths' of their construction. Both of these colelctions were effective in fashioning the image of the 'noble savage'. Shared Legacies retrieves these images from the 'primitive beyond' in order to reconsider the roles of the photographer , the sitter and the viewer. as such we uphold a performative , re-imagined theorisation of the photographic image , one where the spectator is an active participant in this tripartiete relationship. It is precisely due tot he specificity of the referent and the solidification of a fragment of time that a kernel is planted in order to destabilise the meta-narratives of the past.

Shared Legacies is as much an exhibition of those photographed as it is of us , the viewer. the title of this exhibition speakes to larger questions of looking, of limitations , of temporality and definitions of being human. It invites the viewer to step into the place of the dead; to articulate their silenced ghosts , to speak on their behalf. In looking at the images , we are reflected through their gaze , we are confronted with the image of the self where the other is rendered as the same , where boundaries and definitions are blurred. It is about connections , relationships and dialogue, that out of this space , a new way of seeing and understanding may ensure.

Photographs facilitate knowledge productions and we find that it is in this space of Shared Legacies that the un-named guides us to another form of knowledge. It is within this absence of naming that the ghosts and spectres offer us a way out of the dilemmas of representation and naming. It is in this absence that we can at last savour the blacks , whites and the countless shades in-between.

Shared Legacies Exhibition is presented by the Albany Museum in collboration with the United States Consulate General and the Mcgregor Museum. It will be officially opened by Dr Alberta Mayberry , Consul General of the United States on 21 May 2010. The exhibition can viewed at the Albany History Museum and will run until after the National Arts Festival.

For more infromation please contact Mr Zongezile Matshoba , 046 622 2398 , albanymuseum@ru.ac.za

SAIAB and Albany Museum collaborate

AFTER years of working separately , the South African Institute of Aquatic Biodiversity ( SAIAB) and Albany Museum have agreed to link collections for the benefit of science.

A memorandum of understanding was signed last month which SAIAB managing director , Prof Skelton as " coming together for the common good".

Under the agreement SAIAB will house and curate genetic material of freshwater aquatic invertebrates that are lodged in the Albany Museum. Albany Museum Curator Scientists , Helen James felt there was a neeed for this agreement because " the storage of material for genetic studies is becoming important part of natural history museum's function. The Albany Museum does not have facilities for this, but SAIAB does".

SAIAB senior aquatic biologists , Roger Mills finds this agreement particularly significantbecause , speaking from expereience , " we catch with nets and when we do , often find various invertebrates , we used to fish the invertebrates other than fish out to Albany Museum and the frogs to Bayworld". Now genetic tissues and samples of invertebrates will be lodged in the SAIAB tissue biobank and the voucher specimens sent to the Albany Msueum 's invertebrate collection. The Musuem will donate the genetic tissue of allinvertebrate vouchers lodged in its collection to SAIAB. These tissue samples will be linked through the database managemetn systems of each institution. Researchers working on tissues linked to the msueum's collection will be able to use molecular preparation laboratory at SAIAB.

For Albany Museum , Bills said that the agreement allows SAIAB to provide the msueum with material they are not able to collect themselves , especially broadening their collection range to Zambia , Angola and Mozambique . Further more , " they can link their collections to a biobank without developing that biobank themselves", added Skelton.

The relationship between the two scientific research institutes is nothing new said SAIAB's database specialsit Willem Coetzer." Albany Museum approached us in 2005 to develop a database for their natural history collections". Albany Museum , like SAIAB is now using a database specifically designed for natural history collections.

SOURCE: Grocott's Mail, Tuesday , 11 May 2010

11 May 2010

Meet Hofmeyr's boy 'paleontologist'

While big fuss has been made , quite rightly , about nine-year-old Matthew Berger and his discovery last month of a fossil hominid in the Cradle of Mankind - we have our won young Indiana jones right here in in the Easter Cape.
Thomas Lord , 12 , is a weekly boarder at Cradock Primary school , and he lives on the family farm Alicedale near Hofmeyr. Whenever he gets home for the weekedn , he jumps on his quadbike , collects a few of his friends , the farmworkers; kids , and goes hunting for fossils.
Word of his keen eye and his all consuming passion of fossils has spread , and one of South Africa's senior paleontologists , Dr Billy de Klerk of Albany Museum in Grahamstown , has on two occassions visited him to examine his finds.
De Klerk is planning a third trip in July to excavate Thomas's latest and most exciting discovery- a handful of bones of what seems to be a Dicyodont called Kannemeyeria , a mmamal-like reptile , the sixe of a juvenile hippo , which lived some 235 million years ago ( about 10 million years before the dinosaurs).
Only about a dozen good Kannemeyeria specimens have been discoverd ever, including one by Thomas's grandfather Willoughby , in the same area, and another by Marjorie Courtney-Latimer of coelecanch fame near Tarkastad.
Kannemeyeria is also significant find because it and other memebrs of the Dicynodont ( which means "two dog-like teeth") family mark an evolutionary transition point. They existed during the tail-end of the Beaufirt Era and were the last reptile line , which then gave way to true mammals , with hair and the baearing of live young.
Thomas chated to The Herald from the school secreatary's office after he was caleld to the telephone. The unassuming youngster said he had " always liied dinosaurs" but real interest in ancinet bones started when he was about five when his Dad gave him a fossil for a present. Further inspiration came when his parents allowed him to turn an outhouse into his own natural history museum- and then he met Dr De Klerk.
While most youngsters from farms have fair knowledge of wildlife and the environment , not many are interested in bones he conceded.
" I suppose they think its stupid but i think it's cool".
Thomas's father David farms cattle and sheep which always means a sprinkling of livestone bones dotted aroudn the veld.
But these are quite different to fossil bones , he explained.
" A fossil is heavy like a rock and it is more brown in colour".
After travelling out to a particular spot on the quad, the young fossil hunters alight and tramp up the dongas where it is most likely that bones will have been exposed by erosion , he explained.
They found the Kannemeyria about 3km from the Lord homestead in an area called Vlekpoort, which is also where a much younger fossil a 36 000 -year-old hominid skull , was discovered , in 1962.
The Hofmeyr Skull is believed to have belonged to one of the earliest human residents of this area.
The Kannemeyria was embedded in the one slope of a gully and there is a possibility some of the bones would have rolled into it. But the hope is that a large part of the skeleton can be retrieved by careful excavation.
Situated int he centre of the Eastern Cape in arid Karroo grassland , Hofmeyr is great fossil country , De Klerk said.
Thomas clearly has a good eye but , more thanthat , he is attuned to fossils, able to pick up their texture , colour and shape even against a confusing background of rocks.
Collecting fossils is illegal without an SA Heritage Resources Agency permit so Thomas has been doing so under the aegis of De Klerk.
With the help of his mother , the boy then brings his frinds in to Grahamstown. he made his last visit during Scifest and also got a chance to examine De Klerk's own collection.
De Klerk said he had known himself by the age of 10 that he wanted to be a paleontologist , and it was wonderful to see the same passion and certainity in Thomas.
SOURCE : THE HERALD , 11 MAY 2010 www.theherald.co.za/article.aspx?id=561592

05 May 2010

Eastern Cape Rocky

Dr Jim Cambray is a Curator of Ichthyology at the Makana Biodiversity Centre , Albany Museum. In this blog Dr Cambray sheds some unknown facts about the Eastern Cape Rocky.
The Eastern Cape Rocky is an endangered freshwater fish species which only occurs in the Eastern Cape. The scientific name is Sandelia bainsii and it belongs in the family of fishes called Anabantidae. It is a medium size fish and reaches a lenght of about 30 cm. It has a narrow distribution and only occurs in small sections of the following river systems , Nahoon , Buffalo , Gulu , Igoda, Kesikamma , Great Fish and Kowie.
The scientific name of the Eastern Cape Rocky , Sandelia bainsii has a very interesting history.
Chief Sandile ( 1820-1878)
The generic name of the Eastern Cape Rocky is Sandelia. This is very interesting as the fish was named after Chief sandile who was born in 1820 near Burnshill in the Eastern Cape. He was the son of Ngqika the paramount Chief of the Rharhabe. sandile acceded to the chieftainship in 1840. He was the central figure in 'War of the Axe' between 1846-1847 and was killed in action in last Frontier war ( 1877-1878).
Andrew Geddes Bain (1797-1864)
The species name of the Eastern Cape Rocky is bainsii. Some people have thought this name is derived from Thomas Baines the painter but it is in fact named after Andrew Geddes Bain. He was born in Scotland in 1797 , arrived in South Africa in 1816 and he became famous for his many talents. He was a road-builder , geologist , explrer , trader , soldier , writer and artist. he was to become known as the father of South African geology. in 1838 he made his first important fossil discovery , and several days later made his important discovery of the dicynodon.
How does the Eastern Cape Rocky breed?
Research at the Albany Museum has shown that these fish are not free spawners as once thought. The males and females in free spawning fishes quickly mate and then leave the eggs to the mercy of the environment.
Studies have now shown that during the spawning season , October to February , the males turn a very dark colour and the larger ones have whitish tips on someof their fins. This is called a breeding dress or plumage. Not only birds have a breeding plumage so do some fish!
The males guard a territory and prepare a clean ara for eggs. The male occassionally leaves his territory and goes to the surface to take a big gulp of air. This he stores in his special superbranchial air chambers which are located in his head. He then goes up to female and lets out some air bubbles as he approaches her and then quickly turns inviting the female back to the cleared area he has made.
The female enters the area above the cleared nest and then remains almost motionless suspended in the water column. The male then slowly wraps around her and then quickly squezees and jabs the special sharp and pointed scales on his head, called contact organs, into the female abdomen. The female releases hundreds of eggs and the male milt. The fertilised eggs sink and adhere to the clean substrate teh male has prepared.
The female then leaves the area while the male goes into a 'headstand' position and carefully examiness the eggs. When the male finishes this inspection he will again go to the surface refresh his air supply and blow bubbles at the female and the spawning sequence will be repeated.
After the spawning is completed the male would not let any fish near his nest. Thus it was determined that the Eastern Cape Rocky is not a free spawner but a male guarder which is important in understanding its relationships with other African anabatids.
A study on the early development of this species also revealed a number of interesting and unique characters. There is a display and a live specimen of the Eastern cape Rocky in the Blue Planet gallery at the Albany Museum.
So next time you are at the museum learn more about this very unique Eastern Cape species with the interesting scientific name , Sandelia bainsii. Help conserve it by not introducing any alien fish species , such as bass or catfish, into its home range.

03 May 2010

Ikhala: The aloe that serves society

Tony Dold is a botanist ( plant scientist) at the Albany Museum in Grahamstown. He told us about ikhala ( Aloe Ferox) the flowering aloe that is shown in the centre of the official arms ( symbol) of the Eastern Cape Province.

The latin name Aloe Ferox ( literally the warlike aloe) refers to the ferocious spines ( like thorns) on the edges of the elaves and also perhaps to the flower heads that look like spears.

Ikhala has a single stem and it can grow as tall as three metre ( as high as the ceiling in a house)

The old leaves remain hanging from the stem after they have dried , forming a "skirt" which is believed to protect the stem from fire.

In the Eastern Cape , ikhala usually flowers between May and August. The flower colour can cary from yellow-orange to bright red. The flowers are carried on a branched crown of spears above the leaves. There are up to eight branches , each carrying hundreds of small tube-shaped flowers.

Where does ikhala grow?

It occurs in nature over 1000 km from the south Western Cape Province through the Eastern Cape to southern KwaZulu-Natal. It is also found in the south eastern corner of the Free State and southern Lesotho.

It is adpatable to many different growing conditions but is most usually found on rocky hill slopes , often in very large numbers.

Why is ikhala used as a symbol?

Ikhala is beautiful , it is strong enough to survice harsh , dry conditions and it has medicinal properties.

Ikhala appears on our car registration plates (number plates) and on the road signs for the Frontier Country tourism route. It also appears on the medal for the Order of the Mendi , a national honour for bravery.

Ikhala in medicine

  • Products made from the sap (juice) from the leaves are used as laxatives but also to treat a number of ailments.These include athritis , skin cancer, burns , eczema, psoriasis , digestive problems and blood pressure problems.
  • Schwedenbitters , a digestive aid found in many pharmacies , contains bitter Aloe.
  • The gel-like flesh from the inside of the leaves is used in cosmetic products and is reported to have wound -healing properties.
  • In some Eastern Cape rural homes, Aloe juice is used to wean babies off the breast ( it has a very bitter taste) and is used to treat stomach ache.
  • Xhosa healers use ikhala in prepared remedies to treat high blood pressure and (mixed with other plant substances ) to treat HIV Aids symptoms.
  • Some people smear their bodies with ikhala sap to ward off eveil spirits.

Ikhala and animal health

In the former Ciskei region Aloe Ferox leaves are soaked in poultry drinking water to prevent poultry disease , to fight off ticks and lice and to treat fowl typhoid (Umbathalala).

The leaves are boiled and mixed in the cattle drinking water to prevent Red Water ( Amanzabomvu). The sap (juice) is also applied as a rmedy for scab in sheep.

Ikhala in history

  • Aloe Ferox is one of the very few plants depicted in ancient San rock art. there is an example in the Cradock District.
  • Aloe species are mentioned in the Bible as healing herbs and it is known that the ancient Mesopotamians used the sap from Aloes against skin infection.
  • Hundres of years ago, Spanish explorers kept the cut leaves on board thei sailing ships for burns and cuts.
  • After the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima at the end of Workd war 2 , the Japanes used a South African Aloe product on a large scale for the healing of burns and wounds.

Proverb : "Undle ingcolo"

Literally: He has drunk the juice of the flower of the wild Aloe. This is said of a dull , sleepy person because that is the effect the nectar can have on you.

( Source: Umjelo, Eastern Cape Museums , Vol 3 No 1 , August 2006)


Colleagues and friends

In order to catch up with developments in technology we have opened a blogspot for Albany Museum.

The intention of the blog is to have discussions on any topic relating to the work of the Museum.

I hope you will find time to make your inputs.

Yours faithfully