Made by Ellen Kuzwayo, Betty Wolpert, Blanche Tsimatsima. Directed by Betty Wolpert.
The collection consists of background material to the documentary film "Tsiamelo: A place of goodness, produced by Betty Wolpert. The film is based on a project undertaken by Ellen Kuzwayo, where she tells the story of the friendship between her grandfather and Sol Plaatje, and their efforts to have the 1913 Native Land Act repealed. The consequences of this act on succeeding generations are explained, and made vivid to the viewer through the story of the removal of mrs. Kuzwayo's aunt, Blanche Tsimatsima, from the family farm Tsiamelo.
The collection contains mostly photographic material, being copies of existing archival originals, prints of family photos, photos taken during the film production, few copies of letters and a digital copy of the video "Tsiamelo - a place of goodness".
The material was given to Annari Van der Merwe who forwarded it to Historical Papers in 2009. The video was obtained by the Library of the University of the Witwatersrand, and is now available in digital format as well.
The inventory to this collection was compiled by Nokuthula Zinyengere, May 2010.
Narration of "Tsiamelo - A Place of Goodness.
The video starts with Ellen Kuzwayo on a walk in London at the age of 70, accompanied by a song recorded by Sol T. Plaatjes in London in 1922.
Tsiamelo' is a film about the dispossession of black people in South Africa. She explains that on Friday the 20th June 1913 the South African native was not a slave but a pariah in the land of his birth, it was a time when pigment of the skin did not conform to the regulation hue.
Solomon T. Plaatje.
She speaks about Africas greatest sons Sol T. Plaatje who was born in the Orange Free State in 1876, and later became a journalist, scholar, politician and co-founder of the African Native National Congress (ANNC) in 1912 and its first General-Secretary. He documented some of the most frightening historical events of his time, events which had a detrimental effect on the lives and overall development of the black people of South Africa, amongst them his famous diary during the Siege of Mafeking.
She tells us the story of Plaatje and how he went to a school run by the Berlin Missionary Society. Mrs. Westfront, the wife of one of the missionaries, recognized his enormous natural talent and abilities and was to have profound influence on him. She explains how seventy years ago, in 1914, Plaatje went with a group of delegates of the African Native National Congress (ANNC) to London, asking for the repeal of certain aspects of the Land Act of 1913. Lord Harcourt, Secretary of State for the colonies chose to disbelieve them and accepted the Prime Minister of South Africas assurance that nothing detrimental was going to happen to the people of South Africa.
The delegates' request to pay their respects to the Queen was rejected, General Botha and Lord Gladstone felt that it would be an inconvenient precedent. She explains how the course of history might have been different if Lord Hargourt had listened. As trusting and loyal subjects they felt betrayed by Britain, on the outbreak of war in 1914 Plaatje remained in England and the rest of the delegation returned to South Africa. The African Native National Congress immediately shelved their campaign, they felt that if they pledged their loyalty to the Empire they would obtain full citizenship as a result of their support. But a subsequent visit in 1919 brought no results too.
Thaba Nchu, Orange Free State.
She then speaks of the 1913 Native Lands Act, and how it drastically impacted on the right of Africans to own land. And she visits Botshabelo, a place just outside Thaba Nchu, meaning place of refuge, established in 1979 with a population of over a hundred thousand people, which by July 1980 already had 258 adult graves and 269 childrens graves in its graveyard.
Ellen Kuzwayo also speaks about her Grandfather Jeremiah Makgothi, who owned a small house in Thaba Nchu over 130 years ago. She speaks of her family, like Aunt Blanche Tsimatsima, Jeremiah Makgothis (Ellens grandfathers) youngest daughter.
She speaks about the strong ties between her grandfather and Sol Plaatje, relating how Plaatje sent a book to Jeremiah from England. One of the most treasured possession of her family is a Setswana reader which Plaatje compiled in London with Doctor Jones, published at the end of 1916. Ellens grandfather was one of the first people to receive this book (Book of Common Prayer).
Ellens grandfather was the only laymen to sit on Doctor Moffats commission to translate the Bible into Setswana. Most of his friends and colleagues lived within a few minutes of his house all these men were farmers - Moses Masisi, Rev Goroyane, W Z Fenyang and I T Makgothi. Ellen Kuzwayo explains how all her grandfathers colleagues were deeply concerned with the problems facing their country at the turn of the century. As most of them were missionary educated and devout Christians, they drew their ideals and aspirations from two overlapping worlds. Plaatje was a constant and much loved visitor to all their homes, and they supported Sol. T. Plaatje in his lifes work both financially and as colleagues and friends. Behind these men were women with strong values, beliefs (Mrs Masisi, Mrs Fenyang and Mrs Goroyane) and a deep sense of commitment and profound courage. Kuzwayo honors the women of the Orange Free State, relating how they protested against the carrying of passes by women, for which they were brutally treated and imprisoned.
Jeremiah Makgothi taught at a school for both black and white children, and Dr J. S. Morokas mother was one of his pupils. When Ellen Kuzwayos mother was ill she was being treated by Dr. Moroka, but her mother eventually died from heart trouble.
Aunt Blanche was a qualified teacher midwife then became a farmer. When her brother Peter Magokoti died, he had a piece of land that was passed onto him by his parents when they passed on. After his death Aunt Blanche inherited the land but she had problems with the authorities who stated that by birth women do not inherit property from their parents if they had changed their name and are married. She went and complained about the issue and she stated Ill be men give me trousers she won the case and got the title deeds for the land (As she speaks she is shown in the video at Sehohwane Valley with Ellen Kuzwayo).
Blanche Tsimatsimas farm Sehohwane valley, once owned by her family for generations, was taken from her in 1974. Everyone was born on the farm, they were good farmers. She built houses on the farm when she inherited it, but before she could finish the houses they were to be moved. She received a letter from the government stating that her farm had been proclaimed as a white area, and that the Government offered her 48 Rand for the land. She refused and asked them to double the amount, the farmer who wanted to buy the land told her not to plough but she went on ploughing because he had not bought the farm yet. He eventually bought it but died before he could plant or get into the house which he had built.
Aunt Blanche explains how Mr Harinham, Jeremiah Makgothis (her father) friend, took care of her after her parents death, and she states that black and white people used to help each other on the farms. She has an interview with Mrs Plaatje aged 85 years who is her friend, and they lived walking distance within each other. They explain how they were taught hymns that taught them not to drink Liquor. They also speak of 1976 how it was symbolic, how the children destroyed beer halls and told their parents not to drink because they felt it was like destroying their nation. Rev Rudolf, Rev Daniel, Rev Dugmore, Rev Househam, were early white missionaries who taught them. And although the missionaries educated them, they also applied their own superiority and their prejudices of what was worthwhile and what was to be discarded, thereby impacting on traditional practices of African communities.
Ellen Kuzwayos farm was taken from her in 1974. In the film she visits a Thaba Nchu school and describes were the furniture used to be. She traces her steps back in time, she gets a ride on a horse cart, and the cart brings back many of her memories of her grandparents.
Ellen Kuzwayo then lived in Soweto for 27 years, and she noted how she was so busy with her daily life that she sometimes forgot the past. She also spoke about how she began to heal and that the farm was short lived. She talks about the 1977 incident, how she was arrested on the 19th of October around 4. 30am, and detained for five months. And she talks about Sowetos poor quality of life.
The Native Lands Act of 1913 was the beginning of the disposition of black people, still continuing into the 1980s, supported by black spots, group areas, ethnic grouping, resettlements and systematic removal of people disregarding them as human beings because of the color of their skin. At the end of the film Ellen Kuzwayo mentions a Setswana proverb you dig a hole for others you may end up falling there yourself.
Film by: Ellen Kuzwayo, Betty Wolpert and Blanche Tsimatsima.
Camera: Paul Berriff, Brian Tilley and Ian Alcock.
Sound: John Pearson, Alan Gerfardi and Tony Anscome.
Assistant Producer: Claire Goodman.
Personal Assistant: Ruth Vaughan.
Film Editor: Margarette Bendall.
Assistant Film editor: Duncan Harris.
Director: Betty Wolpert.