Blog Index Historian visits Shamwari for cultural experience

Basil demonstrating the weaponry that played such a pivotal role for the early pioneers.

Basil demonstrating the weaponry that played such a pivotal role for the early pioneers.

Willing participants and costumes helped bring to life the roles of people in the early colonisation South Africa, and to the legacy that they collectively left behind.

Willing participants and costumes helped bring to life the roles of people in the early colonisation South Africa, and to the legacy that they collectively left behind.

Basil and a Zulu Warrior!

Basil and a Zulu Warrior!

Normally the thought of a “local historian” conjures up an image of a bespectacled museum curator who would look and probably feel out of place when taken away from a dusty old library, but when Basil first arrived we knew we were in for something special...

Arriving with a variety of spears, costumes and fossils that instantly had us interested, Basil quickly took centre stage and began to tell us about his own colourful background and that of the local area, the two stories often intertwining as his tales of travel and discovery unfold. Starting from millions of years ago we were introduced to fossil relics of the past and to more recent artefacts left behind by stone-age humans. This was no simple “show and tell” but a real hands-on experience and we all had the opportunity to examine fossils and stone tools as they were passed around.

As the historical account moved to more recent times we were encouraged to participate as “volunteers” to help illustrate the people of South Africa and their origins and roles in the early communities.

First came our Chief who was duly kitted out with suitable clothing, but then came the dangerous task of choosing a wife. Trying desperately not to offend / embarrass anyone a wife or “wench” was chosen and so began an enthralling tale of immigration and conflict in South Africa taking us up to the present day. We had army, pirates, captains, mistresses and a whole host of other characters all brought to life by willing participants and costumes. But this wasn’t all just an excuse for dressing up, each character was described, paying particular attention to their origin, their role in the early colonisation South Africa and to the legacy that they collectively left behind.

Basil doesn’t shy away from theatrics and has the ability to keep an audience captivated as the history of the area is told in an almost story-like manner, but all too soon our time together was over, and in true Basil style, we ended with a bang, a really loud bang in fact, as the weaponry that played such a pivotal role for the early pioneers was demonstrated.

I can understand why Basil has such a love for the Country, he knows the history, he knows the landscape, he knows the people ... he is not just passing through; he is a part of South Africa that that we hope to meet again.



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