The State of the Fresh Fruit Market in South Africa

A Bin of Oranges

While browsing at my local Supermarket some time back, I had a sudden urge to quaff a long draft of delicious, fresh orange juice. I immediately set off in search of a pocket of the best of what South Africa could boast of, in the way of enticing fresh fruit that would burst forth with the taste of orchard fresh nectar !

I used to be a Citrus farmer, and there was nothing nicer than to select, and eat a freshly reaped ripe, juicy orange out of the fruit trailer, just before it was transported to the pack house where it was transformed into an enticing, alluring, shining, carefully waxed, and wrapped example of fruity goodness.

Delicious Oranges on an Orange Tree

As one bit into a segment, the abundant cascade of pure heaven used to fill our mouths with unadulterated tangy thirst-quenching pleasure. I suppose this image has stayed with me, and I thought that I could perhaps get close to repeating the dream.

I noticed pockets of “oranges” lying on a pallet. They contained fruit that had a dull orange color. On closer investigation I noticed that there was a typical metallic sheen to the fruit. The pockets were labeled as having come from Zebedelia Estate in Limpopo Province.

Zebedelia Estates Citrus Grove

The fruit was not fit for pig food. Then I remembered how the Citrus Industry in the Lowveld, with specific reference to oranges, was dealt a death-blow, especially to groves in the higher lying areas. This was caused by a disastrous disease named “greening”, which renders oranges unfit for any consumption whatsoever.

Zededelia Citrus Estate in Earlier Years

I also remembered the sad demise of Zebedelia Estate.

Greening is caused by what is termed a Cytoplasm, (see wikipedia) which renders the fruit useless. This is because the one side of the fruit never develops further than a certain stage, which leaves that one side “green”. A casual look at some fruit will in fact not immediately identify the greening. A sure give away is to squeeze suspect fruit gently; which will produce a typical metallic sheen.

A Lawley Locomotive at Zebedelia Citrus Estate in 1941

If tasted, the fruit is bland, and almost juiceless. Labourers reaping citrus are instructed to drop greened fruit to the ground, where it eventually rots.

Greening disease is a secondary infection that invades the citrus groves through a vector by the name of Citruspsylla, which is a nymph type of creature that innocently imbeds itself into citrus leaves, in shady spots near to windbreaks.

Citruspsylla Damage on Leaves

Until recently growers never realized what sort of death-knell was being rung through this vector in their industry.

The only way to prevent the Citruspsylla spreading too rapidly, is to not plant citrus in high-lying cool areas, but only in areas with a hot sultry climate where Citruspsylla does not easily thrive. It is however wise to practice pest control against Citruspsylla in any event in the warmer areas, to prevent the possible threat of greening in those areas as well.

Greening Diseased Fruit Hanging on an Orange Tree

Once the greening phenomenon presents itself, there is virtually no hope for the trees bearing greened fruit. There were efforts to inject infected trees with anti-biotics at one stage; this was not a solution.

Zebedelia Estates was a magnificent show-piece of a citrus estate. It belonged to the Schlesinger Group in previous years.

From the air it could be seen to stretch for kilometers displaying the neatly trimmed orchard lines of a well planned, organised, and adequately managed enterprise. It was reputed to be the largest private citrus estate in the world at one stage.

Water Storage near Zebedelia Estate

It used to be called “the diamond of agricultural projects,” and in 1978 the Readers’ Digest, in its Illustrated Guide to Southern Africa, wrote: “Nearly 400 million oranges are harvested each year… At the height of the season, about 15000 cases of oranges leave Zebediela every day. The fruit comes from more than 565000 trees irrigated by enough water to supply a city…” (p. 122) The harvest was worth R30 million a year. But after its hand-over to the Agricultural and

Citrus Nursery at Zebedelia Estate

Rural Development Corporation of the ruling ANC Government the estate suffered a loss of R30 million in 2000 and of R35 million in 2001. The press reported that it was “beyond recovery.”

A lemon yield worth R8 million was left to rot because there was no money to pay staff. In March 2001 ABSA Bank stopped all credit and bounced a pension cheque for R56 million. The seller had been only too ready to help the new owners, but their assistance was rejected.

Reaping Citrus in a Citrus Grove

And so this marvellous icon, cash cow, source of foreign exchange, basic food producer, and a showcase of proficient and successful agricultural management, was systematically neglected and then allowed to disintegrate into total and absolute ruin.

Some enterprising hawkers now reap whatever fruits that have had the misfortune to hang on neglected trees, still not cut down for firewood. The fruit is invariably badly infected with diseases like greening. The fruit is then stuffed into orange pockets, and then sell them cheaply to whoever. Unfortunately in this instance, the Law says, “buyer beware”.

Fruit Diseased by Greening

The irony of the whole affair is that the product brazenly displays a Zebedelia label, showing the origin of this abortion !

I tried to find out what the current policy was as far as the quality of local fruit was concerned; in earlier years it was illegal for anyone to sell fruit locally of any kind that did not conform to export internal quality standards.

Half Developed Fruit with Greening Disease

I was referred from pillar to post between officials from various bodies, private and otherwise, involved with guidelines for the quality and sale of fruit.

I was eventually told that only export fruit with required standards was controlled, and that the bodies involved with the regulation of local fruit quality in the old days no longer existed, and that local fruit was no longer controlled for quality. Furthermore it was impossible to monitor the myriads of people selling fruit anyhow.

Various Stages of growth of Citruspsylla

In other words, one is virtually at the mercy of unscrupulous operators who certainly don’t care a hoot about the sale of quality healthy fruit. What about those shoppers who are not in any position to make trips to other places, where they may have a choice of purchase? I suppose that one could surmise that if one doesn’t really want to deliver this kind of service – well, so what – anyhow!

Someone I know whom has recently relocated to Qatar in the Persian Gulf says that excellent quality fruit from the different countries in the world is abundantly available, with fruit from South Africa of better quality than she ever saw even in the supermarkets in the Cape where she was before.

Oranges for Sale in a Foreign Country Supermarket

I wonder what we South Africans did wrong to have to be saddled with our poor quality, or should I ask why vendors that have a duty to showcase the best that we have, with pride, and commitment to service, and the protection of their and our good name, cannot (or refuse to), rise to the occasion.

I do still wish I could make my dream come true.


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Personalities of Graskop. Part 3: Ian Whyte PhD, SAN Parks Scientist Extrordinaire


Ian Whyte PhD.

Dr Ian J Whyte, Kruger’s experienced elephant specialist is a confident and accomplished scientist but if it wasn’t for a rather sedate sport, his career path could have been very different. Born in 1947 in Vereeniging, and an underachiever (by his own admission) at school in Joahannesburg the young Ian had to retake his Matriculation exam and failed to reach the required level needed for University.

Ian started his career in1970 as Technical Assistant with the Dept. of Agricultural Technical Services and proceeded to advance in the research field to the position of Program Manager.


Students with Game Capture Crew

When his parents retired to White River Ian joined them shortly afterwards and took a job in an orange juice canning factory. In his spare time he was a keen cricket player. While partaking in a match at Skukuza one day, he struck up a friendship with one of the Kruger game capture crew.

When a vacancy for a Technical Assistant came up in the Park sometime later, the cricketing bond meant Ian was recommended for the job.


Magnificent Tusker named Mashagadsi photographed by Ian Whyte

Ian had always been interested in wildlife; devouring his father’s collection of books and enjoying time spent on his brother’s farm. Joining Kruger in 1970, he spent over three years assisting on the lion census. Spending every night moving from pride to pride, capturing and studying lions, was the fulfillment of one of his boyhood dreams. The other was to come later.


Masthulele photographed by Ian Whyte

Catching up on his education while working, Ian took a Certificate of Field Ecology at the University of Rhodesia and completed his Masters on the predator/prey relationship between lions and wildebeest at the University of Natal. By now responsible for Kruger’s lion studies, he offered to ‘swap’ jobs, for the rather less glamorous sounding buffalo post, when an experienced colleague from the Kalahari moved to Kruger.

Dr. Anthony Hall-Martin

There are many parallels between the study of buffalo and elephant so, when Kruger’s famed elephant scientist Anthony Hall-Martin moved on to Pretoria, it seemed sensible for Ian to combine his work on both animals.

A further resume of Ian’s work:
Large Herbivores: Kruger National Park, from which he retired in July 1997. His many talents did not stop there and as a pilot he became involved in annual fixed wing census in the Kruger National Park. As an avid birder, he has acted as Ornithologist in the Kruger National Park between 1985 and 1998 (Co-ordination of ornithological research and other projects – translocation of Redbilled Oxpeckers etc.).

Chopper Standing by for Work

He has had many other noteworthy influences on conservation such as co-authoring a book on the birds of the Kruger National Park. He has also been the sole or senior author of 16 scientific publications and co-author of 15 others, senior author of seven chapters in technical books, plus two as co-author. He authored 38 Scientific Reports to South African National Parks, and 28 articles in popular journals. Ian completed his Ph.D at the University of Pretoria with a thesis titled

Fixed Wing for Game Census

“The Conservation Management of Elephants in the Kruger National Park.” His thesis bears none of the hallmarks of obscure, highly-specialised, abstract science. Instead it is a broad, readable account of the myriad factors that need to be considered when managing elephant populations in the confined area of Kruger National Park. As an acknowledgement of Ian’s work in Kruger, his colleagues recently motivated that one of Kruger’s impressive big tuskers be named after him. Living up to Ian’s Tsonga name, Masthulele, which means ‘the quiet one’, has only been photographed twice; both times by Ian on the annual elephant census. Despite falling into his 35 year career with Kruger by accident, Ian has been bowled over by the experience.

Ian retired recently after 37 years dedicated service to the Kruger National Park. He is married to Merle (née Retief) and has two children, Lorna (40) and Neil (39), who followed his father’s example in the conservation industry. Ian and Merle currently have five grandchildren.

The Whytes relocated to the quiet quaint village of Graskop some time back where Ian is now involved with the Graskop Grasslands Conservancy.

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Personalities of Graskop. Part 2: Louis Audie, one of South Africa’s Accomplished Artists Relocates to Graskop

Louis Audie
Accomplished Fine Artist

Louis Audie

South African based Artist Louis Audie believes that he has brought the African Sunlight into many homes, corporate offices and the boardrooms of many people with his landscapes and wildlife paintings, which are realistic but with a touch of impressionism.

Louis Audie was born in 1935 and has been painting for the past thirty years. He taught himself to paint using whatever materials he could lay his hands on and through constant effort and practice he has developed his own technique and is today known as an expert in fine art oil painting of landscapes and seascapes in the modern South Africa.

Near Graskop

His usual medium is oils, and more recently acrylics and mixed media. Among his many mentors are; W. H. Coetzer, Gerrie Snyman, and Thornley Stewart. Jointly they’ve had a powerful influence on Louis’ art life.

Being a strong believer, his secret to success has been to unlock the hidden treasures and atmosphere buried deep in the natural beauty that his Maker has chosen to reveal to him through his patient, dedicated and persistent efforts.

Sea Scape by Louis Audie

His special passion has always been to paint the abundant, vast and wide open spaces of the Karoo. The Escarpment with its mists, contrasts and dramatic scenery presents another challenge to his abilities.

Louis has been an inspiration to many others of South Africa’s renowned, successful fine artists. A number have absorbed much of his influence which is sometimes quite obvious in their work, but which has helped them to develop their own brand of expression.

Little Karoo Scene

After deciding that they could’nt handle the pressures of Johannesburg and Gauteng for another moment, Louis and his wife Sandra have recently relocated to the quiet, and charming village of Graskop to be near beautiful scenery that motivates him to express himself.

Louis continues to paint for exhibitions all over South Africa.

Far North

He displayed his work as usual at the Art in the Park exhibition in Pietermaritzburg and is building up a portfolio for the Innibos Country Festival at Nelspruit this year.

In the meantime his other passion is to demonstrate his painting techniques to groups. Teaching art the easy way is his motto with DVD’s., with a wide distribution.

Far North Elephant

He presents a lifetime opportunity for the residents of Graskop and surrounding areas to take lessons from him or purchase one of the DVDs he has produced on his interpretation of how to mix and apply colours.

Visit the Knotty Nook Gallery of Fine Art in Sabie to view his work.

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Personalities of Graskop. Part 1: James Stroud, Artist. A Success Story in Fine Art

James Stroud Artist

James Stroud
Sculptures in paint

There is nothing meek or ambiguous about a charging elephant especially when the tusker in question appears to be lunging off a canvas from South African painter James Stroud. His vivid wildlife portraits are so different from the flat surfaces of most sporting art they could be described as sculptures of paint. A topo map is almost required to navigate through his sense canyons of texture and rivers of color.

James' Work Bench

And it is no exaggeration to say that Stroud, who made a hugely successful debut in North America at Safari Club International’s 2007 convention, takes an elbow deep approach to laying down oil. Whether he is pushing paint thickly with a palette knife or using other tools including his hands to achieve distinctive visual effects such as portraying dust on a Cape Buffalo, the spots on a leopard’s coat or the flowing mane of a lion. Stroud has won praise from collectors for making his subjects actually look – and feel – true to life.

Giraffes in Reflection

“It excites me that someone is able to look at the animal image and be seduced by it, and then be able to look more closely at the paint itself and understand the actual physiology of the illusion,” Stroud says. Still, the dilemma for contemporary nature painters Stroud explains, lies with deciding how to celebrate the environment and iconic African species without falling into the trap of confirming old visual clichés . “I see my work as an attempt to both affirm the natural beauty of the visual world and at the same time to dissect the assumptions that we have about what great art is supposed to be.”

Elephants in Oils by Palette Knife

A South African native, he grew up on a timber plantation in eastern Mpumalanga on the wild edge of Kruger Park. On a primal level, he had a front row seat to predators and prey. Mpumalanga was a crossroads for international hunters and photographers. Sketching both people and animals, Stroud went to a rural school where Afrikaans was the first language and English the second

Warthogs in Oils by Palette Knife

However, the most important aspect of Stroud’s work is the uniqueness and originality of the style and medium. Often referred to as the LeRoy Neiman of wildlife art, he has taken his work further creating sculptural paintings in more true-to-life light and color.

James was born in 1970 in the Eastern Transvaal town of Graskop.  It was at a very young age that he became aware of his artistic talent, and thus chose art as a subject at school until matric (1987).

Still Life Oils and Brush

In 1990 he graduated from Natal University with a BA in Fine Art and History of Art as subjects.  He undertook various inspirational gallery tours to London and Edinburgh in 1991, to New York and Rome in 1993 and to Egypt in 1995.  Stroud started his profession doing mainly ceramics and in 1994 he started painting seriously.

A year later he was privileged to be selected by the Pretoria Art Museum to exhibit as an up and coming artists.  The biggest banking group in Africa, ABSA, acquired of his works for their collections.

Flowers in Oils by Palette Knife

James Stroud is an outdoor person and has developed an unique eye for nature and in parallel with this, he has a real quest to place his interpretation of what he sees on canvas.  His landscapes and animal studies with the distinctive broad Stroud strokes extrude the creative energy of his artistic passion.  Stroud is inspiring, his art is an experience.

Lioness in Oils by Palette Knife

Unfortunately, James Stroud’s work is  virtually unobtainable in South Africa today. He supplies and is represented by a number of prestigious galleries in the USA. he sells almost exclusively abroad.

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A Swing-Bridge Saga near the Potholes

“During the school holidays, my partner Willie Roodt took his family on a tour in his Kombi, near to the Blyde Canyon area where we were gold panning. The team of workers and I took a day off from work. We left at ‘sparrow’ and followed the eroded track, which took us to the Bourke’s Potholes and the old suspension bridge over the gorge.

Entrance to the Swing Bridge near Bourke's Luck

This famous suspension bridge consisted of two ancient rusty horizontally placed cables, connected with old planks, some of which were completely missing and some broken. A third rusty cable was suspended vertically above the right-hand cable, which was connected to the lower cable with the oddly spaced vertical rusty wire.

This whole contraption swayed ominously in the wind blowing up the gorge. On the other side, were Willie and his family, with the weekly rations. He knew about my fear of heights, and was waving a bottle of brandy in the air to encourage me to cross the bridge.

Update of the Original Swing Bridge

I called for volunteers to fetch the rations and other items, but after looking at the frightening construction and then down into the rocky depths of the gorge, my gang suddenly became deaf mutes, and no amount of badgering and pleading would change their minds. Even the local miner who wanted his money and who had probably crossed before, would not venture over. He told me afterwards that his money would have been of no use to him if he were lying dead on the rocks, (a good point), but life is a challenge and the thought of Willie disappearing with my brandy, was just too much, so I ‘bit the bullet’.

I was determined not to look down, but to concentrate on the planks ahead of the guide cable and me. I slowly inched along, testing each plank before putting my weight on it. Halfway across,  just when I was beginning to gain confidence, a plank gave way with a loud crack. My leg went through the opening and I came down on my butt. Luckily the plank held my weight.

The Swing Bridge from a Distance

I sat on the swaying bridge, frozen stiff with fear, and clinging onto the guide cable for dear life, unable to move. The murmur of voices from my gang went suddenly deathly quiet. Knowing that I could expect no help from them, I just sat with my eyes closed tight. I didn’t want to look across to the other side, and I couldn’t even pray. The bridge started swaying again.

I glanced up and saw Willie approaching very, very slowly. He was also testing the planks. Eventually, I heard him say, “Here boet, drink this and you’ll be OK “

Enamel Mug

I opened my eyes to see him holding an enamel mug two thirds full of brandy in his huge hand. I grabbed the mug and gulped the contents down with expert ease. Willie took the mug and turned to return. It took a few minutes for the numbing glow to seep through my body to my brain.

Willie had not reached the other side before I was up and going, and we reached the other side simultaneously with cheers from Willie’s family, as well as two tourists who by this time, I suppose, had heard exactly how he had rescued me.

After brunch, a chat and one for the gorge and with my haversack on my back, I was ready to return, but not over that bridge.

Labourers Working a Claim

By that time, my gang had arrived by going through the river upstream of the gorge, on an easier but much longer route.

The only item of interest on our hike back was a pair of mountain reed buck that flashed their fluffy white tails at us as they cantered away.”

Another snippet gleaned from “Mgolomben” by Gordon Robertson.


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…..That’s Where he Struck it Lucky !

Typical Bourke's Luck Vicinity

There was an aged prospector named John Bourke. He tried his luck by prospecting in the Pilgrim’s and Blyde Canyon areas for a long time – but with very little success.

He eventually landed up at the point where Bourke’s Luck Potholes are today, where he fossicked about applying his trade looking for gold.

In the gulley where he was digging, he had to climb over a massive jutting rock to get to his claim. This irritated him no end.

Other Inhabitants at Bourke's Luck

Eventually he realised that he wasn’t having much luck there either, and he decided to pack up his meagre belongings and move on.

He further decided that he was going to destroy the rock that had been the cause of so much irritation for such a long time. He instructed his helper to bring him enough dynamite to blow the rock to pieces. Having strategically placed the charge he made his exit across the swing bridge.

Fallen Rocks at Bourke's Luck

On his way out after a massive explosion his able bodied servant ran after him shouting that the explosion had revealed an enormous deposit of nuggets beneath the “Rock of Nuisance”.

He was both amazed and absolutely thrilled.

He apparently wrote a friend and informed him that he no longer needed to endure a life of “prospector’s hit and miss”, as he had found a pot of gold at the end of his rainbow.

He is reputed to have teamed up with Walter Magley and Sir Abe Bailey in their gold mining industry exploits proper.

The Potholes

The John Bourke Building in Andries Street in Pretoria bears his name.

Sir Abe Bailey


From various sources

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Some Aspects of African Silks

The first time I heard of African Silk, was from a man by the name of Ian Cumming.

His hair was drawn back into a well groomed sumptuous pony tail and he was obviously a Colonial expat. He spoke with the warm laid-back drawl of Colonial accented English, and he was dressed in a natty but beautifully cut two-piece suit with waistcoat.

Silk Vendor in a Shop in Madagascar

The cloth was coarse looking with a rough surface, in a variety of mixed beige and brown colours interwoven almost like tweed, but light, delicate and soft to the touch; uniquely unusual to say the least. On enquiry about the suit cloth, I was informed that it was Indigenous Madagascan Silk.

This type of Indigenous Madagascan silk cloth was originally worn first as a garment, and then used as a burial shroud. In fact, Cumming had at one time bought up a sizable parcel of cloth, which he sold in London for a substantial sum.

Originally a well kept secret, silk has been spun in China since before the Mulberry Moth was used as a domestic animal. Cocoons have been collected in nature from as far back as 4500 years ago. Their secret was jealously guarded from outsiders until 3000 years later. Silk cloth was highly valued because of its beauty.

However it was not only used for making fine and beautiful clothes, and banners, but also for document blotting pads. More than 200 different characters in the Chinese Alphabet have a connection to sericulture, mulberry or silk.

The Koreans learned to cultivate silk larvae and cocoons in the 200’s AD and the Japanese and Indians 100 years later.

Mulberry Silk Worm Cocoons

Silkworm Mulberry Leaf Feeding Troughs

In Africa there seems to be no indigenous mulberry species, except maybe in Madagascar, and sericulture using domesticated mulberry based silk moths has taken place in Madagascar and South Africa only since the 18th Century. The worm, which consumes mulberry or other leaves, is utilized in this process.

These worms were introduced to the Cape Colony of South Africa, by the Dutch East India Company in 1726, where sufficient mulberry trees and slave labour were available. This indicates that some of the local mulberry varieties must already have been present in the 1600’s. These were introduced from Indonesia by Dutch traders  – together with exotic varieties from Thailand and Taiwan.

Spinner in Graskop

After grading and cleaning for impurities, the pupae are killed by heating in an oven, and then the cocoons are placed in very hot water, whereby the silk glue (sericin), which keeps the silk together in the cocoon, is partly dissolved. The loose outer layer of the cocoons is removed with a brush. Only then will one be able to reach the end of the coherent cocoon thread – the raw silk.

The silk is reeled off the cocoons by a reeling machine. Silk from at least 7 cocoons are reeled together into one thread, as the single silken thread from one cocoon is too thin for further manufacture. The reeling machine, maybe of a simple hand-driven design, to be used under conditions of no power. More sophisticated designs exist. The reeled twisted threads are then gathered into bundles.

Handmade Spinning Loom

Before these silken threads are ready for weaving on looms, they have to pass through a number of processes;

  1. The silk glue is removed by heating in oily water.
  2. The dried bundles are placed on swifts, where the thread is smoothed of knots before it is transferred to pulleys. This is done, by letting the thread pass through the eye of a needle. If the knot is too large to pass through the eye, it will break, and then must be rejoined by twisting the ends together by fingers.
  3. The spinning process is then begun on spinning machines, where the un-broken threads are spun together according to whatever need.
  4. Before the threads are ready to be used in the weaving process however, they have to be twisted into a thread, that is both strong as well as elastic. This twisting takes place in the opposite direction, but is not as difficult as the first twisting.
  5. The finished silk thread is finally transferred to pulleys and then further to the shuttle of the loom.

Japanese Matawa Silk Plates

Adult pupae are occasionally allowed to emerge alive from cocoons, which are then split from one end and the silk spread easily across a square piece of wood with nails in each corner. This process results in what is called in Japanese – Matawa.

Feathery duvets with inners of silken plates drawn out of the cocoons, using this Matawa method, are also produced from mulberry silk in South Africa. Europe has a massive market for these products, which is being met by imports from China.

Feathery duvets with inners of silken plates drawn out of the cocoons, using this Matawa method are also produced from mulberry silk in South Africa. Europe has a massive market for these products, which is being met by imports from China.

The waste silk from the inner part of the

Spinner in Graskop


Japanese Silk Curtains

cocoons is used for cheaper blouses, shirts, and curtain fabrics. It is also used for blending in with cotton, wool or flax. There is an increasing demand for silk blends and knitted silk. This silk is utilized in numerous other ways for many different products.

Wild Silkmoth Cocoons

There are also other silkmoths besides the Mulberry silkmoths which spin silk threads. They belong to three families of moths, Saturnidae, Notodontiae, Lasiocampidae, and one family of butterflies, Pieridae.

Saturniidae Cocoon

Saturnidae includes some of the largest species of moths found.

The wild silkmoths live on leaves of mainly deciduous trees in Africa, Latin America, Europe, and Asia where people through the millennia have used the silk from cocoons.

The tribal people of India and other South East Asian countries  have taken care of wild silkmoths of the genus Antheraea for as long as 2000 years. This takes place in forest areas, where larvae feed on the leaves of Oak trees, and other deciduous trees. In Africa’s more arid regions such as in the Eastern and Southern parts, the larvae of Gonometa postica feed on the leaves of several Acacia and other tree species.

Gonometa Postica Food

Cocoons from several of the wild silk species are covered with urticating hairs which may irritate the skin when collected; for instance from Anaphe and Borocera. The collectors may have to wear protective masks and gloves to prevent inflammation. More seriously, the intestinal tract of livestock can be seriously damaged if animals ingest the cocoons. Serious costly surgery has had to be undertaken to save animals in South Africa,

Two varieties, although reasonably scarce, due to uncertain supplies, because of  fluctuating weather conditions, are exploited in South Africa; Gonameta Postica (host plant Acacia Tree) and Gonameta Rifobrinnae (host plant Mopani Tree).

Mopani Leaves

The quality of this silk is so high that it attracts the attention and interest of both local and foreign tourists in South Africa.

The adults of wild silkmoths are allowed to emerge from the cocoons. There are different ways of obtaining silk threads from wild cocoons, which are generally much harder than cocoons from the mulberry silkmoth.

In Burkina Faso, the wild cocoons are opened and then the silk mass placed into water with potash for a whole month before it is boiled in oily water.

Mopane Moth Cocoon

The cocoons of the Mopane silkmoth in South Africa must go through a kind of fermentation process after being placed in hessian bags, and then buried in the soil for 3 weeks, before they are soft enough to be opened.

In South Africa and Botswana the pupae of the wild silkmoths are also collected as a gastronomic delicacy.

The silk mass has to be carded before it can be spun into yarns like cotton and wool. The spinning may be done with a hand spindle or on simple spinning machines.

Body Care Range

The Products are enriched with the Biopolymer Sericin during the spinning procedure.

Africa Silks Body Lotion

This principle, designed by Mother Nature and employed for ages is now being copied and perfected to provide an innovative ingredient for the Silk Africa Body Care Range.

Silk softly caresses the skin, gently soothing it and creating a feeling of luxury. The range combines the latest technologies with the best that the natural world has to offer. Synthetic fragrances and colourants are excluded.

Naturally produced Sericin is the main active ingredient used in these products. It is the protein that binds silk fibres together when cocoons are produced, and is extracted and purified under strict GMP procedures for use in the range.

Body Care Lotion

As the Sericin binds the fibres of the cocoon together, to protect the vulnerable creature inside, so these products were formulated to protect delicate and vulnerable skin, being our only defence against a polluted world.

The skin being the largest organ, and our final barrier against environmental factors, it stands to reason that we should take as much care of it as possible.

As the Sericin binds the fibres of the cocoon together, to protect the vulnerable creature inside, so these products were formulated to protect delicate and vulnerable skin, being our only defence against a polluted world.

Alpine Silk Body Lotions

The skin being our bodies’ largest organ, and our final barrier against environmental factors, it stands to reason that we should take as much care of it as possible.

Sericin has a high affinity to the Keratin present in the skin and hair, creating a MOISTURING, SEMI OCCLUSIVE, MULTI-PROTECTIVE ANTI-WRINKLE FILM, that imparts an immediate and long lasting silky-smooth feeling. The uniform film formed after the application persists even after washing.

African Ways of Silk – Ole Zethner/Suresh Kumar Raina 2008
African Textiles – John Picton/John Mack ISBN 0-7141-1595-9 1999
The Art of the Loom – Ann Hecht ISBN 0-7141-2553-9 1989

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A Short Biography of Abel Erasmus

Abel Erasmus

ERASMUS Jacobus Abel: Born in Weenen, Natal, on 8 February 1845 to the voortrekker family of Jacobus Johannes Petrus Erasmus and his wife, Maria Margaredia Cadierina (nee Jordaan). His father died shortly after his birth and his mother decided to trek with a party led by Commandant General A.H. Potgieter and settled at Ohrigstad in the eastern Transvaal where she later remarried to J. de Klerk. Abel Erasmus worked on the family property until he was 19 years old when he married Gertruida Kruger. By then he was a man experienced in farming and familiar with survival and hunting in the Lowveld.

The young couple moved to Krugerspos where Erasmus earned the respect of both whites and blacks for his approach to farming and for his hunting prowess. He acquired an option on die farm ‘Geelhoutboom’ (which was later renamed ‘Macmac’ by President Burgers).

President Burgers

When gold was discovered the value of the property escalated and he sold his option at a big profit. Gold was also found on a farm he owned at Graskop which he sold to President Burgers for £1000, an enormous sum at that time. In February 1876 at the age of 31 years, and now quite wealthy, he was elected to serve on the Lydenburg Council.

Chief Sekukhuni of the Pedi tribe was becoming troublesome and, in 1876, Veldkornet Henry De Villiers gave warning that a strong Pedi “Impi” was heading towards their area. A laager was quickly formed around a store wherein the Boers took refuge. The initial stages of the defence were not well handled and Veldkornet De Villiers was forced to hand command over to Abel Erasmus who was temporarily appointed Veldkornet in his place.

Chief Sekukhuni

The laager, which contained only 33 white men and 25 blacks, was attacked by a 5000 strong “Impi”. The defenders managed to hold off the Pedi warriors who retired, making off with 2000 head of cattle belonging to the Boers. A further attack was made against Erasmus by one of Sekukhuni’s indunas who was supported by a Swazi “Impi” of 5000 warriors led by the chief, Matsafeni Mdhluli.

Erasmus was officially appointed Veldkornet and led a commando to the Blyde river valley to recover their cattle. Burgers attacked Sekukhuni’s mountain stronghold but, due to dissention amongst the Boers over his leadership, he was forced to withdraw and ultimately to abandon the campaign.

Pedi Warriors

Fortunately, a peace agreement was arranged by a missionary but the debacle was one of the factors which led to the British taking over the administration of  the Transvaal in 1877. The British brought the Pedi under control and finally, in 1879, had their chief, Sekukhuni, imprisoned in Pretoria and fined him 2000 head of cattle.

While being held in detention the Pedi chief made accusations against Abel Erasmus which the British believed. They took Erasmus into custody but he was later released without being charged. Following the First Anglo-Boer War of 1881 the victorious Boers released Sekukhuni who was promptly murdered by his half-brother.

Selati Line

The new Boer government appointed Abel Erasmus as Native Commissioner for the Lydenburg district and with his invaluable knowledge of the natives and their languages he acted as guide and interpreter for many government expeditions such as those which estab­lished the borders between the South African Republic (Transvaal), Portuguese East Africa and Swaziland. In 1892 he was able to mobilize 3000 native workers to construct the Eastern railway line between Komatipoort and Nelspruit. He was well respected by the blacks and put much effort into countering gun smuggling and the arming of the natives.

He was an outstanding hunter and was known by the blacks as ‘DUBULA DUZE’ (he who shoots from close up). He became concerned about the diminishing wildlife in the Lowveld and in November 1880 he made a submission to government calling for the establishment of a game reserve between the Crocodile and the Sabie rivers. His request was initially unsuccessful.

Brown Cattle with Yellow Muzzles

Erasmus purchased the farm ‘Orinoco’ and there he developed a unique herd of prize cattle which were uniformly brown in colour with yellow muzzles.

During the 1890s Erasmus was approached, in his role as Native Commissioner, by a Shangaan chief, Mpisane Nxumalo, for permission to settle his tribe in the Transvaal Lowveld. These people were living in Portuguese East Africa where conditions had become unsettled due to wars and disruption. In 1896 they were settled on ‘Orinoco’ and ‘New Forest’.

Erasmus on Commando

When the war broke out in 1899 Erasmus, with his commando, was sent to the Natal front.

In 1901 Steinaecker’s Horse built a fort (Fort Mpisane) on the farm, ‘New Forest’, which abutted the eastern boundary of Erasmus’ property, ‘Orinoco’.

A patrol from the outpost at Sabie Bridge ‘rustled’ his prize herd of brown cattle on ‘Orinoco’ and drove them back to Sabie Bridge. However the Fort Mpisane garrison did not appear to have much, if any, involvement in the affair.

Gen. Ben Viljoen

When Erasmus discovered that his herd had gone missing he was furious. He approached the Boer General, Ben Viljoen, (who maintained that the Mpisane garrison was nothing more than a nest of troublemakers and scoundrels). He requested that Fort Mpisane be attacked and the menace removed.

The attack occurred on 7 August 1901 and the Boers were victorious in the engage­ment although Commandant Piet Moll was severely wounded, having had his jaw shot off.

Commando that attacked Fort Mpisane








Gleaned from various sources
including “Steinaecker’s Horsemen” by Bill Woolmore

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Dramatic Contrasts in Blyde Canyon

Heavy Clouds

One beautiful sunny midmorning on the berg, at the head of Blyde Canyon, after the sky had darkened over, and turned an ominous grey, a huge cloud started developing in the south. The cool southerly breeze grew stronger, and by mid-afternoon the dark cloud was nearly overhead. Suddenly a frighteningly violent electrical storm broke all around us. We fell flat, hands over ears and faces, being intimidated and petrified by the sudden viciously marvellous flashing tongues of lightning, during incessant, deafeningly, terrifying bursts of angry thunder.

Lightning over the Berg

It reminded me of my sister’s sermons on the awful wrath of the Good Lord ! The smell of fire and brimstone was definitely in the air that day.

The storm eventually passed over us, leaving us soaked and cold, but so grateful to still be alive ! The others were quiet that afternoon on the way back to camp.

Lowveld Cloud Cover

The next morning we awoke to a soft, drizzly, foggy day. We made our way up the kranz in dense mist. I stopped for a breather near Pirow’s cairn at the top, out of the mist, and turned to look back towards the east.

Cloud Blanket

Fluffy Cloud Cover

The usual expansive Lowveld vista at our feet that spreads as far as the mountains of Mozambique, was totally covered in a fluffy, thick blanket of dazzlingly white cloud, in the brightly shining sun.

Oswald Pirow's Grave and Cairn

Sitting on a nearby rock and viewing this magnificent spectacle, all I could think of was how infinitely insignificant I was, in the midst of such dramatic contrasts.

I was awe inspired, and most certainly very humbled.

A Snippet from “Mgolomben” by Gordon Robertson

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