Mafeking celebrations: Christchurch Photo Hunt 2018

October is Photo Hunt month at Christchurch City Libraries. We invite you to share any of your photos and help grow the city’s photographic archive. All entries must be received by 31 October.

Christchurch City Libraries has produced a set of four postcards promoting the competition which are available from your local library.

Mafeking celebrations. Kete Christchurch. Drayton-031b. Entry in the 2014 Christchurch City Libraries Photo Hunt. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License.

From a photograph album; photographer, Florence Drayton, 1900.

Date: 1900

Entry in the 2014 Christchurch City Libraries Photo Hunt by June E Blank.

About Kete Christchurch

Kete Christchurch is a collection of photographs and stories about Christchurch and Canterbury, past and present. Anyone can join and contribute.

Facing up to the flag

Cover of Compete flags of the worldI once came close to arrest for a flag indiscretion.

It happened in about 1985 in a South African border town on the edge of Lesotho. My husband and I were on one of those languid, childless road trips, with no set agenda, that are so dear to South Africans and New Zealanders alike. We rounded a corner of this town, and there before us was a truly amazing sight: the local Police Station bedecked with several newly laundered South African flags of all sizes – draped over the stone walls, hanging from the trees, laid out to dry on the lawn.

We were astonished on so many levels. We hadn’t even known that flags were ever washed, and we had heard that it was a mark of disrespect for a nation’s flag to come into contact with the ground. This was a South African Police Station in the middle of nowhere – we had to have a photo. We slowed right down and took the snap. We thought we were brilliant; we even conjured up a snappy slogan. We would sell this photo. We would become Rich and Famous.

Instead we were invited in for questioning. Our film was confiscated and our holiday snaps destroyed. We had overlooked that it is an offence in South Africa to photograph a police station.

Cover of One Flag, One Queen, One TongueSo, I harbour strong feelings about flags. What can the library do to  satisfy my flaggy curiosity?

What’s more, this current New Zealand flag debate is not my first flag referendum. Given the tumultuous changes in South Africa with the advent of democracy –  it was obvious that the old flag would have to go. I remember the calls for designs; the anxiety over the loss of historical connections; the thousands of letters to the press. Clearly it would be impossible to please everyone. When the design of the new flag was announced, with lightning quick speed the new (and current SA flag) was denounced as being like a child’s painting of a pair of Jockey Y-front underpants laid on its side. Not such a good look.

Cover of Symbols and their hidden meaningsNow it is a much loved icon of the new South Africa. There may be many profound reasons why this is so, but I believe it is partly because it is such a joy to face paint. The old flag involved a huge expanse of white with three tiny (detailed) little flags slap bang in the middle of the flag. Right where the nose is usually positioned. Quite frankly, it was dead in the water well before the first election.

So I put it to you here – when Flag Referendum time arrives, after you’ve resolved all your other flaggy issues, ask yourself one question:

“Will the flag I choose look good when painted on my face?”

A beautiful place to die

Cover of A Beautiful Place to DieI’ve read a couple of books recently at opposite ends of the reading spectrum – one’s funny and character-driven, and one’s dark and atmospheric. The first you’ve probably heard of already — Jojo Moyes’ The One Plus One (not as sappy as it sounds! If you enjoy Liane Moriarty or Raffaella Barker you’ll love it) — but the second I hadn’t noticed before, although that’s probably due to my reading prejudices. And I wouldn’t have picked it up off the shelf, because look at that cover! What is it with all books set in Africa having the same look, whether romance or mystery?! It’s always a silhouette of a tree against the sky, probably with a sunset, maybe a giraffe. Come on, publishers, up your game.

Cover of African SkiesCover of In Search of AfricaCover of Into the Lion's DenCover of Ivory

I’m not usually much of a crime reader — I definitely veer towards the Dorothy Sayers end of the crime spectrum — but after reading a review of Malla Nunn’s first novel, A Beautiful Place to Die, I was intrigued enough to give it a try. A Beautiful Place to Die kicks off a series of four books (so far), all featuring detective Emmanuel Cooper and all set in 1950s apartheid South Africa.

As has happened to me before, and as could probably be guessed from the title, I’ve fallen in love with the setting. The descriptions of the landscape are so evocative, the tension between such a beautiful country and its ugly laws so captivating, I couldn’t put it down. Even a murder investigation is influenced by apartheid laws in so many ways — Cooper is challenged by his superiors when he investigates white suspects, as upholding the institution of racism is deemed more important than bringing a killer to justice. As might be expected there is a lot of violence simmering beneath the surface.

If you enjoy your crime with a bit of armchair travel and racial politics, this is the book for you! Or if you prefer funny stories about dysfunctional families like The One Plus One, please tell me your favourites in the comments. I’ll need something a bit lighter when I finish Blessed Are the Dead!

RIP Nadine Gordimer, South Africa’s grande dame of literature

Nadine Gordimer, the first South African author to be awarded a Nobel Prize in Literature, has died aged 90.

Cover of The ConservationistAnd what 90 years they were. She was the author of 15 novels, as well as numerous short stories, and essay collections. Her writing garnered her many awards, including the Booker Prize for The Conservationist, and she was praised as a “guerrilla of the imagination” by the poet Seamus Heaney, and a “magnificent epic writer” by the Nobel Prize committee.

She was just as famous for her role as an anti-apartheid activist. She became involved in the ANC (African National Congress) when it was still a banned organisation and she edited Nelson Mandela’s famous I Am Prepared To Die speech, which he gave as a defendant during his 1964 trial. Indeed she was one of the first people Mandela asked to see when he was released from prison in 1990.

Gordimer was also a campaigner in the HIV/AIDS movement and strongly anti-censorship. But, to me, her true passion as a writer is encapsulated in this beautiful quote:

Nothing factual that I write or say will be as truthful as my fiction.


Cover of The Lying Days Cover of No Time Like The Present Cover of Get a Life

A Good Heart – Nelson Mandela

It is with sadness but a certain feeling of inevitability that we heard of Nelson Mandela’s passing. At 95, after months of ill health, media speculation and South African people’s prayers and best wishes, the lawyer, political activist, and the first black president of South Africa gave up his last fight.

A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination – Nelson MandelaCover of Nelson Mandela

Born in Umtata, South Africa in 1918, he spent his life fighting for the people of his country and throughout the world, especially those denied basic human rights and privileges. From the age of 26, when he became president of the Congress Youth League, his political and human rights work continued up until very recently when his ill health forced his withdrawal from public life.

He became leader of the African National Conference (ANC),  in 1961 and was imprisoned as a political prisoner for nearly 27 years. He embodied struggle against government mandated discrimination, and his depth of commitment, courage and determination gave strength to South African blacks and minorities and also hope and encouragement to people around the world concerned with human rights and the basic freedoms of oppressed people worldwide.

For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that enhances the freedom of others –  Nelson Mandela

His tribal name, Rolihlahla, means ‘one who brings trouble upon himself’. This is quite fitting for a man determined not to let his personal comfort, safety and health stand in the way of his beliefs. His second wife Winnie Mandela, (he married three times and had six children), once said of her husband, “He told me to anticipate a life physically without him, that there would never be a normal situation where he would be head of the family.” She said he told her this with great pain.

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world – Nelson Mandela

On August 4, 1962, he was arrested by South African police and charged with organising illegal demonstrations. He was sentenced to five years in prison, but while in prison, he was charged with treason and sabotage and received a life sentence.Cover of Young Mandela

He was offered complete freedom in 1985 in return for his renunciation of violence in the struggle for his people’s freedom, but he refused to do so until the government granted blacks full political rights.

After his release in 1990, he assumed the leadership of the ANC, which was now a legal organisation. He called for a truce in the armed struggle and to open negotiations towards human rights in South Africa. He toured the world, raising funds for his cause and increasing awareness from world leaders and the world as a whole.

South Africa moved towards free and fair elections, and on 12 May 1994, Mandela was elected  President of South Africa. He focused his attention on health, housing, education and economic stability. His government introduced legislation requiring workplace safety, overtime pay and minimum wages.

He retired from office in 1999, but continued to campaign for civil rights. He offered his services as a mediator for peace, and between countries, such as brokering a settlement between Libya and western powers over the Lockerbie Bombings.Find in our library catalogue

He won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Anne Frank Medal for Human Rights and Tolerance, the International Gandhi Peace Prize, and the Ambassador of Conscience award from Amnesty International among many other international accolades.

Christchurch City Libraries has a wealth of books, and access to online databases with information about this great man. He wrote seven books, and  the library has many books on Nelson Mandela,  his life, politics and the times he lived in and had influence over.

If you wish to find some information about him on-line, try our own Source collection of databases, in particular, Biography in Context , or World Book – Online Reference . These are great resources for children doing school projects too.

Do you have memories of Nelson Mandela, or have you been inspired by the man and his beliefs?