The decoration of ostrich eggs, along with rock art, is among humankind’s earliest surviving art forms. The oldest so far discovered examples come from our region and date back some 60,000 years ago.
While ostriches are indigenous to Africa and (until their extinction in modern times) the Middle East; their decorated shells were much sought after in Europe by the 16th century BC (below). Some examples across time:
A) Reproduction of a decorated water carrier -Stone Age Southern Africa, c. 60,000 BC
B) Decorated Ostrich Eggs from Egypt, 7-4000 BC.
C) Minoan, Bronze Age Greece, c. 1600 BC.
D) Etruscan, Italy c. 700 BC.
E) Punic (Carthage civilization), from Spain c. 500 BC.
F) Namibia, 19th century, currently at the British Museum
G) Traditional Khoisan (Basarwa) designs, Botswana, 20th century.
H) Modern curio common to our region.
I) Multi-coloured shards of decorated ostrich eggs from Diepkloof Rock Shelter in Western Cape, c. 60,000 BC.
One of our Republic’s surviving founders – Archibald Mooketsa Mogwe – recently celebrated his 99th birthday. A top local civil servant at independence, Mogwe went on to make his mark as a government minister and international statesman.
Born Macheng-o-o-Moswaana near Kanye, to a notable Mongwaketse family of early LMS (UCCSA) converts, like his father and grandfather, the Hon. Mogwe was educated at Tiger Kloof, where he was a star pupil.
Prior to that he had schooled in Molepolole, Macheng and Kanye.
In 1944 he became a teacher at Kanye, subsequently spending a decade as boarding master of Modderpoort School in the Free State as well as Tigerkloof. Upon his return to Bechuanaland Protectorate in late 1950s, he served as an education officer. In the last months of British overrule he was one of only two Batswana promoted to senior
(super-scale) civil service positions. In 1967, he was appointed bySir Seretse Khama as his Permanent Secretary and Secretary to Cabinet.
Mogwe entered politics in 1974 as specially elected MP. He subsequently won a seat in the Southern District, which he held until 1994. As an MP he was appointed as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, a post he held until 1985 when he was appointed as the Minister of Mineral Resources and Water Affairs, which he led until 1994.
On leaving politics, Mogwe was appointed as Botswana’s ambassador to the United States of America, where he served from 1995 to 1999. In retirement he has been an active farmer and worked closely with Sir Ketumile Masire during the brokering of the Congolese Peace Process in 2000-2003.
At a Presidential ceremony held in his honour last year, Mogwe observed that: “Those of us who worked towards the independence of our country could not have been absolutely certain about what independence would actually mean for us. What we knew was that we wanted to be counted amongst the nations of the world. This we achieved,”
Honourable Mogwe has been awarded Member of the British Empire (MBE) in 1965, Presidential Honour of Meritorious Service in 1971, Presidential Honour in 1974 and Golden Jubilee Award in 2016.
The first crossing of Africa by motor vehicle was successfully completed on May 1, 1909 when First Lieutenant Paul Graetz (24/7/1875 – 16/2/1968) and his team arrived in Swakopmund having left Dar es Salaam on August 10, 1907.
At a time when “Horseless Carriages” were still being dismissed as rich man’s toys many thought Graetz was mad to attempt his journey, one newspaper observing that he might as well drive to the moon.
The over 9,500 kilometre journey included a drive across the then Bechuanaland Protectorate, beginning in Palapye on January 10, 1909 and ending at the modern Namibia border in the vicinity of Charles Hill on March 13, 1909.
At Palapye Graetz was joined by an Australian named Henry Gould. This was after Graetz’s previous four German co-drivers had dropped out. The third member of the crew was also a local African named Wilhelm. The team set out along a route that took them through Serowe (where they were greeted by Kgosi Khama III), Khumaga, Rakops and Ghanzi.
Although the trip across Botswana began with torrential rains by the time the trio reached the Ghanzi farms they had come close to perishing of thirst; Gould in a delusional state having nearly killed himself sipping petrol.
Having set off from Palapye with 800 liters on petrol and 100 liters of oil on board, they found that the additional fuel at their designated Ghanzi region depot had not been sealed properly causing it to have evaporated. This resulted in the car being pulled by oxen into Ghanzi police post, after being rescued by a local farmer.
As reflected in the photo of the team’s departure from Palapye, Graetz is also distinguished for his experimentation with early colour photography. At the end of 1908 Graetz had found himself broke in Johannesburg, but managed to raise money to complete the journey through lectures featuring his groundbreaking colour images of the African interior. He would subsequently film his second, 1911-12, expedition across Africa by motorboat.
Upon completing his journey, Graetz was congratulated by the German Kaiser Wilhelm II and the British King Edward VII. The Kaiser subsequently greeted him in Hamburg when he and his car had returned to Germany.
Until his death Stanley Mervyn Lester (c.1918-1967) was a leading Lobatse based business man. His store, “Lester Brothers”, specialized in building supplies. As such it was well positioned to prosper from the pre-independence construction boom in South-Eastern Botswana centered around the development of Gaborone.
Lester is, however, remembered as much for his flamboyance as business acumen. From the late 1950s he turned his comfortable farm, which for some time boasted the only swimming pool in the area as well as a tennis court, in to a holding centre for lions, cheetah and leopards.
Although kept behind a high fence the big cats were often allowed to run freely around the household, there seemingly benign interactions with members of the Lester household becoming the subject of amazement on the part of visitors, including members of the press. An October 1962 Reuters newsreel is posted online as part of the film library at www.britishpathe.com, which features leopards inspecting the family refrigerator and joining the younger Lesters during a tennis match.
Heads would also often turn when Mr. Lester drove around Lobatse in his red Jaguar Mark 1 with his favorite leopard “Bull” looking comfortable in the back seat. After being banished from South Africa following his discharge from the Treason Trial local ANC activist Fish Keitseng found employment as a foreman at the Lester Brothers store, where he worked off and on during the 1960s.
Lester’s respect for Comrade Fish was such that he recruited him rejoin the company after he had left it earlier when his responsibilities managing the ANC refugee pipeline had become a full time responsibility.
Photo: Stanley Lester and Bull raid the refrigerator.