Granite stone: found dressed and engraved
2000mm diameter X 500mm
Collection: Anton Taljaard
On the Highveld, near the town of Belfast, Mpumalanga, are large worked-out granite quarries. They are almost invisible from the main dirt road nearby and situated on Boschpoort, the family farm of Frans Haarhoff. The area is very hilly with rocky outcrops and massive gashes where mining activity had taken place. About twenty years ago Frans Haarhoff was employed by the former mine as quarry master and he still uses the skills he had once acquired to work the piles and piles of raw material abandoned by the old mine. Frans aims to rehabilitate the area and in order to do this he is slowly turning some of the abandoned rocks to good use and to bury the rest. Frans is a nuggety individual who has yet to back down from a challenge to split up a large rock and to turn that rock into an object of great use or beauty by months of merciless grinding, polishing and sandblasting. 'Belfast Black' is one of South Africa's most prized granites and there is a modest market overseas for small, stable stones used to mount very accurate optical instruments such as might be used by NASA to observe outer space.
Sometimes, in our walks in the quarry, we find rocks that have a naturally attractive shape and texture. The stone for DWELLING, rescued from a massive pile of rock debris, has such an alluring presence. It was shaped by millions of years of water action and oxidation to become a flat discus with straight ridges running through its centre.
I decided to do minimal dressing and polishing only on the outside roundings of the rock and so leave the natural ridges unmarked. The idea was that the rock would be installed low enough to serve as seating and that it might create the idea that its circumference had been polished to the core of its black granite by the bottoms of countless people sitting around its outside through the centuries.
I located an archaeologist's drawing of a prehistoric umuzi or Nguni kraal and decided to make a rough engraving of this ancient structure on the surface of the rock. This would be in contrast to the parallel ridges that run through the rock, referred to as synclinals by geologists. Someone sitting on it would be drawn into running their fingers along the ridges and in the shallow the engraved channels - following a kind of drawing in the sand, except that this is not sand but hard granite rock.
The umuzi is a temporary establishment, but not as nomadic as the tent dwellings of nomadic people. It is slowly being replaced by more permanent stone and cement buildings of modern times. It intrigued me that I might portray something not lasting, something plucked back from time by an archaeological accident, by fixing it permanently in granite. This inverts the parable of the wise man, who built his house on a rock where rain, floods came, and winds were ineffective. The foolish man built his house on sand where it was destroyed by the elements (Matthew 7:24-27). My imuzi house is for dreamers - a 'foolish' one built on rock.
Of course my favourite little pig is not the one who built his house of bricks, nor the one who used mud. I like the little pig who used straw. The traditional Zulu dwelling is entirely made of thatched straw.
Zulu Culture and Traditions
The Umuzi: The Kraal Layout (see images)
The Zulu term is umuzi and consists of two concentric palisades of thorn trunks. The huts are located inside the outer palisade and the cattle in the inner circle with a smaller enclosure there for the calves.
The kraal is usually built on a slight slope with the main entrance at the lower end. This enables rainwater to clean the cattle kraal, the ground dries quickly and any foe has to fight uphill. Small huts on poles act as storage huts or watchtowers. The largest hut, opposite the entrance, is that of the chief's mother. The chief's hut is to the right, the first wife is to the right of the chief's mother, the second wife is to the left of the chief's hut, the third wife to the right of the first wife and so on.
The unmarried girls live on the left of the entrance, the unmarried boys, to the right. The two elder sons also vet any visitors and man the entrance around the clock. Visitors are either rejected, expected to wait for an appropriate length of time or ushered in immediately depending on their relation to the family. Those that are allowed in experience the siyakuleka ikhaya display where the gatekeeper sings the praises of the chief. The function of gatekeeper is also very useful in another way in that he will assume the role of chief on his father's death and will be familiar with all those who visited his father and their treatment.