Before you ask “Where is that?”, Bophuthatswana was one of the so-called ‘homelands’ within South Africa that was declared a self-governing state in June 1972. Five years later, on 6th December 1977, it was granted independence by the South African government, although this was only recognised by South Africa and the other independent state known as the Transkei. We lived in the capital city, Mmabatho, for eight years – from the time it was a motley collection of houses plonked on the open veld with no streets to speak of until it had grown into a recognisable city with all the amenities one might expect. The country was reincorporated into South Africa on 27th April 1994 and is now part of what is known as the North West Province.
Politics aside, there were a number of interesting birds commonly found in that part of the country, of which this commemorative cover shows five. The stamps were designed by the artist Dick Findlay, who was well-known for his ornithological paintings. He also designed South African postage stamps and coins.
The birds depicted here are, from left to right, the Pied Babbler – small flocks of these dove-sized birds make a harsh babbling sound while they hunt for insects.
Carmine Bee-eaters are beautiful summer migrants that gather in large flocks at their roosting places at dusk. They too feed on insects.
The Shaft-tailed Whydah is a seed-eater that does not build its own nest. The female lays her eggs in the nests of other birds, such as the Violet-eared Waxbill (which is shown on the left-hand side of the commemorative cover).
Meyer’s Parrots are commonly found in small groups in the dry thornveld near a water source. Their diet consists of fruit, berries and seeds.
Unlike my Jock of the Bushveld teapot (see 22nd February 2014), very few of the teapots in my collection are what anyone would regard as ‘collectibles’ in the true sense – many are no longer even usable! I keep this teapot, now sadly cracked to leaking point, mostly because it has given me many years of faithful service.
A number of South Africans may have similar ones tucked away, for at one time they were cheap and readily available in one of our big supermarket chains. A friend has one identical to mine that continues to serve her well. Although I never came across any matching cups, I still have three small mugs sporting the same pattern: two in brown and one in blue.
Given the above reference to price, it is probably predictable that this teapot simply has ‘Made in China’ stamped on the bottom with no other marks to suggest a lineage worthy of report. It is well known that foreign imports of cheap chinaware has led to the downfall of a number of small potteries in this country – including one in the town where I now live – with the inevitable loss of jobs.
I got this teapot, which pours well – a good trait for a teapot to have – while we were living in Mmabatho in what was then known as Bophuthatswana. I liked the size and shape of it and I was attracted to the pretty flower pattern.
If this teapot could talk it would tell tales of drought, dust storms, heat, laughter, and of the many friendships forged through living in what could be rather trying conditions at the time in a place where people from various nationalities found themselves living and working together.
Tea is what helped to maintain a sense of humour when we had no water or electricity for days on end; that provided comfort when pets died; that celebrated the birth of children; that welcomed newcomers to what still looked and felt like a building site; and that provided succour during the tense time of the coup d’état.
This teapot has been through it all and helped ease the way into new friendships when we moved to our current home. It is a store of special memories and thus stands proudly alongside the other teapots brightening the passage leading to our kitchen.