SHARDS FROM THE PAST

When our forebears travelled from their countries of origin – initially by sea – to South Africa and then – by ox-wagon – to settle in various parts of the country, they had to be completely self-reliant. That meant packing for the future: clothing – and the means to make more; tools (so many initially unsuited to this part of the world); seeds; furniture; basic domestic goods and so on – including all their crockery and cutlery.

Now when we go camping we take unbreakable plates, cups, and even wine ‘glasses’ – these people travelled with the real McCoy: real glassware, and real crockery. Imagine packing those precious, breakable things for a journey into the unknown with the knowledge that they would not easily be replaced!

We have visited sites all over the country where early settlers would have made their homes, be it farm homesteads or early fortifications. A careful survey of the veld around these areas generally reveals some shards of the domesticity of those days.

This first example comes from Fort Willshire, in the Eastern Cape, which was erected by the British military in 1818-1819 and abandoned in 1836. Left to the elements, it is now a ruin that has become overgrown by natural vegetation.

The next comes from an area close to the old stone homestead at Hell’s Poort, a farm not very far from Grahamstown.

These shards of crockery have been picked up from various places in KwaZulu-Natal.

With the exception of the pink piece, the others all show various patterns of blue and white. Notice how thick they are. These shards are typical of the porcelain brought to the Cape by the Dutch East India Company and by the early settlers and give us an inkling into the domestic lives of those who came before us.