Home  |  Visitor information  |  Contact us  |  Facilities  |  Vacancies  |  Tenders  |  Links     
 Anglo-Boer War Museum
An agency of the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture
 Museum  National Women's Memorial  Exhibitions  Collections  Research  Education  What's on
Total War Traces
Recovering a history of black concentration camps near Kimberley from the South African War (1899-1902)
Mr Barend (Ben) H. van Rensburg,
1929 – 1968 

Mr van Rensburg was appointed as the first director of the War Museum. 

The National Women’s Monument Commission made an appeal on 11 August 1930 to the public for donations of objects which had a connection with the Anglo-Boer (South African) War. The response was overwhelming with donations not only received from South Africa, but also from the Netherlands and Germany. 

One of the first and largest collections received by the War Museum, consisted of 229 photographs about the Anglo-Boer (South African) War, donated by Dr Otto Krause.  This was followed by the Groskamp collection of 375 photographs.

Although the Museum increased in popularity and expanded, by 1952 the building required serious attention, so much so, that it was even reported in the media. As a result, the National Women''s Monument Commission finally handed over its supervision of the Museum to the State on 1 April 1953, after which it operated as an independent Museum with its own governing body (Council) with Uncle Ben (as Mr van Rensburg was known) appointed as the first director of this institution.
The renovation of the Museum would also include the construction of a double-storey wing on the north side. The reason for the addition was that the exhibition space in the Museum became too small, and the lack of space in the Museum itself made it difficult for many visitors to enter at the same time, because it quickly became overcrowded. Reconciliation Month: Transformation of a Museum
The War Museum - Nine Decades of History 1931 – 2021
Russian Involvement in the Anglo-Boer (South African) War 1899-1902.
<p><b>White linen Voortrekkerkappie quilted by hand with flower motif. </b>
<p><b>Source: War Museum Collection 04314/00002</b>
Coloured kappies (referred to as kiskappies) worn during the first half of the 19th century was usually worn by older women as formal wear when going to church or on special occasions such as weddings and funerals. Coloured kappies were completely differently constructed and decorated than the traditional white kappies since they had a long crown shape and were usually made from coloured cotton and shot silk or satin that could not be washed. During the middle Victorian period (c. 1860-1880’s) coloured kappies became more popular since they could be bought from traveling traders (Smouse in Afrikaans) and were therefore fittingly named “smouskappies”. After the introduction of the sewing machine in South Africa during the 1860’s coloured kappies were increasingly being quilted by machine instead of by hand. Women’s Day 2021: In the year of Charlotte Maxeke
'Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights for an Equal Future'.
Mandela Day 2021: Online Exhibition
Emily Hobhouse and the South African Women and Children’s Distress Fund
Japie Greyling (left) with his twin brother. 

<p><b>Japie Greyling:</b>

<p>The Anglo-Boer (South African) War traumatised all South Africans who were impacted by it. But it was especially children who suffered the effects of war. Some had to join the war effort, some had to experience the concentration camps and others stayed behind on the farms, facing harassment from the British soldiers. 

The 12-year-old Japie Greylings’s father and brothers had joined the commando’s and he was left on the farm with his mother, two sisters and Sanna, who worked on the farm as a domestic worker. The morning of 2 March 1901, started like many other mornings. Japie awoke and started the fire to boil water. But as he looked to the horizon, he saw the figures of 21 British Soldiers approaching the farm. Alerted by their presence, Japie informed his Mother of the approaching soldiers.
The soldiers surrounded the house, because the farm was well known as a meeting place for Boers in the area. The soldiers, under the command of Captain J.E.B Seely, suspected that a group of Boers were hiding on the farm and therefore wanted information about their whereabouts. When the soldiers approached the farm, three people were spotted fleeing, and Captain Seely and some of his men pursued them. He left about 11 soldiers on the farm to keep watch. The soldiers searched the house and farm and found Japie outside. When he returned, young Japie was brought before Captain Seely.

The Captain wanted information, but Japie’s Mother refused to give any. He therefore set his sights on Japie. He made him stand against a wall, with armed soldiers surrounding him. Sanna, walking past the building, saw what was happening and ran to Japie’s Mother, screaming that the soldiers were going to shoot Japie.  Captain Seely used an interpreter to communicate with Japie. He asked him where his father and the rest of the Boers were and where they were going. Japie looked Captain Seely in the eye and responded with “I cannot.” Captain Seely was becoming desperate, and thought maybe he could scare Japie into giving up the information by insinuating that the soldiers were going to shoot him. He instructed his soldiers to raise their guns. Again, he asked Japie where the Boers were. As before Japie shook his head, “No”.  Captain Seely gave the order for the soldiers to load their guns and to take aim at Japie. Captain Seely said to Japie: “Tell me now before they shoot you!” Japie raised his head, looked the Captain right in the eye, placed his hands behind his back and said in a loud, clear voice: “I will not say.” Captain Seely ordered his men to stand down, walked up to Japie, and shook his hand. He had witnessed Japie’s loyalty to his family and country. He said to Japie: “You are a brave boy. I hope to meet you again someday.”

Source: Gedenkuitgawe 2: Wedervaringe van kinders gedurende die Anglo-Boereoorlog 1899-1902. 
Photo Source: Japie Greyling: Erwe vir ons kinders, M. Raath en A.W.G. Raath, Kraal uitgewers, 2008. Youth Day 2021
The Brave Youth of our History: the stories of Japie Greyling and Hector Pieterson
Each year on 25 May we celebrate Africa Day and Month. This day came about in 1963, were Africa made history with the foundation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) the precursor to the African Union (AU).
During Africa Day we celebrate and acknowledge the successes of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU now the AU) from its creation on May 25, 1963. 

This year''''s Africa Month is celebrated under the theme: ''''The year of Arts, Culture and Heritage: in the year of Charlotte Maxeke''''. 

For Africa Day this year, the Museum wanted to focus on the importance of Family ties and histories. The story of who and what a person is and where they come from is connected to their family histories, and knowing your history can bring families closer together. 

FamilySearch is run by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and was initially started to connect church members with their families across the world. This service is now open to everybody and therefore many people are able to discover their heritage and connect with family members. FamilySearch is also a non-profit organisation, so to use their services is free.  

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are committed to preserve not only oral history or the living memory of people across the globe, especially those in Africa, but also the digital preserving of important documents, especially in Africa. The documents that are focused on are birth, marriage and death certificates as well as census records etc. that can link them to their ancestors and family in the rest of the world. 

By digitising these records, they are then made available on FamilySearch for people to use in their search to find and link up with their family. You can even create your own family tree on the site, preserving family history for future generations.

Oral history plays an important part of many people''''s history and culture. Information was and still is passed down through word of mouth from generation to generation by the elderly people in the society, for the preservation for the next generation. FamilySearch decided to give these people, who have recorded their history in this way, a voice, by recording their information in digital form. Both men and women are interviewed, individually as well as in a family setting.  FamilySearch has a project ''''Preserving Africa Heritage – Gathering Oral History & Genealogies & Connecting families across generations.''''  

The War Museum is an Affiliate Library of the FamilySearch project and the Museum was also fortunate to receive help from the organisation in the first phase of digitising our document collection. This pilot project included approximately 38 000 images from our document and photograph collection that was digitised. The Museum is also embarking on a project to digitize the rest of the collection with scanners funded by the National Lotteries Commission. Images are uploaded on a continual basis. Images that are not yet digitally available may be provided at an additional fee, only if the time and human resources are available to do so.

For more information on our <b>Digital Archive</b>, please see our website under the tab <b>Research</b>.
Africa Day 2021

The importance of Family History and the recording of Oral Histories in Africa.

Freedom Day: 

Freedom Day is the commemoration of the first democratic elections held in South Africa held on 27 April 1994.  These were the first post-apartheid national elections to be held in South African where anyone could vote regardless of race. The freedom vote in South Africa was an important milestone in the county's history. 

Freedom has been fought over for many centuries all over the world. The Anglo-Boer (South African) War was one such a fight, this was an anti-colonial war fought by people who valued their freedom. With the ending of the war, the chance of regaining freedom was once again possible. 

Peace Treaty of Vereeniging:

The Anglo-Boer (South African) War started in 1899 and ended in 1902. This was a devastating war for all involved, but especially the Black and White women and children who were living in the concentration camps. Already in March 1901 the first efforts for peace failed in Middelburg because the Boer leaders did not want to lose their countries` independence. But as the war dragged on the Bittereinders realised that the war was becoming unsustainable and the devastation of the scorched-earth and the concentration camps was cause for deep concern. There was decided in April 1902 that the republican governments would meet in Klerksdorp to discuss a peace settlement. The Boer leaders felt that elected representatives of the different commandos would make the detailed negotiations and a conference of sixty representatives was chosen with British approval at Vereeniging to discuss further proposals for peace. They then went to Pretoria to negotiate with Lord Kitchener at Melrose House. General Hertzog and General Smuts met with Lord Milner and Kitchener to settle a draft peace treaty. Because of health issues President Steyn could not attend and General de Wet became acting Free State president during this time.

On 31 May 1902, a little before midnight the two parties signed the peace treaty of Vereeniging at Melrose House in Pretoria. By 54 votes to six the representatives agreed to surrender their independence and to recognize the authority of Edward VII in return for 7 of their own proposals. Lord Kitchener declared after the signing Freedom Day 2021: The year of Charlotte Mannya Maxeke - The Meaning of Freedom under Covid-19. The Peace Treaty of Vereeniging: Peace and Freedom
Charlotte Maxeke and Katie Makanya: The dynamic sisters and their role in South African History.

The extraordinary life of Charlotte Maxeke will be discussed in honour of Human Rights Day 2021. But when researching Maxeke's life, we made an interesting discovery. Charlotte Maxeke was the older sister of Katie Makanya, a young woman whose life was impacted by the Anglo-Boer (South African) War of 1899 -1902. Therefore, both these sisters and their eventful lives will be discussed, to serve as inspiration for women in South Africa. 

                                                                                Charlotte Maxeke:

This year for Human Rights Day, the life of Charlotte Maxeke is being honoured. Maxeke was born in 1871 in the region of the Eastern Cape. This was the start of an extraordinary life which impacted many people. For Maxeke's family their religion and the art of singing was very important. Maxeke, alongside her sister Katie, had a lovely singing talent, and therefore they joined the Jubilee Chorus tour to London in the 1890's. The choir even performed for Queen Victoria!

The second choir tour she embarked on was to America round-about 1893. Unfortunately, when the tour reached Cleveland, the organisers of the tour ran out of money and this left the choir stranded in a foreign country. With the help of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Maxeke and some of her fellow choir singers got the chance to enrol in the Wilberforce University. This led to Maxeke becoming the first Black African Women to graduate and obtain a university degree. Maxeke's love for knowledge had started when she was young, and her sister Katie described her as  someone who Human Rights Day 2021: The year of Charlotte Maxeke: Promoting Human Rights in the Age of Covid-19.

Human Rights Day 2021 The year of Charlotte Maxeke: Promoting Human Rights in the Age of Covid-19. Theme: Charlotte Maxeke and Katie Makanya: The dynamic sisters and their role in South African History.

December is Christmas time, a time for family and festive fun. But how does one have a Christmas during a war? When the Anglo-Boer (South African) War 1899-1902 broke out, neither the Boer burghers or the British soldiers had any idea how many Christmases they would be spending in the veldt. Neither did the Boer and Black women and children think that they would have to spend two Christmas days in the terrible concentration camps without their loved ones. 

For the Boer burghers on commando, their first Christmas in the veldt was 25 December 1899. But since this was still in the beginning of the war, presents were organised by special ladies' committees. Chests full of special items like cake, fruit, wine; beer, ginger beer, lemon-syrup; tobacco, enamel cups, rusks; sugar, coffee, tea and diaries arrived for them on commando. Some burghers tried to create their own Christmas festivities by ordering whiskey, port, sherry; wine and beer. Each commando also prepared their own Christmas meal and Church services were held. The field cornet led the service after which a war council meeting was held. In the afternoon the burghers kept themselves busy playing games, singing and reading. The Christmas service also served as inspiration for the men on commando and Rev JD Kestell was known to perform just such a service. The second Christmas in the veldt in 1900 was very different from the first in 1899, no presents or lavish food was to be seen. General Ben Viljoen wrote that items like sugar, coffee, alcohol and cigars were impossible to obtain and that the Christmas meal consisted out of Reconciliation Month 2020 Online Exhibition

Christmas and Cards during the Anglo-Boer (South African) War

16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign.

16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign

Online Exhibition: Heritage Day 2020

'Museum in a Book': The Anglo-Boer War in 100 Objects publication

Title: Life is precious (2020)
Artist: Hermien van Zyl 

Artist statement:
<p>The story of the sparrows in the Bible, Matthew 10:29, tells the story of hope. In the time of the British concentration camp in Bethulie when the verse was read by Anette Marais to her fellow prisoners, a sparrow came to sit on her shoulder. They accepted it as a sign from God and since then the sparrow gave them hope for the future.

When the War Museum approached me to create a painting to commemorate Emily Hobhouse, great campaigner for the women and children in the British concentration camps, I decided to paint the sparrows. It was only a few weeks before our country was caught in the Corona virus epidemic. People were once again deprived of their freedom and bombarded with fear. However, God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power, love and self-control. This made me decide to paint the sparrows as a symbol for us and our country considering these trying times.

The symbolism of the sparrows is meant to give hope and faith back to our people and that God will heal our country and make it prosperous again. In our daily lives we can pay attention and look at the sparrows. They can be found everywhere: on the sidewalk in front of the shops, on the lawns near our homes, in the field where they fly around in swarms. Always looking for food, crumbs, a worm to eat. We are reminded every day of the promise that one's life is precious and just as the sparrows are cared for, so will we be cared for, because our Heavenly Father knows what we need. 

In my own life, the sparrows give me encouragement every day. They come to my kitchen to see if there is anything to eat.
It is my wish and hope that this painting will also bring encouragement to many people and strengthen their faith knowing that God is with them, now and for all eternity. </p>

Online Exhibition: Women's Month 2020

Emily Hobhouse - Angel of Hope

<i>Afskeid</i> (Farewell), Danie de Jager, 1986

The statue depicts a burgher mounted on his trusty steed taking leave of his wife and child on his way to the battlefront, at the beginning of the war on 11 October 1899. The sandstone base was constructed by the firm Boltstone. Money for this statue was collected by the Board of Organizations for Military Veterans, the National Women's Memorial Commission, the SA War Graves Commission, churches and the Burgher Memorial Commission. Afskeid was unveiled on 11 October 1986 by the then Minister of Defence, General Magnus Malan. 
Mandela Day 2020 Online Exhibition: War Horses

Mandela Day 2020

Annemarie Wessels, <i>Van honger is die glimlaggies vergete</i>, oil on canvas

<b>Artist statement</b>: This photo of a little girl suffering from malnutrition in a concentration camp stirred my emotions most deeply.  One wonders whether she survived the camp.  Because she really lived and isn’t a product of my imagination, I experienced such intense sorrowful emotions that I was moved to tears and found it is hard to paint this fragile little figure.

The red settee belongs to my great-grandmother, Ouma Viviers, néé Joubert, general Piet Joubert’s cousin.  The settee survived the war, since the family was allowed to take a few pieces of furniture to the camp.  It is covered with brown leather, but my aim with the colour red was to let it form a contrast with the background to emphasize what these inmates possessed before the war, viz. (to certain degree) opulence, life and blood.  The projectiles were found on our farm by my father. 

The British officers holding Lee-Metfords in the background are depicted as “dull-brained” soldiers for “Queen and Country” to whom human beings were merely a commodity and obstacle in the way of achieving their goal.  This reminds one of Monty Python’s “Meaning of Life: Man at War” which focuses on how little value officers in the Victorian era attached to the lives of ordinary soldiers. Youth month June 2020

Innocent children

Top of the page   Bookmark and Share    
Contact: museum@anglo-boer.co.za - (051) 447-3447 and (051) 447-0079
Copyright © 2017-2022 War Museum of the Boer Republics. All rights reserved