Yesterday was the bicentenary of the Battle of Grahamstown. I’ve always intended to visit the site but somehow never managed it. So this afternoon I took a brief gap in the rain to go across the valley to Egazini: the township based heritage site.
On the way there you get a good view of the slopes of Makana’s Kop up above the streets of Fingo Village. These were the hillsides that the Xhosa warriors descended to attack Grahamstown.
Makana’s Kop was wreathed in low cloud
When I got to Egazini I found that it was lying neglected – almost in ruins. A ring of wet embers showed the remains of a fire that lay within an outer ring of plastic rubbish. A dog was picking its way through the trash.
Dog scrounging in the litter at Egazini
The impressive artworks are still standing but the eyes and mouth of one was vandalised. Egazini is in a beautiful setting with views up and down the valley. It’s easy to see Fort England, Fort Selwyn and the other colonial sites but I didn’t see any story boards or information about the battle or the site itself. Maybe I should have looked harder but what I saw didn’t inspire me to linger.
Egazini in ruins
Egazini, the site of the battle of Grahamstown
It’s saddened me to find this important site in such a ruined state – abandoned and neglected – like so many things in the newly renamed Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) it is full of potential that has gone to waste.
Here’s something a little different – three different takes of Grahamstown’s iconic Cathedral of St Michael and St George. The first is in the antique sepia style I’ve been using for the Grahamstown heritage series. The second is the full colour by moonlight shot and the third is a multiple exposure fantasy. They are all taken from almost exactly the same spot – just outside Makana’s City Hall on the north side of Church Square.
Antique sepia shot of the Cathedral of St Michael and St George, Church Square, Grahamstown
Cathedral of St Michael and St George by moonlight, Church Square, Grahamstown
Church Square at Midnight, a fantasy: Grahamstown
You would think that the Cathedral would be a heritage site but it isn’t – though it certainly makes a dramatic impression towering over the centre of the city. As usual I’ve made sure that the antique heritage style contains modern elements: the flaring street lights and the security guards relaxing in the square.
The colour moonlight picture was taken when the full moon was highlighting the clouds above the spire. That gives the composition some nice depth and definition and I’ve bleached out the colours a little to give the picture more punch.
The fantasy picture is a multiple exposure. I used the wheeling star trails as the backdrop because the original picture had a lot of ugly coloured flares of light in the night sky caused by the streetlights. Then I decided to strip away some of the fabric of the Cathedral to make it look skeletal. The clock is stuck at midnight and I took the picture just before Halloween!
I’ve already sold one of these as a high gloss print (I can now print on demand up to A3+ size). Let me know using this contact me link if you’d like one. This new series will also be on sale (probably as unmounted prints) at #NAF19 in my exhibition called ‘Reflections’ at the Carinus Art Centre 27 June – 7 July.
The second post of the Grahamstown heritage sites is a street-scene. There’s no getting away from the new in this picture because there’s a young cyclist front and centre. Behind him Howse Street runs up to the historical core of the city. There’s power lines and street lights leading the eye towards the skyline and the heritage sites silhouetted there.
Passing by Grahamstown’s Heritage Sites: Howse Street
The Cathedral of St Michael and St George dominates this picture and strangely it isn’t a heritage site: though it is one of the city’s iconic buildings. The buildings that run between the two spires are the backs of the Victorian shops that front on to Church Square. These are all heritage sites: as is the City Hall itself. Later in the series I’ll post some pictures of them as they are architecturally striking.
As usual there’s a bit of a back story to the picture. To get a shot with a passing cyclist I needed to stand in the middle of Beaufort Street – and that’s a busy thoroughfare – mid-way between two sets of traffic lights. So I needed to wait until both sets of lights were on red and there was a gap in the traffic. It meant I dashed out into the road on a number of occasions before I was successful.
Several of this new series will be on display at #NAF19 in my exhibition called ‘Reflections’ at the Carinus Art Centre 27 June – 7 July.
The first post of a new series – Grahamstown Heritage – features the old and the new.
Fort Selwyn lies on Gunfire Hill and it was built for its strategic view over the city below. No great surprise that it’s one of Grahamstown 70 heritage sites. These days it has lost its military importance but it does make a spectacular vantage point. That’s especially true for students who come up from Rhodes University after Friday classes to watch the sunset and then the moonrise. All whilst having an early evening drink or two.
Enjoying the moonrise: Rhodes students on Fort Selwyn, Grahamstown (Makhanda)
There’s an interesting backstory to this shot. Night photos usually need a daylight reconnaissance. I’d already been to Fort Selwyn at night taking pictures of car headlights trailing across town. That’s when I first saw the students perched on the Fort’s ramparts. But then I had to go back in the daylight and work out how to get high enough to get the students and the town below plus the full moon and all of Fort Selwyn in one shot. I solved it by climbing one of the megaliths that surround the 1820 Settlers National Monument. When I returned that night I brought a stepladder, propped it against the rock, climbed up and installed my tripod. Then I just had to wait for the moon to climb high enough whilst the students enjoyed themselves. There was, of course, plenty of musical accompaniment from the sound systems in the open car doors. Not a soul noticed me, or the ladder, perched on the rock. You can see my shadow in the right foreground as a passing car’s headlights helpfully revealed the foreground of the picture.
I expect to have several of this new series on display at #NAF19. My exhibitions called ‘Reflections’ and I’ll be at the Carinus Art Centre. In the next day or two I’ll have the picture for sale as a print or for downloading over at my store.