William John Burchell, 1782?-1863
Click on Images

"A View of Cape Town, Table Bay & Tygerberg"

On the left is seen the foot of the Lion Mountain, where the houses, which are all white, commence and extend as far as the castle. The roofs being flat, and plastered with lime, give to the whole an unvaried whiteness. Beyond the two ships under sail, entering the harbour, is Blaauwberg (Blue Mountain), which a long line of white sand-downs divides from the bay. The next mountain, behind the first ship at anchor, is Koeberg (Cow Mountain). Behind Blaauwberg the top of Dassenberg is visible; and next beyond Koeberg, on the right, is the mountain called Riebeck's Kasteel (Riebeck's Castle), which is followed by a very distant serrated range of mountains, whose summits are often whitened with snow; these are the mountains of Roodezand. . . . The two female figures are negroes returning home, with linen which they have been washing in the rivulet. Behind these figures, a row of oak-trees and a white wall enclose the garden and the official residence of the admiral commanding on the Cape station. The buildings above the sheep are those belonging to a water-mill; and over these are seen the trees of the Government Garden, in a line extending as far as the large stone-pines (Pinus Pinea). The spire of the Lutheran Church may just be distinguished as a small speck upon the sea, a little to the right of the ships under sail; and, in this drawing, points out the north. Near the pine-trees, the Dutch Church, in which the English service is also performed, is conspicuous; and, close to it, the bell and flag-staff of the naval yard may be perceived. The long regular building, commencing near the last ship at anchor, is the Cavalry Barracks; just above which, and of a dark colour, a part of the Jutty appears. In the foreground are two slaves returning from the mountains with a load of firewood; and two others are on before, near the sheep. The Castle follows next to the barracks, and is distinguished by a browner colour, and a flag. The house nearest, towards the foreground, will serve to show the style of architecture in which the generality of farm-houses near the Cape are built: it is thatched with a very durable species of rush, peculiar to this part of the world, and which the Dutch call "Dak-riet" (Resto tectorum). . . . The waggon here represented is the usual vehicle for all purposes of business. The rising ground seen above the oxen is part of the foot of Duivels-berg, or Devil's Mountain. Table Mountain is behind the spectator. The foreground was intended to give some idea of the manner in which various flowers and low shrubs are scattered over this plain. [Vol. I, p. 25-26 ]

“Portrait of Speelman, a Hottentot”

The name of this Hottentot was Stoffel Speelman; his height was above the common standard, being about five feet seven inches; he was of thin and bony figure, and had a very upright port, acquired, perhaps, during his military service. . . . On making enquiry into his character, I learnt that he was an excellent marksman; an important and valuable qualification, and one which was indispensably required for such an expedition. He was besides, a great traveller, and had visited most of the parts of the colony. The opportunity of seeing the country beyond Gariep, and a wish he had long entertained to go to Klaarwater, were the great inducements to add himself to my party. . . . His portrait . . . was drawn in September 1814, at the time he quitted my service; in exactly the same dress which he happened then to wear. His cap, which is a fashion of his own, was made of calf-skin prepared with the hair on. A red cotton handkerchief was bound round his head, and a blue one of the same kind, loosely tied about his neck. He wore a pair of leathern trowsers and a blue cloth jacket, over which was buckled a kogel-tas (bullet-pouch) made by himself, from the skin of a tiger which he had shot. [Vol. 1, p. 167]

“Crossing the Berg River”

The ferry-boat is of a construction well adapted for conveying over cattle and heavy carriages. It may be described as a floating platform, with rails at the sides, and having its ends rising on hinges so as to lie at all times flat on the shore. It was sufficiently capacious to carry over my waggon with eight oxen, and six men, at one time. It was hauled to and fro, by means of a strong rope, strained from one bank of the river to the other, and was managed by a couple of men with great ease. The tolls were one rix-dollar for each waggon, with its oxen and men; and one schelling for every single ox, and for each foot passenger. The ferry belongs to government, but was farmed to a neighboring boor. The level country seen on the left in the distance is a part of Wagen-maker’s (Waggon-maker’s) Valley. The mountains are those of Klein (Little) Drakenstein. A farm-house, with a few large orange-trees in front, is seen on the bushy plain. A few white poplars stand on the opposite bank, and the foreground is shaded by a large many-stemmed tree of Karree-hout, some of the branches of which are loaded with grass and rubbish left there by the waters, attesting the great height to which the river occasionally swells. All the figures in the foreground, excepting two, were Hottentots. [Vol. 1, pp. 178-79]

“The Rock Fountain, in the Country of the Bushman”

By an observation at noon, the latitude of the Bushman Rock Fountain was ascertained to be 31E 0' 38". . . . The water lay in a large rocky basin, or reservoir, at the head of a ravine walled on either side by a precipice of sandstone rocks, the upper end forming a romantic natural amphitheatre, out of the sides of which, and from the clefts of the stone, grew a few green shrubs to decorate this singular scene. At the head of this ravine, a strong stream, in the rainy season, pours down the precipice into the basin, and, overflowing the reservoir, runs through the interstices of large blocks of stone, down into the valley below. In approaching the spot, I heard a number of voices, the sound of which, reverberating from the walls, discovered to me two Bushmen and three women: the latter had their children at their backs. They proved to be of a friendly tribe, and belonging to a family or party of twelve, who had come from a neighbouring kraal to pay us a visit. What they said to me as I advanced towards them, I was unable to guess, being alone, and understanding nothing of their language. I felt, however, so much confidence in their good intentions, that I sat myself down on one of the large stones, and made a sketch of the spot, in which I inserted them exactly in the attitudes and situation in which they were at the time. . . . [Vol. 1, pp. 294-95]

“A Hottentot Kraal, on the Banks of the Gariep”

This was the first genuine Hottentot kraal which I had seen. . . . These mats, and the form of hut here represented, more resembling an inverted basket than a building, are the same which have been in use among all the various tribes of Hottentots, from time immemorial; and are, I believe, quite peculiar to this remarkable and distinct race of men. Such huts have their convenience for the Hottentot’s mode of life; they may be taken to pieces in an hour, and packed on the back of a couple of oxen, together with all their utensils and young children, and transported with ease and expedition to any part of the country to which they may find it agreeable or necessary to remove, either for water or for pasture for their cattle; or for the purpose of avoiding inimical neighbours. . . . In the fore-ground, a Hottentot woman is employed in putting up one of the mat-houses. On the left are three sheep of the South-African breed, the large tails of which consist of pure fat. Rolls of matting, the materials of the house, with various utensils, are seen on the ground; a wooden-bowl, a bambus, a Hottentot hatchet, and a bundle of tanned sheep-kin.[sheep-skin?] On the right, a large kaross hangs over a rail; and by it, two calabashes. Several men are idly sauntering about, indulging in their greatest enjoyment, smoking; one is milking the cows, while his companion, with a long whip, keeps the herd from straying away. All the trees in this view are Acacias. . . . [Vol. 1, p. 325]

"Portrait of a Bushman, Playing on the Goráh"

The Goráh . . . consists merely of a slender stick, or bow, on which a string of catgut is strained. But to the lower end of this string, a flat piece, of about an inch and a half long, of the quill of an ostrich, is attached, so as to constitute a part of the length of the string. This quill, being applied to the lips, is made to vibrate by strong inspirations, and expirations, of the breath . . . exactly in the same way as produced on the flute . . . The old musician, seating himself down on a flat piece of rock, and resting his elbows on his knees, putting one fore-finger into his ear, and the other into his wide nostril, either as it so happened, or for the purpose, it might be, of keeping his head steady, commenced his solo, and continued it with great earnestness, over and over again. . . . The accompanying plate presents a likeness of him, and is copy of the drawing made on the spot. Beneath are added the notes expressed in the manner in which they were played; or, at least, as they sounded to my ear . . . His dress, reddened by an ochraceous earth, consists only of a leathern kaross, which is of smaller dimensions than those customarily worn. Suspended from his neck is a knife of African manufacture, such as are worn, in a similar manner, by all the tribes of the Interior. The horn of one of the smaller antelopes, hanging from the same place, serves the purpose of a snuff-box, or receptacle for powdered dakka, or hemp-leaves. Below the knees, a cord of acacia-bark was worn as an ornament. The sandals are such as form part of the aboriginal dress of all natives of Southern Africa, with no other variation than in the mode of their being bound to the foot. [Vol. I, pp. 458-460]

"Descending from the Snow Mountains"

After this, we travelled between four and five hours longer, without halting; and were rejoiced at finding ourselves arrived at the top of the descent from the Snow Mountains. The prospect was exceedingly fine, as wild and rocky scenery. Lofty mountains in the distance seemed to close the view before use, but the road, after descending into the valley, leads round on the right, into the extensive plains which lie between the Sneeuwbergen and Graaffreynet. This view, and the appearance of our party, are represented in the second plate [shown]. The descent was very steep, and the road in some places broken and dangerous. Here we found trees of a larger size than we had seen for some time; and the deep glens and bold sides of the mountain, were rendered verdant by an abundance of large bushes of spekboom (fat-tree) and were well covered with wood of rich and beautiful foliage. Amongst these were many which I had no where met with before . . .[Vol. II, p. 133]

"Portrait of Júli, a Faithful Hottentot"

One of these last Hottentots deserves to be particularly noticed. . . . His name was Júli, a man of whose good an invaluable qualities I was not at this time aware, but who, during the three years and four months that he was constantly with me, continued always to gain on my good opinion, and prove by his fidelity, how fortunate I was in taking him into my service. . . . The accompanying plate presents both a portait of his person, and a correct likeness of his features. . . . This portrait was drawn in August 1815; only a few days before I sailed from the Cape . . . He is here exhibited in his usual dress; a blue cloth jacket, leathern trowsers, a cotton handkerchief round his head, and another about his neck. It was by his own desire that he is represented holding his musket; and the position is that in which he used to carry it when approaching any wild animal. . . . Júli was a Hottentot of the mixed race; as were also his father and mother. The hair of men in this class, being longer and looser or less in tufts, than in the genuine Hottentot, is well expressed in the engraving. His features do not differ very widely from those of the unmixed race. His age was, probably, nearer fifty than forty; as he was the oldest man of the party, whom I took into the Interior. [Vol. II, p. 160-161]

“View of a Bushman Kraal”

The huts represented in this plate are constructed of mats made of rushes. . . . The Bushmen of the Cisgariepine most commonly paint their mats lengthwise with stripes of red-ochre. The outermost figure on the left will give an idea of the appearance of a Bushman as he is usually equipped for travelling, having his bow, quiver, hassagay and kirri. Before him is a representation of one of their dogs, which are of a race perhaps peculiar to these tribes. Hassagays and sticks, when not in use, are most frequently stuck in the ground by the side of the hut. This plate exhibits, not only the particular view of the spot, but the ordinary appearance of a Bushman Kraal, and the genuine domestic state of its inhabitants, such as they are in their proper and usual mode. In this picture, therefore, the number of figures and their occupations are only those which are consistent with this intention, and have no reference to the unusual and busy scene which this kraal became in consequence of my arrival among these people. The nearest figure in the middle of the picture is that of a man returning home from hunting, carrying a fawn or young antelope at his back. To the left of him are two men, and a woman having her child in her arms, sitting in front of their hut, a very common manner of spending their time in fine weather. . . . Most of the figures have leathern caps of various forms according to the fancy of the maker or wearer. The outermost figure on the right is a man returning from the neighbouring spring with an ostrich-egg shell filled with water. On the left of him, and close to the hut in the foreground, may be seen one of those sticks already described as being loaded with a perforated globular stone for the purpose of digging up various eatable wild roots. The soil here is of a reddish color, and scantily covered with herbage and low bushes. [Vol.2, p. 198]

“A View in the Town of Litákun”

The sixth plate represents a view of part of Litákun as seen from the foot of the hills on its northern side, and looking westerly. It exhibits scarcely a third of the town. . . . About the middle of the picture, and just above the trunk of an acacia, may be seen the roof of the Chief’s dwelling, and close to it the móotsi (moatsi) or public enclosure, distinguished by the two waggons. The horizon on the left is formed by a boundless view over the Great Plains of Litákun. . . . The nearest house on the left is the residence of Serrakutu’s [uncle to the chief] younger wife, and his móotsi enclosed by a hedge of dry branches is seen farther to the right. The large trees within that fence are of the kind named Acacia Lit~kunensis, and called móshu by the inhabitants. As they are faithful portraits of the trees from which they are drawn, they will convey to the botanist, as well as to the general observer, a correct idea of their growth, and ramification, and of the elegant form of their light masses of foliage. The stumps or trunks are of the Mok~la tree or Acacia giraffe, and having been cut down for the purpose of building the town, the branches which have since sprung from them serve, by the number of years growth which they exhibit, to confirm the statement that this town had not stood in its present situation longer than six years, at the date of these Travels. The other bushes are younger plants of the same species. All the figures represent men, excepting the three in the foreground, and the one more distant and immediately to the left of these. On the right are two armed men returning from a distant cattle-station, and driving before them an ox loaded with bags of milk. Just above the hedge under the great trees may be seen the heads of persons assembled in the móotsi. The woman in the foreground, carrying a piitsa (a pot or jar) on her head, and an ox-horn in her hand, is going for water. She is clothed only in the makk~bi and mus‘si, and wears a number of thick leathern rings round her ankles. Her daughter, who is playing with an ostrich-feather, wears, as usual at her age, only the makk~bi: her peculiar figure or the hollowness of the back is often very remarkable among the children of various African tribes. The other child, a little boy, has, as usual at that age, no clothing whatever. [Vol. 2, pp. 464-65]

“Portrait of M|ssis~n”

At my return home, I found a little girl standing in the mootsi, looking at my people as they were at work. She was the prettiest I had hitherto seen, and appeared to be about twelve or thirteen years of age. She was the daughter of Mattivi [the chief]; her name was M|ssisi~n (Massisaan); and as she presented a good specimen of Bachapin beauty, I asked her to sit for her portrait, to which she consented. . . . The accompanying plate will give a correct idea of her features and appearance, and will, besides, exhibit the usual dress, and the peculiar manner in which the females of this tribe twist their hair so as to give it the form of a cap. . . . The only ornaments she wore were two manjénas or mangjéas (manyánas) or copper ear-drops in her left ear, and a brass button in her right. Round her neck hung several folds of thick cord made from the sinews and entrails of animals, and a necklace formed of many thin strings neatly twisted of the inner bark of the acacia. Her hair was copiously adorned with sibílo; but below the part which has the appearance of a cap, some portion was to be seen of its natural color and appearance. . . . [Vol. 2, pp. 484-85]

“Section & Plan of a Bachapin House”

By collecting together all the different data which could be obtained. . . . I have ventured to state the number of inhabitants at Litákun at five thousand. . . . The spot of ground appropriated to each dwelling was in general between forty and sixty feet in diameter, and in every case was enclosed by a strong fence. This area was circular, or as near to that form, as it could be conveniently made. . . . Plate 9 is a plan, with a geometrical elevation, or rather section, of a Bachapin dwelling. In order to show its structure, it is here represented as cut through the middle, in a direction from the great corn-jar to the side of the door-way in the outer fence. In the ground-plan, A is the veranda; B, the outer room; C, the inner, or central room; D, the storeroom; E, the corn-house; F, F, corn-jars; G, the servants’ house; H, the fireplace; and I, the outer fence. . . . There is one quality for which the Bachapins, and probably the other tribes of Bichuanas, are greatly to be admired, and in which they excel all the more southern inhabitants of this part of Africa; the neatness, good order and cleanness of their dwellings. [Vol. 2, pp. 514-15, 521]

"Portrait of Chaasi, a Bachapin"

The Bachapins are men of well-proportioned figure, and generally of the height of six feet . . . The tenth plate is the portrait and figure of Chaasi, a Bachapin of the richer class. The whole of these portraits, as here engraved, were completed from the life, without presuming to embellish them by additional decoration, or improvement of any kind. This drawing was made at a place which I have distinguished on the map as my Garden, where Chaasi accidentally visited me. It was my custom, as before mentioned, to pay in tobacco, those who allowed me to draw their likeness; and as this man's sibbáta (snuff-bag) was not large enough to hold the quantity given him, he tied the remainder up in a knot a the corner of his kobo. It was necessary to mention this circumstance, in order that the knot might not be viewed as the usual form of the cloak. For the same reason, it must be explained that the kobo is not always worn in front, as here represented: but in walking, it is a very common practice to place it so that it may protect them either from the sun or the wind. The stick or club in his hand is called in the Sichuana language a mullamu: by constant practice, these men have acquired the power of throwing it with great precision; and frequently kill the smaller animals, such as hares and weasels, with they occasionally surprise in the plains. The upper part of his head was thickly covered with sibiilo; but the lower hair was left in its natural state, and is here engraved in a manner which will give a correct idea of its short woolly appearance. [Vol. II, pp. 561-562]