Tag Archives: Colonial creativity

On History of Cycling in Zimbabwe

Last updated on August 8, 2015

History of Biking in Zimbabwe: Charles Duly's trip from Johannesburg to Bulawayo by bike in 10 days
History of Biking in Zimbabwe: Charles Duly’s trip from Johannesburg to Bulawayo by bike in 10 days

From the 1961 brochure commemorating the 50th anniversary of association between Duly & Co. Ltd. (Twitter) and the Ford Motor Company

“The first motor car to arrive in Rhodesia — a 6.5 h.p. French Gladiator. At the wheel is Charles Duly and beside him Mrs. Edith duly — the original Rhodesian [Zimbabwean] motorists.” Photo and caption from the 1961 brochure.
Modern bike enthusiasts might find it weird but it was the man who brought the first car into Zimbabwe, to promote the cycling culture perhaps more than anyone else in the Southern African nation. And he pioneered it in an a way that would be tough to repeat.

A Charles Duly Motor and Cycle Depot ad in 1908
A Charles Duly Motor and Cycle Depot ad in 1908

In 1894, accompanied by a Scottish carpenter (name unknown), Charles Duly, 24,  rode out of Johannesburg on a bicycle, travelled to Pretoria, then on to Polokwane, over the Limpopo river, through Tuli — Tuli being the first location north of the Limpopo/Shashe rivers where a ‘European’ style building, a police station, was erected — and Masvingo and then by the mail coach route to Bulawayo. Here is how the 1961 booklet explains the audacity of the act:

It was a country over which wild animals still swarmed, including lions. It was fever-ridden in a day when effective malarial preventatives were unknown.

The trip took Duly 10 days to complete. Over the same route an ox-wagon would have taken anything from 13 to 20 weeks. To beat Charles Duly and his companion today while cycling the distance on a tarred road would require you to average over 50 miles a day, in sweltering heat and with at least one mountain range to cross.

A 1905 Charles Duly ad of the 7th Avenue, Bulawayo Motor and Cycle Depot
A 1905 Charles Duly ad of the 7th Avenue, Bulawayo Motor and Cycle Depot

The year Charles Duly arrived in Bulawayo, the Bulawayo Chronicle was launched in what is now Zimbabwe’s second most populated city. Six hotels were operational:

  • the Charter,
  • the Queen’s,
  • the Caledonian,
  • the Masonic,
  • the Central and
  • the Maxim.

Board and lodging averaged some 10 pounds a month upwards. The city boasted a two-mile race-course, an athletic club, cricket pitch, tennis courts. It took passengers willing to travel to Harare four days by a mail coach (12 pounds single).

  • Pretoria (six days)
  • Cape Town (nine and a half days)
  • Beira in Mozambique (10 and a half days)

With the agency for the Raleigh bicycle brand, one of the leaders in its field in Britain, Charles Duly opened a cycle shop in what is now Jason Moyo Street (where Edgars is now).

This poster is of a 60's version of Raleigh's longest running campaign in Africa - which started just after the Second World War. The series of posters chart developing prosperity in Africa as original posters showed the rider in just shorts, but over the years he gained long trousers, a smart long sleeved shirt and finally a gold wrist watch
This poster is of a 1960’s version of Raleigh’s longest running campaign in Africa – which started just after the Second World War. The series of posters chart developing prosperity in Africa as original posters showed the rider in just shorts, but over the years he gained long trousers, a smart long sleeved shirt and finally a gold wrist watch.

One day, a khaki-uniformed man walked into Duly’s shop with a usual request of the day. After the Second Matabele War (1896-97), soldiers of the Relief Force were anxious to hire a bike to return to their base in Mafeking, or to go even further south to the Cape of Good Hope.

“Bulawayo, as it was shortly after Charles Duly’s arrival in 1894. The two horse-drawn carts are outside his first cycle shop in Abercorn Street [Jason Moyo Street, where Edgars is now]” Photo and caption from the 1961 brochure.
Around this time, in 1897 the first railway trains reached Bulawayo. Oh and guess what! — Bulawayo had electricity before London. One of those early trains brought Rudyard Kipling to Bulawayo. Two bicycles accompanied the popular writer on the journey to Africa. The epic railway journey was organised by Rhodes: “Cape Town – Kimberley – Bulawayo – Kimberley again – Johannesburg – and so back to the Cape. It was also on invitation by Rhodes that Rudyard Kipling came to Cape Town in 1898. He explored Bulawayo on bicycle, and visited the Matopos.

From the Christmas, 1902, issue of the Bulawayo Chronicle
From the Christmas, 1902, issue of the Bulawayo Chronicle

While in Bulawayo, he occupied a classic 100-year-old Edwardian building called Douslin House which now houses the National Art Gallery. Because the number of requests was huge, bicycle-pioneer-turned-entrepreneur Charles Duly made a policy of outright sale only. Even the stubborn request to hire from Rudyard Kipling did not change Duly’s sales decision. Kipling agreed to find a guarantor. “A good one,” insisted Duly. To which Kipling retorted he would bring two. One of the two was Sir Charles Metcalfe, Cecil Rhodes’s principal adviser on railway construction.

Hovering in the doorway enjoying the fun was Cecil Rhodes.

Rudyard Kipling hired Charles Duly’s bicycle for 7s. 6d. a day, including Sundays, an arrangement that lasted three months. He ended up paying far more than if he had purchased the bike. Seven shillings and six pence refers to the UK coinage before the introduction of decimal currency in the early 1970s.

A photo reproduction of a historic newspaper story -- the arrival in Bulawayo of the first motor car
A photo reproduction of a historic newspaper story — the arrival in Bulawayo of the first motor car

Although nearly half a century earlier he had not heard of Rudyard Kipling when he came to the Cycle Shop, later on Charles Duly became an ardent reader of this writer. And despite the growth of the automobile sales, the cycle track still called him. He donated a track to the City of Bulawayo.

It was an ironic fate that when Charles Duly was officiating at a race meeting, at age 79, he walked unsuspectingly into collision with a cyclist, and the old bike enthusiast was injured. That accident, unavoidable and comparatively minor, was quite likely to trigger the end of Duly’s life about a year later, on November 21, 1949.


This Kadoma, Zimbabwe-born novelist, mom of two, teaches us the value of networking each time she crosses intra-African borders

No one ever expects to actually know a writer. Well, not a good writer anyway. Writers are faraway people who sit in some distant land penning novels surrounded by the mists of secrecy. A writer is not your next door neighbour, nor your colleague at work or your customer buying a litre of milk and a loaf of bread.

As part of our African Literature as Creative Enterprise series, Brian Jones and Jane Morris of amaBooks talk to Bryony Rheam whose short stories they have published quite a few.

Last year Kadoma, Zimbabwe-born Bryony travelled north-west to Abeokuta, Nigeria to talk about her This September Sun [Get your copy] at the Ake Festival, one of Africa’s largest literary events. Two and a half years before that, back in May 2012, this novel by a well-travelled Zimbabwean — currently residing close to the border with DRC in Solwezi, Zambia — topped the Amazon Kindle sales and is now an A level set book for schools in Zimbabwe.

Here is how Bryony Rheam describes her experience of work on the novel, Zimbabwe being gripped by a complete economic and political chaos at the time:

Researching the past, even if it is only the 1940s is not as easy in Zimbabwe as it may be in a place like Britain.

..and marketing it at a literary event almost a decade afterwards:

What I found was that many people bought my book after hearing me discuss it.

Cover of the Zimbabwe edition of This September Sun
Cover of the Zimbabwe edition of This September Sun
Your debut novel This September Sun has done well, being chosen as a set book for 'A' level study in Zimbabwe and selling well as an ebook in the United Kingdom. But you are still working as a teacher. Do you think it is possible for a Zimbabwean novel writer to make a living from writing while being based in Africa, or is moving to the United Kingdom or the US to promote your work the only option?

From what I gather, it is also difficult to be a full-time writer in a country such as the UK. I don’t think it is necessary to actually move countries; it’s really a question of getting my work on the market. In some ways, that may be easier from Africa where there is less competition. However, I have discovered that connections are very important in the writing world and these may be easier to find in more cosmopolitan places such as London.

What is the biggest barrier to your writing?

Having to have another job is definitely a barrier because it is so time-consuming.

We have noticed that a number of African writers are diversifying into genres such as sci-fi and romance. What is you view on this?

I think it is great. The African venture into different genres is long overdue. Many people feel that African literature is a little boring or stuck on the same old themes. They don’t see themselves reflected in the writing so I feel more people in Africa would read African novels if the themes were diversified.

Bryony Rheam's panel at Ake Festival in Nigeria
Bryony Rheam’s panel at Ake Festival in Nigeria
In the past year, you have been a participant in the Caine Prize workshop in Zimbabwe and in the Ake Festival in Nigeria. Has either of these raised your profile as a writer? Are there ways in which such events could be improved to help raise your profile, and help sell your writing?

Yes, I think being invited to both these events has helped raise my profile as a writer. They are good ways to network and meet other writers. If your name comes up a couple of times, people remember it and it might make them reach for your book the next time they see it on sale, thinking ‘Oh, I’ve heard about her.’ I think being invited to these events has also made people in my more immediate environment sit up and take notice of me. The students I teach were quite impressed, although some of them thought I was going to Nigeria to star in a Nollywood movie!

There are a number of new writing prizes being introduced on the African continent. Do you see this as a positive development?

Yes, I think the prize money helps authors to be self-sufficient and dedicate themselves to their writing. It also elevates the art of writing above the norm. I suppose there is a danger that these prizes will become too commonplace, but I think we are a long way from that at the moment!

Do you think that collaborations between writers from different regions of Africa help to promote an awareness of common interests and experiences?

Definitely. It’s great to meet writers from all over Africa and exchange stories and experiences. I think many writers face the same challenges within the publishing industry. For example, many writers feel the West expects a type of story from Africa. For black writers it may be one of poverty and hunger; white writers are usually confined to memoir and nostalgia. [See report citing similar stereotyping in Darwin, Australia’s northernmost city]

Bryony Rheam at her book signing with Albert Nyathi, a Zimbabwean poet
Bryony Rheam at her book signing with Albert Nyathi, a Zimbabwean poet
What writers would you consider have influenced your writing?

I love Virginia Woolf and F Scott Fitzgerald for their flowery, descriptive prose. It’s so beautiful and engrossing and I’d love to be able to write like that. I also love Agatha Christie, who is completely different in her style of writing. She concentrates much more on plot. I like the puzzles that she creates and trying to outwit her. An author can be very manipulative, which I like. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is a good example of that.

What is the last book you read?

I recently finished The Mysterious Affair at Styles, which I was given for my birthday last year. It is Agatha Christie’s first novel and quite different to her later ones. At this stage I think she still belonged to the late Victorian age – the novel has echoes of Conan Doyle. Christie was a prolific writer who ushered in the modern crime novel as we know it today.

Who is your favourite fictional character and why?

It’s definitely Nick, the narrator in The Great Gatsby. I was in love with him by the end of the novel! Why? He is perceptive and sensitive and he sticks by Gatsby when everyone else deserts him. While there are many Daisys and Toms, and even Gatsbys, there aren’t many Nicks in this world!

Bryony at her desk in Zambia
Bryony at her desk in Zambia
What are working on at the moment?

I am currently working on a crime novel which is set in Bulawayo at the present time. An affluent white woman is murdered in her home and various characters are drawn into the investigation for different reasons. I’d like to think of it as a philosophical detective story. Each character has some problem that they have to come to terms with or work through. It’s been great writing it and I have learnt a lot about the process of writing a crime novel.

This September Sun can be bought from:
African Books Collective, USA
amaBooks, Bulawayo
Amazon, UK
Amazon, USA
Baroda, Harare
Best Books, Bulawayo
Best Books, Harare
Blackstone Books, Harare
Book Cafe, Harare
Clarkes, Cape Town
Indaba Book Cafe, Bulawayo
Independent Publishers Group, USA
Induna, Bulawayo
Innov8, Harare
National Gallery, Bulawayo
National Gallery, Harare
Parthian Books, UK
Renaissance Wellbeing Clinic, Ndola, Zambia
Tambira, Harare
Tendele, Bulawayo
The Figtree Cafe in Kabwe, Zambia, the birthplace of the South African best-selling novelist Wilbur Smith
Thurbas, Victoria Falls
Vignes, Bulawayo
W H Smith, UK
Waterstones, UK
Xarra, Johannesburg
Z&N, Bulawayo

These are your Creative Slavs in Africa: from Ukrainian wife of Swazi king’s chef du protocole to Polish pilot in Russian Emperor’s air force

As our news screens beam out feeds about Miss South Africa Rolene Strauss taking the Miss World 2014 crown, we’d like to draw your attention to some Slav Africans gracing the podiums both in London and internationally. Plus a Russian Empire-born pioneering photographer of Central African peoples.

Representing the African island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe at this year’s Miss World pageant was Djeissica Barbosa, daughter of a Ukrainian mother and São Tomean father.

Djeissica Barbosa in Angola's capital Luanda in 2014 (Photo from Ms Barbosa's Facebook page)
Djeissica Barbosa in Angola’s capital Luanda in 2014 (Photo from Ms Barbosa’s Facebook page)

 Djeissica Barbosa, filha de mãe ucraniana e de pai santomense, é o que se pode dizer uma mulata linda, esbelta, formosa e  tão doce como o mel:   olhos nos quais parece ressaltar o brilho das alvas e cintilantes estepes ucranianas

Some 4,000 km southeast of the Portuguese-speaking islands of São Tomé and Príncipe, internal designer Olena Dlamini of Ukraine has been calling Swaziland’s capital Mbabane her home for quite some time now. It was in 1987 — 48 years after the red Karelian stone statue of Lenin was displayed at the 1939 New York World’s Fair and 26 years before it was toppled during last year’s Euromaidan protests — that Olena met her future husband Felizwe Dlamini, then student of international law at the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. By then, the larger-than-life-size statue — made of the same material as the communist leader’s mausoleum in Moscow — had been in the university’s main campus vicinity for some 40 years already.

After a stint at the Embassy of Swaziland in South Korea, Mr Dlamini was accompanied by his Ukrainian wife back to Swaziland in the year 2000.  This is  when he became responsible for the agenda of King Mswati III. As of March 2007, Olena Dlamini ran an internal design company Ramashka (‘Camomile’ in Russian).

Some 150 southwest of Ukraine’s capital Kyiv and 34 years before the 1917 Bolshevik revolution,  Kazimierz Zagórski is born to the Polish  noble Clan of Ostoja. Legend holds that Zhytomyr, the birthplace of this pioneering photographer of Central African peoples and customs, was around for 997 years when the famous Welsh journalist and explorer Henry Morton Stanley established what is now DRC’s capital Kinshasa and named it Léopoldville in honor of King Leopold II of Belgium.

Gallicizing his name to Casimir Zagourski, former Imperial Russian Air Force serviceman — and later a Lieutenant Colonel in the Polish army’s fight with the Bolsheviks — arrives in Leopoldville in December 1924 to soon become a leading photographer in the Belgian colony.

Casimir Zagourski in his studio in Kinshasa, 1925 (Source: Kosubaawate.blogspot.com)
Casimir Zagourski in his studio in Kinshasa, 1925 (Source: Kosubaawate.blogspot.com)

The local agent for Agfa film products, Zagourski produced a series of post-card images of Leopoldville in the 1920s and was invited to cover the visit of King Albert and Queen Elisabeth to the colony in 1928.

Back to Ukraine by way of Ghana, designer Beatrice Arthur — born in Odessa, when this major port city was part of Soviet Ukraine; with Russian, Polish, German and Ghanaian roots — is behind the label named B’ExotiQ.

Odesa-born designer Beatrice Arthur of Ghana
Odesa-born designer Beatrice Arthur of Ghana

After acquiring a BA in Spanish Literature, Linguistics and Sociology at the University of Ghana in 2000, Bee Arthur shocked the African Fashion scene by participating and winning the Kora Fashion Award at Sun City [northwest of Johannesburg, South Africa] in 2001. Bee was one of the designers that in 2006 were called upon by USAID to support a project that aimed to take young girls off the streets of Northern Ghana by involving them in sustainable income projects

The wife of former UN secretary general Kofi Annan owns her creations.

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Sao Tomean-Estonian Elsa Figueira creates positive role-models, keeps anti-violence discussion going

by Andy Kozlov @KozlovAndy

As one could expect from checking the international calendar, yesterday the internet burst up from an inflow of awareness-raising info against domestic violence. As every year, on November 25 we were reminded that women and children around the world shouldn’t undergo violence in their homes or anywhere for that matter. ‘Thank you!’ you could roll your eyes in exasperation , “As if I didn’t no that hitting my wife’s index finger with a hammer is a savage thing to do.”

Well apparently, such annual reminder campaigns should not go obsolete just yet. Even those who you think are in the driving seat of behaviour change in there respective nations do their best to surprise you.

Elsa Figueira, a Sao-Tomean-Estonian transmedia initiative against gender-based violence
Elsa Figueira, a Sao-Tomean-Estonian transmedia initiative against gender-based violence

A curious press statement was sent out by the South African presidency on November 24. Mail & Guardian associate editor Verashni Pillay @verashni reports:

This year is significant because we’ve been doing this for 16 years. There were a few possibilities the press release could have played around with in terms of phrasing, given this neat numerical coincidence. [Instead the] Presidency celebrates 16 years of ‘raising gender-based violence’

Raising the violence, not the awareness about it. And celebrating the perversity. Really?

Speaking of observances, less than five years from now, the island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe lying off the west coast of Africa will be the stage for  a centennial celebration of a revalation that — just like geneder-based violence in our time — was reported in newspapers all over the world as a major story. On 29 May 1919, Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, a British astrophysicist and popularizer of science, travelled to the island of Príncipe to watch a solar eclipse that provided one of the earliest confirmations of relativity.

This stamp by São Tomé and Príncipe celebrates the 90th anniversary of the milestone solar eclipse observation by Sir Arthur Eddington
This stamp by São Tomé and Príncipe celebrates the 90th anniversary of the milestone solar eclipse observation by Sir Arthur Eddington

The theory of relativity is an universally accepted episteme today. Brought to its completion during the First World War — that the humanity recalled throughout the whole 2014 — this theory  has successfully superseded a 200-year-old paradigm created primarily by Isaac Newton. Smashing a beer bottle over a woman’s head is somehow still one of those ideas that doesn’t want to vanish in the thin air.

The issue of violence is certainly an universal one, a primordial issue. People everywhere try to figure out a strategy to change violent behaviours in humans.

We asked the producers of a São Toméan-Estonian film Elsa Figueira about how replicable their project’s model could be in other countries.

Pekagboom says:

This project started with the Humanist vision that my musical style is spreading in the world, rapping with a social intervention message with constructive criticism. Through life stories we see happen to us every day around us. We started by a conversation about musical art and visual art in the capital city of STP. Me and the filmmaker Kris Haamer I had a talk about a track from my album that is coming out.

During our conversation I told Kris I’d like to make a video about domestic violence in Sao Tome and Principe because it’s something of great concern to society, because of the cases of deaths that have happened in the country, so I invited him to make a music video with a high quality, let’s say a super production to call the attention of people around the world.

So we decided to unite and do something more than a simple video clip but a short film using the story from my music. That’s where Elsa Figueira came to life.

As we all know to make quality requires investment and we know that Elsa Figueira has everything to be a world reference. To inspire women in a similar situation to gain courage to report these cases of crime. That’s why it’s very important to have the funding to complete this project with help from all around the world we can make a positive difference so it’s a chance to be proud of saying that together with Elsa you’re helping women around the world to combat domestic violence.

Vivalda Cravid Dos Prazeres adds:

Making this film to a broader audience will help raise consciousness of a range of problems, raise questions and promote discussion about the current level of knowledge about domestic violence and the gaps that still need to be addressed.

From the beginning, comprehensive evaluation has been seen as an important part of this movie, since the moment it was conceived to the moment it was last edited as a way to maximize the ability for learning from the diverse strands of the initiative and to guide future activities to address and prevent domestic violence in Sao Tome and Principe and in other countries.

Global Estonian Kris Haamer @krishaamer, a transmedia expert , explains:

Elsa Figueira isn’t easily replicable because she’s a unique a personality. We don’t know how to make copies of her, so we’re trying to make herself spreadable. The approach we’re taking is to create a fictional character that people can interact with, talk to, on Facebook. At one point she might learn to speak other languages, for now she’s just speaking Portuguese and subtitled in the film to languages like Estonian and Norwegian, Italian, Spanish, English, etc.

She’s someone who should inspire women all over the world to realize that if they are in an abusive relationship, there’s a way out and you can empower yourself and take that way. That is kind of universal.

What could be possible ways to cluster the awareness raising and behavior change solutions through media in the context of the domestic violence issue?

There’s hashtag activism and there are social media movements and there are examples of this working. Common signs that members of the movement recognize and gives each one more courage to keep moving forward towards the goal, which in the case of domestic violence obviously is a future without violence.

Looking around and seeing other people who care about this helps all of us remember the goal. This film isn’t going to stop violence or stop anyone from abusing his or her partner. When that happens, it’s already too late. What it may do, is use popular media to get a discussion going and create positive role-models that influence people earlier in their youth, so they don’t grow up to be someone abusive.

Please consider supporting the film here.

Let us know your ideas about making behaviour change campaigns stick.

Andy Kozlov can be reached on a.kozlov@steppesinsync.com

Support Elsa Figueira via Kickstarter
Support Elsa Figueira via Kickstarter

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