As much as I enjoy photography, it’s a pain in the fundamental orifice to sort through thousands of images some dating back 30 years or more – digitally scanned files of old 35mm slides from my backpacking years in the Drakensberg Mountains to those taken more recently on new age digital cameras. Deleting duplicates and the less than perfect shots, getting rid of others where there appears to be no apparent reason why they were taken in the first place. Clearing storage space, labelling, cataloguing and backing up onto new external hard drives. It’s hard work and time-consuming, but it also draws attention to groups of images that have a story to tell on their own and that you perhaps hadn’t thought of before.
Where am I going with this?
What I discovered were many images of the local people in their rural settlements in the foothills of the Berg. Looking back every hiking trip took us through these picturesque and truly African places. We even got to know some of the characters and families along the paths we followed more frequently – we were always greeted warmly like long-lost friends each time we passed their way. They are poor, living, in some cases, a meger subsistence existance with little or no services or basic facilities, far from roads, transport and communications, yet they are humble, friendly and always showed a genuine interest in us. The children, when we were spotted, would run barefoot from what seemed like miles away with their familiar cry for “sweeeeets”. Our handouts, were welcomed with wide grins that said it all. Sometimes they’ed join us as we walked, continuously asking questions and laughing infectiously at our responses.
I recall especially the last day of our hikes in the Mnweni area – usually on a Sunday We’d plan to be in these areas in the late afternoon to make the most of the soft, warm light for photography, and, subconciously wanting to stretch our time in the Berg for as long as possible. Sunday’s were always a time when the people would drink their homemade brew in small happy groups around their kraals, sing, beat drums and call to each other from hilltop to hilltop and through the valleys added to by the sounds of cattle and goats being herded back to shelter for the night. It was a remarkable experience, and still is, that gives me goose-bumps remembering those late afternoons, it was Africaness at its finest – if there is such a word?
So, to answer my earlier question, this post is a celebration of the rural settlements in the foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains, of the local people I have crossed paths with on my backpacking and fly fishing trips into the Drakensberg – my life has been enriched by it.
All images and copy in this post are copyright Peter Brigg © 2018. All rights reserved