Imagine you are busy birding and walking in a field with low shrub vegetation in the southern Free State or in the Central Karoo and your attention is drawn to a constantly high pitched tee-tee-tee bird sound near you. Suddenly a small prinia-like bird with a long tail flies out of a low bush or runs like a mouse in front you. This bird is likely to be the elusive Rufous-eared Warbler…
Imagine a living work of art, a miniature tree that evokes a sense of tranquillity and harmony with nature. Such is the allure of the bonsai tree, an enchanting creation that captures the hearts of nature enthusiasts and artists alike. Bonsai, derived from the Japanese words bon, meaning tray or pot, and sai, meaning planting, or to plant, is a centuries-old practice of growing and nurturing trees in shallow containers, transforming them into exquisite living sculptures.
For many black people who have lived through apartheid (1948–1994), the hated passbooks they had to carry every day is emblematic of their traumatic experiences of that time. Although the passbook is synonymous with apartheid, the ideology behind it is much older.
In his novel, The Go-Between (1953), Leslie P. Hartley wrote “the past is a foreign country; they do things differently there”. Although Hartley referred to British society at the end of the Victorian era, his famous quote is also relevant to South Africa and other countries that have experienced drastic socio-political changes. The fact that the past is described as “a foreign country” means it can never be fully understood by us who live in the present age because we do not belong there. Post-1994 democratic South Africa and pre-1994 apartheid South Africa are indeed two very different countries. For those who grew up in the former, the latter is “a foreign country”.
Have you seen a snake in your garden recently? We are fortunate to have about 120 species of snakes in South Africa. As part of a citizen science initiative, the National Museum’s Animal and Plant Systematics Department – Herpetology Division is managing a Facebook group called Free State Reptiles and Amphibians (including adjacent areas and Lesotho) which seeks to gather photographic and videographic records of all reptiles and amphibians found in this region.