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CHILDREN OF THE MIST (article first published : 2007-09-28)

Scott Balson is the author of eight books. One, Enemy of the State, is currently being put into a film documentary in Australia and was due to be launched last month. A true innovator, he pioneered computer-based marketing in Australia long before the Internet became a commercial commodity. He owns several Internet companies and his daily on-line newspaper that he edited from 1995 to 2000 was the first of its kind in Australia and is now stored in the National Library of Australia’s on-line collection as historically significant work.

The Balson Holdings Family Trust Collections include the world’s finest collection of pre-Union South African currency including rare and unique Griqua coins, bank notes, etc from 1558 to 1932, Paul Kruger coinage 1892-1902, South African trade tokens and Mafeking Siege bank notes, old and rare Africana books dating back to 1673 (including a signed copy by Dr. Livingstone), a Griqua powder horn from the 1800s, and for cricket-lovers Donald Bradman signed bats and photographs.

Scott Balson’s latest work, Children of the Mist, the lost tribe of South Africa, has taken 30 years of research through collecting a vast library of rare and valuable contemporary books and documents. The book follows the tragic history of the Griqua people from their forebears, pre-1652, to their fractured state today. Balson's interest in the Griqua stemmed from his time in RSA .He worked for Barclays Bank in Ixopo - working at the Umzimkhulu agency near Kokstad in the late 1970s and his groundbreaking research developed from there.

Children of the Mist sees Marie Forster, a white grandmother, returning to the remote family farm at Matatiele after over 50 years. A series of remarkable coincidences come back to haunt her. She carries a terrible secret from her last visit, a secret involving the misunderstood intentions of Lucas, an elderly coloured man. This good Samaritan, who saved her when she was a young teenager, had revealed to Marie a fascinating insight into the history of his lost nation, the Griqua people.

Marie confides in her young granddaughter, Janet, reflecting on the extraordinary history of the Griqua - starting off from their indigenous Hottentot roots before Jan van Riebeeck settled Cape Town in 1652 to its fractured and uncertain status today. Her story provides a revision of South Africa's early history looking at it from a non-white perspective - in particular, the destructive impact of the Boers and the British Colony on a fledgling indigenous nation trying to establish its own unique, multiracial identity. Marie reveals why, in many ways, the Griqua were and are a living symbol of the Rainbow nation.

Marie's daughter Patrice, brought up in the Apartheid era, is astounded and disturbed that her mother is telling her daughter about a people she had always regarded as inferior. Educated in post-1994 South Africa, Janet reflects an unbiased acceptance of the important place that the Griqua have in the country's history and is both captivated but appalled by the extraordinary and tragic events that unfolded destroying this nation's rich and unique culture.

The story covers the lifestyle of the Hottentot people, the eviction of the "Bastard" coloured race from Cape Town, their nomadic travels to remote settlements like Griquatown, Daniels Kuil and Phillipolis, the roving lifestyle of the gun-bearing horse riding Bergenaars, major conflicts with hostile fragments of Shaka's mighty army, the impact of the first missionaries on the people, their betrayal by the British resulting in the theft of their lands in the Orange Free State by the Boers, the tragic trek over the Ongeluksnek into Nomansland, the disputed land claims resulting from the discovery of diamonds, the Griqua's new home in Kokstad and their final stand in the late 1870s in which they finally turned on the British after they annexed their fledgling state.

Marie explains how the Apartheid era embedded the final nail in the coffin of the Griqua nation as the descendants of this unique people, so rich in history, turned their backs on their roots to ensure they reaped the benefits of coloured classification during the country's darkest moments. Her story supports the Griqua's claims for land rights in several parts of South Africa. The book concludes with Marie telling Janet about the small scattered Griqua communities that remain across South Africa today.

The final twist comes when Janet and her mother leave Marie alone at the farmhouse. A cold winter blizzard envelopes the farm - and Marie disappears under extraordinary circumstances. On their return, Janet discovers Marie's body in the snow and tries to comfort her distraught mother Patrice as she sits beside her body. Her task is made all the more difficult because Janet knows that Lucas has forgiven her and her Granny has joined the Children of the Mist.

This secret of the story is wrapped up in a Strachan and Co coin, South Africa's first indigenous coin which was used by the Griqua as early as the 1870s.

In October 2007, Scott Balson will travel to South Africa to launch this latest work around the country. The main launch will take place at Kokstad during the Griqua celebration of Adam Kok III's birthday at the old laager on October 14. Children of the Mist, the lost tribe of South Africa retails around R200.




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