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SPECTACULAR SOUTH AFRICA (article first published : 2002-12-28)

Written in English, French and German, Spectacular South Africa by Tim O’Hagan combines the talents of a number of leading photographers into an impressive coffee table book, the focus being on the images with the accompanying text kept to a minimum.

Spectacular South Africa takes its reader on a journey from Cape Town to the extraordinary grandeur of the Lost City in the Pilanesburg. There is much emphasis on the picturesque area of the Western Cape, taking in Robben Island and Greenmarket Square as well as the famed wild flowers in Namaqualand, the winelands and Cape Dutch architecture.

From such lush scenery, the reader is transported to the Northern Cape then up the coast along the Garden Route stopping off at the ostrich farms and the breathtaking Cango Caves. The next stop is the tourist mecca of Plettenberg Bay, further on to the beaches of Port Elizabeth and then inland to the Festival City and historical frontier town of Grahamstown.

KZN is featured next with beautiful shots of the yacht mole and the Golden Mile, beadsellers on the Marine Parade and heavily decorated rickshaw pullers. A quick trip inland takes in Pietermaritzburg, the Blood River Monument and the Drakensberg before there’s a fast about-turn and we head back to the KZN North Coast, moving up to Sodwana with a delightful image of baby loggerhead turtle hatchlings heading like fury for the safety of the sea. The game reserves are represented with Phinda and Hluhluwe-Umfolozi and there’s a taste of Zulu culture with beadworkers and Zulu dancers at Shakaland.

The journey makes a major direction change to the vast scenery of the Free State and Mpumalanga, depicting the culture of the Basotho people and that of the Ndebele with their bright and distinctly decorated homes. Focus is also placed on much sought-after trout fishing areas and on the magnificent heavily forested and mountainous regions.

Next stop is the hot and dusty environment of the Kruger Park which offers wildlife in abundance. Then it’s up to Gauteng and Johannesburg, the commercial capital of South Africa, and all that goes with a thriving multi-cultured city life. Sunset over Hillbrow gives a stunning view of the city at sunset. Pretoria is dominated by Sir Herbert Baker’s impressive Union Buildings which houses the Offices of the President and the city is renowned for its wonderful jacaranda trees. One of the most striking images in the book is sunset over Hartbeesport Dam – taken not far from where this review is being written in my weekend home at Kosmos on the other side of the Dam.

The text is vague and in a couple of cases, the captions are incorrect such as Umhlanga being identified as Margate and a beadseller being described as selling her wares on the Esplanade when she is actually sitting on the Marine Parade. The zigzagging route is rather illogical but the photography is so stunning that all is forgiven.

Published by Struik, Spectacular South Africa is a hard cover publication retailing at R169.95. – Cherry MacIldowie




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