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Title: The Mask
Subtitle: A savage story from the African past
Author: Stuart Cloete
Publisher: Fontana Books
4th impression. London and Glasgow, 1973
ISBN 0006128572 / ISBN 0-00-612857-2
Original softcover, 11x18 cm, 191 pages
Satisfactory. Cover with few traces of usage, interior clean.
The events described happened in 1825 to 1854 when in Africa there was a clash of cultures in which the iron of the white man struck a spark from the flint of the savage, igniting a continent. Civilisation cannot be halted. As the Bantu spears overcame the bushmen's arrows, so the guns of the Boers overcame the assegais of the Africans who were pressing down from the north as the white man advanced from the south. I have crossed the Nylford or Moorddrift, as the Afrikaaners call it, many times on my way to the Zoutpansberg. I have seen the thorn trees, now a national monument, against which Makapan's Kaffirs dashed the brains of the Boer children. I have visited the caves of Makapan, and know men who in their youth picked up human skulls and bones in their depths.
There is no doubt that Paul Kruger, later President of Transvaal, actually went into the caves and brought out prisoners, or that he rescued Potgieter's body when wounded and led the Boers barefooted up the cliff to storm Mapela's stronghold. None about the other Potgieter's torture, or the murder of his party. There is a monument raised to these pioneer dead in Potgietersrus, now a thriving town, named after him. I have farmed and hunted buck in the Springbok Flats and the Waterberg. I have bathed in the hot springs of Warmbad, now a health resort with a big swimming-pool.
So for thirty years these stories of our country have been in my mind and heart. The lions and elephant, even much of the lesser game, have gone, but there are still baboons and leopards in the hills, vultures still nest in the high cliffs and the past still impinges on the present, in an Africa where, once away from the great North Road, the veld remains unchanged. Giant trees, baobabs, acacias, euphorbias and marulas, still stand which must have offered their fruits and shade to many strange adventurers, marauding Kaffirs, white hunters and renegades, Arab traders and tiny bushmen.
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