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Kimberley African Choir

TODAY IN KIMBERLEY’S HISTORY 15 APRIL

UPDATED: 15/04/2019

15 April 1891, The Kimberley African choir (pictured) leaves for their England tour.
15 April 1901, Mayor’s Siege Medal (Kimberley Star) handed out in the Public Gardens.
15 April 1902, Foundation stone laid for Beaconsfield Public School.
15 April 1902, Work commences on the Honoured Dead Memorial.

DID YOU KNOW

Inspired by Orpheus McAdoo’s Virginia Jubilee Singers from the USA who had successfully toured South Africa, a group of Black singers, many from Kimberley, formed the African Jubilee Choir and toured Great Britain from May 1891 until June 1892. Also known as the African Jubilee Singers, they were a Christian choir, their mission being to raise funds to establish a technical school for Blacks in Kimberley. The choir had two or three concerts in Kimberley before departing on their tour, which although greeted by full houses in Great Britain, ran into financial difficulties, the promoters not fulfilling their promises to the choir members. One of their concerts was in front of Queen Victoria at her summer palace on the Isle of Wight.

Some of the choirs’ members were Paul Xiniwe, Eleanor Xiniwe (nee Ndwanya), Charlotte Makhomo Manye (later Maxeke), Johanna Jonkers, Josiah Semouse ( a telegraphist at the Kimberley Post Office), Miss Gwashu, Katie Manye, John Xiniwe, Albert Jonas, Wellington Majiza, John Hadebe Francis Gqoba, John Mbonge, Anna Gentle, Neli Mabandla and a woman named only as Martha. Presumed to be Martha Lobengula Khumalo, she was a granddaughter of King Lobengula.

Of these touring singers, Charlotte Maxeke became famous in later life. The Maxeke family had moved to Kimberley in 1885 when Charlotte was 11 years old. Charlotte Maxeke (and others) were among the earliest who established a Black Atlantic connection between New Negro modernity and New African modernity. Having later studied at Wilberfoce University under the guidance of WEB Du Bois, Charlotte was to become one the greatest South African modernizers.

Charlotte, at the time of the tour, was an assistant teacher and sewing instructor at a Wesleyan church school. Later in life, she became the first black South African woman to earn a university degree.

The choir had been assembled by a Kimberley entrepreneur, one James Balmer. It also included a pianist and a Cape Town based music teacher.

15 April 1891, The Kimberley African choir leaves for their England tour.
15 April 1901, Mayor’s Siege Medal (Kimberley Star) handed out in the Public Gardens.
15 April 1902, Foundation stone laid for Beaconsfield Public School.
15 April 1902, Work commences on the Honoured Dead Memorial.

DID YOU KNOW

In addition to the military honours and to also honour non-military townsfolk who took part in the defence of Kimberley during the siege, Mayor of Kimberley H.A. Oliver instituted the Kimberley Star in 1900. The medal was awarded to all men who were engaged in the defence of Kimberley as well as to members of the British Forces in the Kimberley Garrison. These included, amongst others, the Kimberley Town Guard, the Kimberley Regiment, the De Beers Maxim Battery, the Cape Police, the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment and the Diamond Fields Artillery. Since it did not enjoy official status, the military recipients were not allowed to wear the medal in uniform.

The Kimberley Star was six-pointed, with a ball on each point and struck in silver, to fit into a 46 millimetres diameter circle. Two Kimberley Stars were struck in gold. The star is attached to the suspender by a ring that passes through an eyelet formed in the uppermost point-ball of the star. The suspension is in two parts, a decorated bar with an eyelet on the reverse for the ring to pass through and a plain bar at the top of the ribbon with a brooch-pin on the reverse.

PT-Kimberley_Star-1901

Mayor’s Siege Medal (Kimberley Star)

The obverse has a central design of the Kimberley town shield, surrounded by a circlet inscribed “KIMBERLEY” at the top and “1899-1900” at the bottom.

The reverse is plain and is inscribed, in relief, “MAYOR’S SIEGE MEDAL 1900” in three lines, with the silver hallmark impressed at the top of the lowermost star point. The medals were awarded unnamed, although some were unofficially engraved with the name of the recipient.

The ribbon is 25 millimetres (1 inch) wide with an 8 millimetres wide black band, a 3 millimetres wide red band, a 3 millimetres wide white band, a 3 millimetres wide dark blue band and an 8 millimetres wide yellow band. Various versions of the ribbon exist and on some the central white band is wider than the red and blue bands.

Approximately 5,000 Kimberley Stars were awarded, but there is no roll of recipients.

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

Aeon Computer Kimberley

About Steve Lunderstedt

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