Topic-icon Reflecting on the phenomenon of ramdom reading

1 year 3 months ago #74 by Joan
It became a habit, I confess! At the end of a dedicated search for research literature, I submit to the urge of randomly browsing through library shelves.

During my latest browsing session I discover a limited edition book about the history of medical missions in South Africa. I have copy 155 of 950 in hand.

In Christian Doctor and Nurse the author Michael Gelfand chronicles the involvement of missionaries in South Africa from 1799-1976. It is a fascinating read as it provides detailed accounts of the work that religious denominations did at that time. It also explains how missionaries became involved in the health care of the communities they served. The book provides name lists and maps of where these medical missions were situated in South Africa. Some of the mission hospitals such as the Charles Johnson Memorial Hospital, the Holy Rood Hospital in Endhlozana and the St. Mary's Hospital in Kwamagwaza district (in modern day KwaZulu-Natal) are described in detail.

The foreword of the book is a must read for novice historians as it illustrates why historical inquiry is a time consuming pursuit; often becoming a lifetime's work. The documents and data presented in Christian Doctor and Nurse were gathered by Dr RD Aitken, a medical missionary. After retiring in 1969 he started to research and write about the history of medical missions in South Africa, but sadly died in 1974 without completing the work. His widow, Mrs Aitken (who wrote the foreword) then asked Dr George Gale, fellow missionary and lifelong friend of Dr Aitken, to continue with the research project. Dr Gale agreed and continued with the research (from London) for two years, but also died before the story of the missions in South Africa could be finalised. The research material was sent back to Mrs Aitken in South Africa, where finally in 1980 Dr Gelfand expressed interest in finishing the history of medical missions in South Africa. The book was printed and published by the Aitken family and friends in 1984.

If you are interested in further reading:
Gelfand, M. 1984. Christian Doctor and Nurse. Sandton, Mariannhill Mission Press.

(I found copy 155 in the University of South Africa (UNISA) library)
1 year 7 months ago - 1 year 7 months ago #73 by Joan
This time my random reading lead me to discover the creator of the often used Dora Nginza image.
The oil on board painting was created in 1976 by South African painter George Milwa Mnyaluza Pemba. Attached is a scanned page from the 1996 Retrospective Exhibition catalogue. It also contains a comprehensive biographical description of the artist.

Pemba was born on 2 April 1912 in Korsten Village, Port Elizabeth. He was the second youngest of six children. His family as he states "were very English at the time" (South African National Gallery 1996:20). At the age of sixteen he won his first (art related) prize in a local art competition.

In 1931 he enrolled at the Lovedale Teacher Training College in the small town of Alice, Eastern Cape. He completed his training in 1935. During his student years, he was admitted to Victoria Hospital, Lovedale for appendicitis. His sister, Esther was a nursing student there. During his stay in hospital (which in those days were longer than today) he made sketches of hospital staff and other patients.

South African nursing history enthusiasts will remember that Victoria Mission Hospital, Lovedale also produced the first black South African trained and registered nurse - Cecilia Makiwane in 1908.

Source: South African National Gallery. 1996.
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1 year 9 months ago #71 by Joan
Historical inquiry allows the researcher to mentally and physically stroll through paths previously unknown. You will not only visit the history section of the library (or the web), but very soon will find yourself in the sections dedicated to law, geography, management and even the arts. Often these visits are interrelated with your research topic. At other times it is simply about the joy of discovering something new and amazing. All you need is one small piece of historical puzzle - and a curious mind.

I was reading an article published in 1917 in the South African Medical Record when I came across the abbreviation, V.A.D. As the discussion was about these nurses practicing in South Africa, I had to clarify the meaning of the abbreviation and the context in which it was used. What is a better and quicker way to get an answer than to "Google"? Very soon I was engrossed in reading about the Voluntary Aid Detachment members who assisted the injured during the 1st World War (I found the British Red Cross web page very informative).

But back to our topic....reading with the aim to gather historical data, is at first a random affair, often leading one to seemingly illogical and unrelated literature and websites. Yet, gradually the random reading becomes focused and in the process an informed, well structured historical context takes form.

Even if I do not refer to the V.A.D. nurses in the final draft of my research chapter, I "discover" their existence and respect the work they did. And although I "wasted" a bit of time on random reading, my understanding of conditions in the 1st World War improved. You never know - It might come in handy one day.
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