Dr Matthew Blackman, freelance historian and writer

Monday 22 January 5.00 pm COURSE FEES R110; Staff and students R55

Poet, cricketer, scholar, botanist, soldier, journalist, politician, and the grandson of a Herero paramount chief – it is unfathomable that Robert Grendon is not better known. But the story of this remarkable man’s life and work still only lies in fragments. However, one of those fragments was uncovered in an archive.

Grendon’s epic poem ‘Paul Kruger’s Dream’ was thought lost but was recently found and republished. Written during the Anglo Boer War, when he was in the British army, Grendon wrote the poem as an attempt to show this ‘aged chieftain’s character … from the time he ascended the supreme chair of his country up to the moment he shook South African dust from his feet in flight’.

Grendon was also an important figure in the early ANC but was fired as editor of its newspaper for his radical views and his stand against corruption. He was also removed from several positions by the colonial authorities in Natal and Swaziland. The poem and the life of Robert Grendon reveal a trove of complicated and astonishing colonial histories.


Recommended reading

Grendon, R. 2023. Paul Kruger’s Dream. Strandwolf Press.

Odendaal, A. 2013. The Founders: The Origins of the ANC and the Struggle for Democracy in South Africa.

Johannesburg: Jacana.

Blackman, M. and Dall, N. 2023. Legends. Cape Town: Penguin.

Brain, W. 2018. Sol Plaatje: A life of Solomon Tshekisho Plaatje, 1876–1932. Johannesburg: Jacana.