Alf Wannenburgh

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Alfred John Wannenburgh (1936-2010, Cape Town) is a South African author, journalist and political activist of German and Dutch descent.[1][2] Wannenburgh attended Ronderbosch Boys High School (RBHS) and later studied at the University of Cape Town. In his university days he worked as a land-surveyor's assistant, salesman, clerk and window-dresser.[3] Wannenburgh is most significantly associated with the Sophiatown Renaissance.[4] He was an Umkhonto we Sizwe noted for his part in the ANC Underground Movement where he became close friends with Dennis Goldberg. Wannenburgh remained in South Africa in the early 1960s rather than going into exile.[1] A close friend of Richard Rive at this time,[5] he contributed stories to anthologies edited by Rive for Heinemann's African Writers Series: the short story anthology Quartet (1963) and the prose anthology Modern African Prose (1964). He later wrote about the Southern African landscape and Kalahari Bushmen,[6] collaborating with photographers on books and instances of photojournalism for which he provided the text. He wrote Forgotten Frontiersmen which centred around the history of the Griqua and Khoikhoi people. In 1987 he wrote The World of Shooting, a detailed account of the history and worldwide efforts made towards the goal of nature conservation and the contributions given towards the sustainability of land through funds raised by controlled shooting ranges. A book that records in great detail, the venues of the most prestigious shoots around the world as well as the key figures and events that ensure their effective impact. Diamond people, a book on the history and trade of diamonds which covers the start and legacy of the De Beers mining company, as well as other subjects such as the famous jewels of the world and the stories behind their discovery. Wannenburgh wrote Diamond People in consultation with the Oppenheimer family and various other contributing parties.

Synopsis of works[edit]

(The paragraphs below descend in a non-chronological order)

The world of shooting[edit]

The American sports writer John Steinbreder reported on the book as follows, "It is an extraordinary celebration of wing shooting, rich with sumptuous photographs, fine writing and elegantly bound in green suede and leather."- 9 April 1990, Sports Illustrated. A period of 3 years

were spent in the process of the books making, an originally intended 2000 copies were to be printed but only 1000 were ever printed. When first released in the US it appeared on the market at a staggering $480. The Author Alf Wannenburgh and photographer Peter Johnson's interest in this project laid not in a lust for blood but rather their love of sport and conservation. The purpose of the book was to acknowledge the contributions of those all over the world whom manage wildlife and harvest in a way that kept it sustainable, especially the contributions made by sportsmen . During the research and interviewing portions of this book, Wannenburgh was given privileged access to private tracts mostly owned by families who had owned the land and so nurtured it for generations as well as having met with King Juan Carlos of Spain along with various other members of the aristocracy involved in the world of shooting. The book is divided into three sections: "The old world", "Outposts" and "The new world". The Old world portion covered a pheasant shoot hosted by the affluent Count Aleco Bulgarini at his grand Austrian estate of 7000 acres (the land having been in the Bulgarini family since 1630). In the Introduction Wannenburgh and Johnson say that the book is "a tribute to sport, in conservation, in all that is closely associated with the world of shooting." The world of shooting today is regarded as one of the most elegant books printed on the subject of the sporting world. Copies of the book sit in the Royal collections of the British and Spanish monarch.


An anthology written by Alf Wannenburgh, James Matthews, Richard Rive and Alex La Guma during the Apartheid era. Wannenburgh's portion of the book is entitled "Echoes". Originally banned by the South African government for its political undesirability. The book was first published in New York in 1963 under the name of Quartet, being written in part by four writers hence its title. In 1965 Quartet was released in London by Heinemann, and remained in print in their African Writers series for the next 20 years. The only copies present in South Africa at the time were those smuggled in by individuals. The official re-launch of the book in South Africa took place in 2008 at the Cape Town District Six Museum. The two surviving authors, Alf Wannenburgh and James Matthews were in attendance. Richard Rive having been murdered on the Cape Flats in 1996 and Alex La Guma having died in Havana Cuba in 1985. Brian O'Connel, the vice-chancellor of the University of the Western Cape therewith said that Quartet was a book of literary and historical importance. He said: "Here is a piece of Cape history recorded some 40 years ago, in compassion and truth of mood. The Cape and Cape Town, are changing at a more rapid pace than ever, and Quartet offers us a hold-fast to whom we were."

Rhodesian Legacy

Published in 1979 by Struik. The book's subject matter entails the defining of old Rhodesia, not in terms of its current dilemma but instead, its human achievement and natural endowment. Wannenburgh's writing and the photography of Ian Murphy in unison, create a detailed re-telling of the wonders of the Rhodesian landscape such as the Victoria falls, The Great Eastern Highlands and the Matobo Hills. In summary, a book capturing the natural wonders of Rhodesia and the achievements of their people.

The Forgotten FrontiersmenA book on the ancestry of the Griqua and their history starting from the Hottentot to the fall of the Griqua nation in East Griqualand following its annexure by the British. Wannenburgh's research upon his writing of this book has been used in part in the writing of the following books - "The Cape Herders" and "The Battles of South Africa".

Diamond People

Published in 1990 by Norfolk House. The book centres around the diamond Industry and trade around the world and was written with the close involvement of the Oppenheimer family and the De Beers mining company of South Africa. Photos taken by Peter Johnson.

Personal Life

Wannenburgh grew up in the Cape Town suburbs of Mowbray and Ronderbosch. Later he resided at his fixed South African residence of 212 Dartmouth Cottage, Main Road, Muizenberg (Millionaires Mile), for the entirety of his adult life. His wife Celeste M.K Wannenburgh (née Matthews) is a Fleur Du Cap award winning actress, ex board member of South African Provincial Government and Educator. Together they had one son named Matthew Wannenburgh who is Alfred Wannenburgh's only child.


  • 'Awendgesang', 'Echoes', 'The snake pit' and 'Debut'. Stories in Richard Rive, ed, Quartet: New voices from South Africa, Heinemann Educational Books, 1963. African Writers Series 14.
  • 'Echoes', in Rive, ed., Modern African Prose, Heinemann Educational Books, 1964. African Writers Series 4.
  • Rhodesian legacy, Cape Town : C. Struik, 1978. (Text by Wannenburgh; photography by Ian Murphy)
  • The Bushmen. Country Life Books, London 1979. ISBN 0-600-31575-4 (Text by Wannenburgh; photography by Peter Johnson and Anthony Bannister)
  • Forgotten frontiersmen, 1980.
  • The natural wonder of southern Africa, Cape Town : C. Struik Publishers, 1984. (Text by Wannenburgh; photography by J. R. Dickson)
  • The world of shooting, 1987. (Text by Wannenburgh; photography by Peter Johnson)
  • Diamond people, 1990. (Text by Wannenburgh; photography by Peter Johnson)


  1. ^ a b Negro Digest, January 1963, p.42
  2. ^
  3. ^ Vladimír Klíma et al., Black Africa: literature and language, 1976, p. 257
  4. ^ Sophiatown Renaissance (1952-1960): Alf Wannenburgh (1936-)
  5. ^ Wannenburgh, 'Memories of Richard', New Contrast 71. 18.3 (1990): 29-39
  6. ^ Christopher Heywood, A history of South African literature, 2004, p. 207