Page 27. " Rousseau's concept of the Noble Savage "
The Death of General Wolfe
Public DomainThe Death of General Wolfe - Credit: Benjamin West

The literary image of the Noble Savage is one of a figure who is uncorrupted by civilization and possesses an innocence that has been lost by civilized cultures.  From the fifteenth through the nineteenth centuries, the concept of the Noble Savage became a popular element in literature. Many early voyagers and travel writers proclaimed the “natural goodness of the savages of America and the islands of the south seas.”

In English the phrase first appeared in the 17th century in John Dryden’s heroic play, The Conquest of Granada (1672): "I am as free as nature first made man, Ere the base laws of servitude began, When wild in woods the noble savage ran."

In France "le bon sauvage" translated as "the good wild man." This character was an idealized portrayal of "Nature's Gentleman", associated with 18th-century sentimentalism and the general theme of virtue in the lowly born. The association of virtue with withdrawal from society — and specifically from cities — was a familiar theme in religious literature.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau insisted that man was born with the potential for goodness, and argued that civilization, with its envy and self-consciousness, has made men bad. He however never specifically used the term "noble savage."  While some scholars have argued that Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality glorifies the State of Nature and promotes "primitivism," others argue against this interpretation.  Rousseau argued that in a state of nature men are essentially animals, and that only by acting together in civil society and binding themselves to its laws do they become men. Rousseau might thus be interpreted to suggest that only a properly constituted society and reformed system of education could make men good.

Page 27. " many Afrikaners were calling themselves Doppers, after the little metal caps with which they snuffed out candles "

The Afrikaners followed the Calvinism of the Dutch church.  However, as the Dutch Church underwent reforms associated with the Enlightenment, in the late 1700s, the church in both the Netherlands and South Africa experienced a number of schisms.

Bust of the Reverend Dirk Postma
Public DomainBust of the Reverend Dirk Postma

The Doppers were a particularly conservative faction who broke away from the South African Dutch Reformed Church (the Boer Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk), the state church of the South African Republic. Under the Reverend Dirk Postma about 300 congregants formed the Gereformeerde Kerk in Rustenburg in February 1859.

The origin of the name Dopper is not certain, but may come from the Dutch domp (wick-snuffers) for their opposition to candles in worship, or from the Dutch word dop (to drink), for their opposition to small, individual communion cups.  The Doppers followed a severe puritan doctrine, and adopted distinctive dress and speech.  The men wore a short single-breasted coat, loose trousers, and broad-brimmed hats. 

They were strongly opposed to all English influence on their culture.  They were also opposed to all new inventions and mechanical contrivances that had not been known or used by their ancestors.  WW Collins described the Doppers as 'possessed with the idea that they too are a Divinely favoured people in the same sense that Israel was.'

Despite the small size of the community, they were disproportionately influential during and after the Great Trek. One of the most famous members of the Dopper church was the first President of the South African Republic, Paul Kruger. 

Page 40. " Al Debbo's lunatic Boer farces "

Al Debbo is an Afrikaans actor, comedian and singer.  He was born in June 1924 in Bloemfontein.  His first movie role was in 1948, in Die kaskenades van dokter Kwak. 


Page 43. " what the tokoloshe looked like and whether he might get me too "

The Tokoloshe is a short, hairy, dwarf-like creature in South African folklore. It is a mischievous and evil spirit that is believed to be able cause illness and even death.  The name is believed to be of Xhosa origin, but belief in the tokoloshe is common across many South African ethnic groups. 

It is believed that the "tokoloshe" can be created after removing the eyes and tongue from a corpse, which is shrunk to dwarf size.  The tokoloshe can be used by the creator to their own ends, but there is a blood debt to pay, which may involve the death of a relative to compensate for the artificial life created. Sellers of muti (traditional medicine) often advertise and sell products used for protection against the tokoloshe.

Page 48. " John Harris, the white idealist who blew up Johannesburg’s railroad station in the early 1960s "
Johannesburg Park Station
Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumJohannesburg Park Station - Credit: Kerri

 John Harris was a teacher and an opponent of apartheid. In 1960 he became active in the Liberal Party and was soon elected to the National Committee. Shortly thereafter he became Chairman of the South African Non-Racial Olympic Committee (SANROC). SANROC was committed to securing South Africa’s exclusion from the 1964 Tokyo Olympics because of its racially discriminatory sports policies.  As Chairman of SANROC, Harris traveled to Switzerland in February 1963 to argue at the International Olympic Committee for exclusion.  On his return to South Africa, his passport was confiscated. In February 1964 he was banned under the Suppression of Communism Act.  Unable to engage in normal political activity, he joined the African Resistance Movement (ARM), mostly members of the Liberal Party whose frustration with the lack of success of traditional politics had driven them to acts of sabotage against economic infrastructure.

Johannesburg Park Station 2
Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumJohannesburg Park Station 2 - Credit: Kerri
Harris arranged to detonate a bomb in Johannesburg's busy Park Station.  He made warning telephone calls to the Railway Police and prominent newspapers half an hour in advance, on the assumption that the railway concourse would be evacuated. The authorities, however, took no action when the warnings were received, and the concourse was not cleared. As a result, the blast caused serious injury to several people, and one woman died of her injuries.

Harris was arrested that night. He admitted that he had planted the bomb but denied intending to kill. He was detained in solitary confinement under the 90 - Day Detention law until he signed a confession. He was then charged with murder, convicted, and sentenced to death.  After eight months of solitary confinement, he was hanged on April 1, 1965. He was 27 years old.  Harris was the only white person to be hanged in Apartheid South Africa for political activities.