A map fit for a king

first_imgA portrait of Francois le Vaillant, the French explorer and naturalist. Le Vaillant’s famous giraffe illustration, with him in the foreground.(Images: Iziko South African Museum) The map features numerous wild animal species, three of which are now extinct.(Image: MapMyWay)MEDIA CONTACTS • Prof Ian GlennHead, Department of Media Studies,University of Cape Town+27 82 788 4253Lucille Davie“I returned, so to speak, to man’s primitive state, and breathed, for the first time in my life, the pure and delicious air of freedom,” wrote the explorer, naturalist and social commentator, Francois le Vaillant, of his adventures in South Africa, between the years 1781 and 1784.Le Vaillant was instrumental in creating a large, painted cotton map of South Africa for the French monarch, King Louis XVI, measuring some 3m by 2m in size. It is the centrepiece of the exhibition The King’s Map, Francois le Vaillant in Southern Africa: 1781-1784, which is on at the Iziko South African Museum in Cape Town until the end of May.Drawn 222 years ago, this is the first time the map has been seen in public, thanks to former French ambassador Jacques Lapouge, who was the driving force in getting permission for it to be brought to South Africa.The exhibition is part of the French Season 2012/2013, a multifaceted bilateral collaboration between France and South Africa. Its purpose is to strengthen relations between the two countries through exchanges of cultural, commercial and social initiatives, while promoting an awareness of French culture through a series of events and exhibitions.Recognised as the first modern ornithologist and taxidermist, Le Vaillant produced watercolours and maps, and captured his adventures in a number of volumes on his return to France. In these, he painted a picture of the peoples of South Africa at the time.The exhibition is curated by Ian Glenn, the professor of media studies at the University of Cape Town. He has written extensively on Le Vaillant, including a biography on his military career, his role at the Cape, and his political affiliations during and after the French Revolution. He has also co-authored two books: François Levaillant and the Birds of Africa (2004), and Travels into the Interior of Africa via the Cape of Good Hope, Vol 1 (2007).“When I first learned that there had been a map lavishly produced under the instruction of François le Vaillant for King Louis XVI in 1790, I was determined to see it,” says Glenn. “The map, originally stored in a naval archive, had been moved from one archive to another to escape destruction during World Wars I and II in France.”He finally traced it to Paris. “When I eventually saw it in the map archives of the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, I hoped a South African public would one day share my pleasure in the most beautiful and striking map ever produced of Southern Africa.”But there was some doubt about it being taken out of storage and displayed, given its value and fragile state. “We owe an enormous debt to the French Cultural Services in South Africa for persuading the Bibliothèque Nationale to let the map [be] exhibited in the land that inspired it,” Glenn adds.Rare and valuable worksThe map is on show alongside with other rare and valuable works by Le Vaillant, including a selection of watercolours belonging to the Library of the South African Parliament in Cape Town, original bird illustrations for his Oiseaux d’Afrique and elephant folio versions of his bird books from the Brenthurst Library in Johannesburg.The biodiversity and range of animals he came across while travelling in the interior is depicted on the map, including three that are now extinct – the kwagga, the Cape warthog, and the bloubok. It contains 66 illustrations of animals, birds, and plants, as well as four cartouches or decorative panels showing different indigenous groups he encountered.Le Vaillant left an impressive legacy – besides the bird books, illustrated maps, travel accounts and paintings, he took back animal specimens, in particular the skeleton and skin of a giraffe. To acknowledge his taxidermy skills, a huge stuffed giraffe greets visitors at the entrance to the exhibition.It also has interactive elements – a video with modern day images of the places he recorded on his map, an interactive display of the map on touch screens, and a large replica of his map on the floor at the entrance, allowing visitors to walk the routes he travelled.Rust en VreugdThe house in which Le Vaillant stayed for part of his sojourn in Cape Town, Rust en Vreugd, and where he catalogued his collections, still exists. Today, it is one of the 12 Iziko museums in Western Cape. The late 18th century townhouse is on Buitenkant Street in the city bowl.His journeys took in the colony and its boundaries: one was made around Cape Town and Saldanha Bay; another out eastwards from the Cape, lasting 16 months; and on the third he journeyed north of the Orange River and into Great Namaqualand.There is a possibility that a replica of his map will be made and put on permanent display in Rust en Vreugd.On his return to France, Le Vaillant published two volumes of Voyage dans l’Intérieur de l’Afrique in 1790, and in 1796, he published three volumes of the second Voyage dans l’Intérieur de l’Afrique, all of which were translated into several languages. He also published six volumes of Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux d’Afrique, between 1796 and 1808, with drawings by Jacques Barraband; Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux de Paradis, between 1801 and 1806; Histoire Naturelle des Cotingas et des Todiers in 1804; and Histoire Naturelle des Calaos in 1804.His publications were widely distributed in Europe, introducing the southern African interior to Europeans. They helped to dispel incorrect perceptions of Africa. His illustrations also often influenced scientific names, and he named several birds. He sent over 2 000 bird skins to Europe.Illustrations of travelsOn display in the exhibition are illustrations of Cape Town; an image of Kees, a tame baboon that travelled with him; several camps at Plettenberg Bay and the Great Fish River; wagons crossing the Olifants River; and of the beautiful Narina, a Gonaqua woman with whom some say he became infatuated. The rare Narina Trogon bird is named after her. A friend and hero to Le Vaillant, the Hottentot Klaas, is portrayed looking regal and elegant. Klaas saved Le Vaillant’s life.Several exquisitely detailed botanical images line the walls. Alongside some of the bird illustrations are musical annotations – his efforts to describe the song of the particular bird. Le Vaillant pioneered the display of stuffed birds in lifelike poses.“Le Vaillant played a major role in establishing how Europe saw the Cape,” explains Glenn. “He attempted to represent his South African experience in many ways – from the production of specimens, to lavishly illustrated bird books and travel accounts, and to innovative maps.“In so doing, he created more than a single influential text, but rather a range of texts that shaped what came after him, both here and elsewhere. This work helped shape many modern media, genres and intellectual traditions. In many ways Le Vaillant is a founding figure of South African culture.”Le Vaillant died at the age of 71 in his country house in France.last_img read more

Will $4 corn be a reality?

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest Now that harvest is completed, the winter landscape begins to exert its influence. Work turns to what can be accomplished inside. Producers’ attentions are quickly turning to the 2016 growing season. Corn and soybean prices have fallen drastically compared to those seen several years ago. Many decisions will need to be made in coming months. Pricing and sourcing inputs will be critical to profitability in the next growing season. Seed corn selection is critical to matching up hybrid capabilities to the land. Cash discounts for payment by year’s end, now less than 30 days away will be part of the process.On Nov. 22, Argentina held its runoff presidential election. With no clear winner emerging from its election in October, the top two vote getters faced each other in the runoff election. The candidates were Daniel Scioli and Mauricio Macri. Scioli was the candidate backed by outgoing president, Cristina Fernandez. Macri was the conservative opposition candidate that pledged major reforms. The election of Macri indicates Argentina opted for a political shift, ending the 12 years of leftist rule under President Christina Fernandez de Kirchner. Macri’s reforms included the possibility of lowering export taxes on grains and grain products along with the potential of currency devaluation. Mauricio Macri will come into office on Dec. 10. While you might think it is no big deal, indeed it is one of significant and long lasting implications for the United States as well as to Argentina.Argentina continues to sit on a major stockpile of unsold soybeans from previous production years. They have long been looked down upon as an unreliable exporter of soybeans, soymeal, and soy oil as a result of work stopping dock and truck strikes that have happened in the past. They took place with extreme regularity and consistency each year. That stockpile could amount to 31 million tons of soybeans. A lowering of export taxes could easily make Argentina soybeans cheaper and more attractive for export. That could place U.S. soybeans at a competitive disadvantage with more downside potential according to some analysts. Others have suggested that the potential election of Mauricio Macri had already been factored into soybean prices before the runoff election took place. Newly elected president Macri is considered pro-business — a sharp contrast of the previous 12 years that expanded welfare while pushing the socialist agenda.With Christmas just around the corner, many thoughts will turn to weather and will stay there for several months. Numerous forecasts are already calling for the polar vortex to become prominent this winter. It was a phenomenon barely heard of two years ago when much of Ohio experienced bitter cold as temperatures reached -20 or colder. While it is not a new term or occurrence, those in Ohio had forgotten they existed. Those temperature extremes had not been seen in Ohio since the early 1990s.Soybean exports to China continue to be at a strong pace. Year to date imports into China were at 65 million tons, up 15% compared to a year ago. China’s crushing margins are still good but below those of several months ago. World ocean freight values continue to move lower as overall world grain demand is slow. In addition, barge freight on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers has been falling since harvest across the Midwest was completed several weeks ago.Grains have been under downside pressure since the July weather peaks that had March 2015 CBOT corn at $4.64. Shortly before Thanksgiving it was at $3.73 with a harvest low of $3.64. January 2015 CBOT soybeans reached $10.50 in July. They made a new contract low at $8.44 following the Argentina election.The weekly commitment of traders report indicates funds are short grains, adding to previous shorts, and getting shorter. Contrast that with producers expecting to see the seasonal rallies following harvest to again be a reality yet this fall. Producers want to see corn hit at least the $4 mark again in coming months. Will it become reality is the question?Thought for the day. “Thanksgiving was never meant to be shored up in a single day.”—Robert Lintner.last_img read more

Serena Williams Puts Aside Shaky Start to Beat Pliskova

Serena Williams, of the United States, serves to Karolina Pliskova, of the Czech Republic, during the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open tennis tournament Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)NEW YORK (AP) — Serena Williams began her U.S. Open quarterfinal tentatively. Her shots lacked their usual sting, her attitude its usual conviction.She was facing the last player she lost to at Flushing Meadows. She kept looking up her coach, as if seeking solutions. After just 20 minutes Tuesday night, Williams was in danger of trailing by two service breaks. Not much later, the outcome was no longer in doubt, because the 23-time Grand Slam champion suddenly was in complete control.Williams put aside some early shakiness and an early deficit, turning things around with an eight-game run en route to a 6-4, 6-3 victory over No. 8 seed Karolina Pliskova for a spot in the semifinals. It was Williams’ first win over a top-10 player this season.“I was playing really not a good game,” said Williams, who was a point from trailing 4-1 and did fall behind 4-2 while making 22 of her 30 unforced errors in the first set. “I was thinking, ‘You know, I can play better.’ So that was the good news.”Pliskova offered this guess about what was happening to Williams: “Maybe she was a little bit nervous.”Maybe. But that didn’t last long.Pliskova is a big server and hitter in her own right, someone who briefly spent time at No. 1 in the WTA rankings and was the runner-up at the U.S. Open in 2016, when she beat Williams in the semifinals. The 36-year-old American did not compete in New York a year ago, because she gave birth to her daughter during the tournament.Go back to 2015, and that was another semifinal departure for Williams, whose bid for a calendar-year Grand Slam was shockingly ended by Roberta Vinci.“Well, I want to just be able to get past the semis here. It’s been a few, couple, rough semis for me,” Williams said. “But regardless, this has been a great road.”This time, Williams’ semifinal opponent will be No. 19 seed Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia, who surprisingly beat defending champion Sloane Stephens 6-2, 6-3 earlier Tuesday.Stephens, who said she had been dealing with a sinus infection, rued all of her wasted opportunities, most notably the seven break points she failed to convert in the first set. She sure didn’t attempt to hide her frustration, either, repeatedly gesturing toward or speaking in the direction of her coach, Kamau Murray, up in the stands.When someone urged her to raise her level in the second set, Stephens replied, “I’m trying!”“When you don’t play big points well, the match can get away from you,” Stephens said. “I think that’s what happened today. I didn’t convert.”Sevastova, who retired in 2013 because of injuries and returned nearly two years later, advanced to her first Slam semifinal.“Still long way to go, I think,” she said.Especially considering that the next step will come against Williams, who’s heading into her 36th semi at a major, 12th at Flushing Meadows.Williams already proved at Wimbledon that she is capable of the sort of dominant performances she has shown over the years, making all the way to the final at the All England Club before losing. She’ll hope to do one better now and claim a seventh U.S. Open title.Her sluggish start against Pliskova came in the same 90-degree heat and 50-percent humidity that hampered John Isner in his quarterfinal loss to Juan Martin del Potro on Tuesday afternoon, and Roger Federer in his fourth-round exit against John Millman a night earlier and prompted the tournament to suspend play in junior matches for a few hours. It also made things tough on No. 1 Rafael Nadal and No. 9 Dominic Thiem during their 4-hour, 49-minute tussle that ended just past 2 a.m. on Wednesday, with Nadal pulling out the 0-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (5) victory to return to the semifinals.With her older sister, Venus — the woman she beat in the third round — in her guest box, Williams looked tight. Her timing was off. She put a backhand into the net to get broken to 2-1 at the outset. Then, down 3-1, she faced three break points; if Pliskova won any, she would have led 4-1. But Pliskova did not manage to put any of Williams’ serves in play on those key points.“Too strong,” Pliskova said.Soon after that, Williams went from trailing 4-2 to not only taking the first set but also leading 4-0 in the second.By the end, Williams compiled a 13-3 edge in aces, and 35-12 in total winners.“She’s playing with the same power. She can still serve well. I don’t think there’s any change with her game,” Pliskova said. “She’s just going for her shots.” read more