A South African Story...
There’s a beautiful story about human worth that comes out of the ugliness of war.
During the second Anglo-Boer War (South African War) of 1899-1902, the English were struggling to defeat the Boers who had adopted guerrilla warfare tactics. One effective way to demoralise the Boers was for the English to round up all the women and children living on farms and put them into concentration camps and then burn the farms to the ground. The conditions in the concentration camps were dismal and thousands of women and children died.
It is said that the women in each camp had a survival theme taken from the Bible. This was to give them hope and encouragement. The theme for Bethulie concentration camp in the south of the Orange Free State was Matthew 10: 29-31. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” This inspired the women and they made a promise that should South Africa ever mint its’ own coins that they would strive to have their symbol of the lowly sparrow (also known as a mossie in South Africa) embossed on the coin of the lowest value.
After the war Mrs. Marais, who was an inspirational woman in Bethulie concentration camp, spoke to Mrs. Steyn the wife of the president of the Boer Republic of the Orange Free State and asked her to help them get the emblem of the sparrow onto the lowest coin, to thank God that they had survived the war and to remind the men and women of South Africa of their true worth in God’s eyes. Mrs. Steyn took up the challenge and in 1923, after many years of trying, and with the help of General Jan Smuts, then Premier of South Africa, the quarter penny came out with the emblem of two sparrows on the reverse side of the coin, perched and looking at each other. As far as is known, this made South Africa the only country in the world to symbolise a Bible verse on one of its coins.
In 1961, after South Africa had converted to the decimal system, a new lowly half cent coin was minted with the same original design of the two sparrows looking at each other. In 1965 a new 1c coin was minted that also had the two sparrows on it. The design was slightly different to the first, with one bird sitting higher up on another branch and the birds looking away from each other. This same design was also used on half cent coins minted after 1972. With the launch of new coins in 1991, a design based on the original one of 1923 was used, once again with the two sparrows looking at each other on the 1c coin.
Money is worth less and less it seems and in the last few years the lowly 1c coin has ceased to be minted. The symbol of the lowly sparrows of Mathew 10 is no more.
Wear your heritage
I am so proud to be South African. Despite the struggles we face as a country, I believe that all our troubles can be overcome by a little understanding, kindness and love. If we can learn to love ourselves, with all our flaws and mistakes, we can learn to love each other and enjoy our human experience in our short time here on earth.
I thought about how I can create a feeling of nostalgia, a feeling of pride, and a feeling of unity for South Africa in my clients through my art, and I remembered that my mother had a bag full of old South African coins stored somewhere in a dark cupboard. Chatting with her while counting the coins, inspiration struck, and the first series in the collection was born.
The collection details
As with all my items, my love for the shiny, silver metal drove the collection forward, and after many trail and error shapes and sizes, I decided on the African continent and a Heart to symbolize my love for my birthplace, the metal that gives way under my saw and soldering flame, and the red dirt that touches the bottom of my feet on this beautiful continent of ours.
An African continent or heart is cut out of Sterling Silver and embossed with the old South African 1 cent coin details.