Mapping the way forward
Thomas Baines on expedition to the coronation of Cetshwayo kaMpande, Zululand, 1873
in Worlding the south

In 1873 Thomas Baines – explorer, artist and cartographer – joined the retinue of Theophilus Shepstone, then Secretary for Native Affairs in the colony of Natal, into Zululand to ‘crown’ Cetshwayo as Zulu king. As Special Correspondent to the Natal Mercury, Baines wrote comprehensive descriptions of the events in which he took part. Moreover, Baines’ participation in the ‘coronation’ encouraged him to produce a detailed map of Zululand, now housed in the Royal Geographical Society in London. This map sheds light on the geo-political state of Natal at that time while also suggesting the later dramatic changes in Anglo-Zulu relations. Baines’ friendship with William Emery Robarts en route also yielded a sketch, journal entries, and a sketch map held in the Robarts family archives. The purpose of this chapter is to look more closely at Baines on his last expedition as a writer and mapper of settler interests using the above mentioned resources.

Knowledge about the life and work of artist-explorer John Thomas Baines (1820–75) has become well established in academic circles since J. P. R. Wallis, in 1941, focused a spotlight on Baines’ oeuvre and career.1 Later biographies have added fresh dimensions to Baines scholarship, establishing him as a remarkably talented and versatile artist, explorer, cartographer, and journal writer.2 Given the volume of attention paid to Baines over the years, it is surprising that there still remains material awaiting discovery. This has nonetheless proved true of Baines’ final expedition – a ‘last hurrah’3 – when, in 1873, he offered himself as a ‘Special Correspondent’ to accompany the retinue of Theophilus Shepstone (1817–93), then the powerful Secretary for Native Affairs in Natal, on an expedition into Zululand to crown Cetshwayo kaMpande, the new incumbent on the Zulu throne. Baines’ life had, by then, almost reached its end: he died in May 1875 in Durban at the age of 55. The purpose of this chapter is both to look more closely at Baines on his last expedition as a writer and mapper of settler interests, and to assess the geo-political significance of the unexplored maps and other material discovered upon investigation.

Briefly to situate Baines and the Zululand expedition: by the year 1873 Baines had travelled extensively throughout much of southern Africa and far beyond. Born in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, he came to the Cape Colony as a young man and spent more than a decade in South Africa (1842–53). Thereafter, he joined an expedition to explore North Australia (1856–57), then linked up with David Livingstone and traversed part of the Zambezi River from the African east coast (1858–59). This was followed by two years (1862–63) in what is now Namibia, and a few years later, from 1869 to 1872, Baines was employed by a gold-prospecting company in what is now Botswana and Zimbabwe. Although these expeditions were highly productive in terms of art, journal-recording, and, not least, personal adventure and experience, not all ended well for Baines. His involvement in the South African Gold Fields Exploration Company in 1869 exposed his lack of business acumen and nearly bankrupted him. Moreover, in joining this prospecting company, he became an active agent of settler expansion. In his association with the South African Gold Fields Exploration Company, a subsidiary of the Natal Land and Colonisation Company, Baines became an emissary for the colony of Natal. The leitmotif of Baines’ life from 1871 to its end in 1875 was his attempt to re-float the company, pay off his debts, and restore his reputation.

It was in this light that Baines volunteered to accompany Shepstone on an expedition into Zululand to crown Cetshwayo as Zulu king in 1873. Some historians have described the event as ‘a caricature of a “coronation” ceremony’.4 But in his biography of Shepstone, Jeff Guy reminds us that behind the ceremonies and posturing were very real considerations of power and position.5 Charles Ballard summarises the proceedings as follows: ‘The events surrounding Cetshwayo’s coronation mark a watershed in Anglo-Zulu political and economic relationships.’6 When Mpande died peacefully towards the end of 1872 and his death was made known early the following year, Shepstone and Cetshwayo, Mpande’s son, each contemplated a move that would advance their cause. For his part, Cetshwayo – on the advice of John Dunn and the senior Zulu chiefs – sought the support of Natal for his accession to the throne and sent a delegation to Pietermaritzburg in late February 1873 to solicit it. Formal recognition by the colony was to Cetshwayo’s advantage in dealing with rivalry from his royal siblings, acknowledging his right to the throne, avoiding another civil war, and in gaining help in dealing with the encroaching Boers. For Shepstone, the advantages of ‘crowning’ Cetshwayo would give him (Shepstone) prestige, power over the king as ‘kingmaker’, and in addition – he hoped – promote unity within the Zulu kingdom, which bordered on the colony of Natal. Moreover, and significantly, by supporting Cetshwayo, Shepstone might secure African labour from the disputed territory or from the Mozambique region. This would assist Natal’s expansion and placate settler grievances against the continuing independence of the Zulu kingdom that lay across the Thukela River.

Amid fears of treachery on both sides, on 8 August 1873 the impressive coronation pageant with Shepstone at its head crossed the Thukela River into Zululand. His Natal Volunteer Corps incorporated detachments of the Natal Carbineers, the Richard Rifles, the Weenen Yeomanry Cavalry, the Alexandra Mounted Rifles, the Victoria Mounted Rifles (VMR), and the Durban Volunteer Artillery with two field guns. Some 300 African levies brought up the rear. A ‘willing agent in Shepstone’s schemes’, Baines attached himself to the volunteer corps, an unwitting pawn in a game with important later consequences.7 It was a chance for a break from the depressing task of fundraising, as well as a chance to experience new landscapes and communities, and to depict them in word and image. Baines maintained a detailed journal which found immediate publication in the Natal Mercury (est. 1852), for which he was Special Correspondent. In addition, Baines drew and compiled an important, and little known, map of Zululand at this time.

Mapping the way

Though the emphasis on Baines’ output is generally on the drawings and paintings of his travels and adventures, in recent years scholars have paid increasing attention to Baines’ manuscript and printed maps. Starting their work in the late 1990s, a combined South African/Australian research team published their first work on Baines-as-cartographer in a ground-breaking format: the CD Thomas Baines and the Great Map (2001), which gathers together a digitised and hyperlinked version of the 1872 manuscript map Baines drew of the route the Gold Fields expedition took to Matabeleland, some of the paintings from that expedition, and academic commentary.8 This was followed by a second group project concerning Baines, this time focusing on the map he drew of the coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria as part of Augustus Gregory’s 1855 expedition to North Australia. The book, entitled Thomas Baines: Exploring Tropical Australia (2012), included chapters analysing the map and expedition from various points of view: historical, political, cartographical, discursive (given its dense annotation), and artistic.9

Of course, other researchers have written about Baines from this perspective – Jeffrey Stone most notably10 – but finding his maps has not always been straightforward given Baines’ peripatetic life on expeditions in far-flung lands.11 Some, because funded by a body such as the Royal Geographical Society (RGS), were easier to locate. For example, Baines’ sketchbooks and numerous paintings, plus a manuscript map from the Gregory expedition to Australia mentioned above, are to be found in the Map Room at the RGS London headquarters. When it came to finding the map discussed in this chapter, the route was less obvious as the coronation expedition had not been funded by the RGS. While Wallis wrote that one of the attractions for Baines in joining the coronation expedition to Zululand in 1873 was that ‘mapping an uncharted route was a potent lure’ for him,12 and Stone mentioned the existence of ‘extant manuscript cartography by Baines in the RGS Map Room, dated 1873 and the first half of 1874’,13 no particular map of the route had been analysed in any detail or reproduced in any of the biographies of Baines. That such a map existed was clear: Baines recorded drawing the route taken by Shepstone in his daily journal, quizzing locals as to correct place names and giving copies of the map to helpful informants like Mr Robertson, the missionary, and, most importantly, a sketch to William Emery (‘Em’) Robarts (1847–1903), a surveyor by profession and a member of the VMR, one of the volunteer corps accompanying Shepstone.

Robarts had asked Baines to make a sketch of the VMR escort while they sat in a tent on the banks of the Thukela River. In a letter to his wife, Liz (nee Povall), dated 5 July 1873 (but subsequently corrected by his grandson also named William Emery (‘Bill’) Robarts [1921–2002], the family archivist, to the month of August), Em wrote:

Mr Baines the traveller and artist is with us in his professional capacity. Well last night I spent a very pleasant evening with him & Capt Drake in his tent – songs and jokes – and I then asked him to make a sketch of our tent with all hands sitting round inside, with the breakfast things all used after as we had done – of course the likenesses are not accurate but as a sketch it is very good. We intend to have it photographed when we get back – I keep the sketch and will of course shew it to you. We will have it framed and keep it as a momento [sic] of the trip.14

The black-and-white photograph alluded to above has been reproduced in various places but a recent meeting with the Robarts family on their farm in Zululand revealed both the sketch and a section of a map drawn by Baines of the expedition’s route. The ‘sketch’ in real life is a large watercolour whose colours are very well preserved (Figure 10.1).15

Bill Robarts documented the names of all ten of the men seated in the sketch in his archive’s notes,16 and added a few corrections to his grandfather’s original roll call of those sketched at the back of the framed painting: ‘There were 10 persons in the group but only 9 names are given. Robert Plant’s name must be inserted between A. Blamey and J. Adams … Tom Garland was only a trooper (later he became Capt). Em was Sergeant in charge of the party (in the Zulu War he became a Lieutenant).’17 The painting is given a title and signed by Baines in the bottom right-hand corner: ‘Victoria Mounted Rifles at Rendezvous Camp, Tugela River August 1st to 8th 1873 – presented to the Corps by their friend, the artist’. Besides a small water mark top left in the painting, it is undamaged after hanging in the farmhouse for over a century. Accompanying this painting in the Robarts family’s collection is a framed section of Baines’ map to the coronation site (Figure 10.2).

Em Robarts refers to this gift from Baines in the diary he kept during the coronation expedition, also still well preserved in the Robarts family archive. The diary entry for 20 August 1873 reads: ‘Mr Baines gave me this morning a tracing of his map of the road we have come and also a list of the distances.’18 Bill Robarts, in his unpublished account of the Robarts family, explains why the map would have been an appropriate gift: ‘Also accompanying the force was artist and geographer Thomas Baines, an accomplished navigator and he and my grandfather (a surveyor) worked together to plot the route to Mahlabatini.’19 This map is framed together with the black-and-white photographic print plus the list of the men’s names stuck on to the map sheet on the left-hand side. Baines has formally entitled this map ‘Route of the Honble T. Shepstone and his Natal Volunteer Escort to Zululand Sheet 2 – from Rendezvous Camp south of the Tugela … Observed and drawn by T Baines FRGS, artist and geographer, Durban Volunteer Artillery’. It seems probable that Em (or Bill) Robarts stuck the photo and its description on to the map and had the whole framed for posterity. But if this was Sheet 2, where was Sheet 1? Further research led to the Brenthurst Library that owns Baines’ journals from the Zululand expedition. The three notebooks of journal entries contain many calculations of daily distances achieved,20 a few rough pencil sketches of places to act as aides-memoires, some patchy doggerel verse which Graham Dominy has transcribed and commented upon,21 a list of athletics events, and the results achieved by the volunteer corps who were bored with waiting for Cetshwayo to appear for his coronation, but little or no mention of the map he was simultaneously compiling.

It was not until a chance request at the RGS that the mystery was solved. Though Stone, as mentioned above, had alerted researchers to the materials relating to Baines and his work in Natal that are lodged at the RGS, a preliminary search drew a blank when it came to anything relating to 1873. However, among the many maps filed in the South Africa S.97 folder dated c. 1865 was an anomaly: the official map of the coronation route (Figure 10.3).22

At 101cm x 64cm it is considerably bigger than the route map owned by the Robarts family and is, indeed, the entire map (in other words, Sheets 1 and 2, though they comprise just one sheet of paper in the official map). Baines must have worked on sections of the map on separate sheets and then combined his workings into the final product. That it is the official map is evidenced by the fact that it is inscribed in Baines’ hand – ‘Presented to the Royal Geographical Society by the Artist’ – and also by the fact that further research showed that it had been sent to the RGS as a separate item by Baines in 1874, and was not part of the donation to the RGS in 1888, post Baines’ death, which makes up folder S.97. Baines clearly attached enough importance to his finished map to send it to the RGS immediately. This map, together with the other fine work he had already sent to the RGS as part of the Gregory expedition, would have been the basis of Baines being elected RGS Honorary Fellow for life in 1874. He was also awarded a gold watch with an inscription acknowledging his ‘long-continued services to Geography’ by the RGS, although as he did not return to England before his death, this was never officially presented to him but was sent to his sister. The significance of the coronation route map has now been acknowledged by the RGS – it has been re-catalogued as a single item with the correct year for ease of reference.23

The map itself includes Baines’ 1872 route from Utrecht to Pietermaritzburg and Durban on the left-hand ‘half’ (perhaps Sheet 1 in Baines’ terms), while the route of Shepstone (and Baines) from Durban to the coronation kraal in Zululand in 1873 occupies the right-hand side of the map (Sheet 2 owned by the Robarts family correlates to this, although the RGS map is more fully annotated and drawn, plus hand-coloured to show the hills). Meticulous as ever with his observations, Baines is at pains to point out where there are possible inaccuracies. He refers, for example, to the occasional problems encountered in measuring distance with a trocheameter, such as ‘fewer revolutions of wheels than ought to be made in the distance travelled’ during steep descents. As ever, too, with Baines, he demonstrates complete dedication to the enterprise at hand by not only mapping the route, but sketching, journaling, and writing articles for the Natal Mercury newspaper for the coronation expedition. All this work was unpaid except, perhaps, the commissioned work for the newspaper. Wallis recalls that Baines ‘submitted a detailed account of the Cetshwayo expedition for Shepstone’s approval, but, of the £5000 the Government spent on the “coronation” he received not a penny, not even for the map, a useful piece of public service’.24

Stone suggests that, as Baines did not discover any major geographical feature as Livingstone, for example, did, he was never considered in his day to be a major explorer or cartographer: ‘Without a major geographical discovery, his impact was always likely to be modest … He put no large rivers, lakes or mountains on the map for the first time.’25 The power of his maps today lies in the insights they provide into historical moments such as Cetshwayo’s coronation, especially because they can be read together with his sketches, paintings, diaries, and articles. As part of a larger jigsaw puzzle relating to how settlers mapped and understood British/African geo-political interests, they are invaluable. Thus, one of the important aspects of Baines’ Zululand map (together with the accompanying material) is that it configures the Zulu kingdom as a spatial entity and presents this to a western audience in a scientifically acceptable way. While some groups, particularly African communities, were previously wiped off the map by cartographers, in the case of Baines’ coronation map, the Zulu become entrenched within their space and are given territorial boundaries, towns, and distinct geographical features. When the Anglo-Zulu War was declared in 1879, there was thus a visible country to be conquered. However, Baines’ Zululand map was not a map of land appropriation and, unusually, he does not only give western or English names to features and settlements: he also records Zulu place names such as ‘hill of the trees bent by the lions, i.e. the prevalent SE breeze’, ‘river of the Crocodile named after this regiment’, and ‘hill of the green stones’. Within Zulu territory he meticulously notes the various trading stores as well as those vanguards of colonialism, the mission stations and their missionaries. In particular, mention is made of Dingane’s kraal, where Voortrekker leader Piet Retief and his party were murdered in 1838, the kraal where Mpande died and was buried, and the hill at which many Zulu executions were held.

Baines’ map should be seen in conjunction with other maps of the region: Friedrich Heinrich Jeppe’s 1868 map showed Zululand as a neighbouring region to the Boer South African Republic, as was the Portuguese territory that abutted Zululand on the north, but which Baines did not include in his map. Rivalry for control of land in the subcontinent grew more urgent in the 1870s, and each enclave was being hemmed in by maps. It is in this respect that Baines’ Zululand map is especially relevant. While the trader John Sanderson presented his 1861 map of the region to the RGS with geographical features such as rivers and mountains noted, he gave very few place names or positions of clan settlements. In contrast, though his was not the first map of Zululand, Baines marked the territory as populated, with occupied places clearly shown. This was new: it was difficult to map Zululand because entry required the permission of the Zulu king and certainly no formal survey was possible. Cetshwayo’s strategic delays – from 18 August to 1 September – before meeting Shepstone gave Baines time and opportunity over a number of weeks to construct his map and check the accuracy of his coordinates. It was, strategically, the coronation expedition that provided the opportunity for him, and for a large group of military volunteers – many of whom would go on to conquer the Zulu in the war of 1879 – to experience the landscape of the Zulu kingdom at first hand and map it for the west.

Baines’ map, then, drawn while on an expedition invited by the Zulu king, shows a place occupied by Zulu kinspeople with isolated missionaries and traders in their midst. It is not ‘empty’ or there for the taking; the earth is ‘marked’.26 Through his annotation, not only of place names but also the movement of the expedition, Baines charts the intrusion of a colonial order into the heart of Zululand as had not happened before. In this regard, he is an active participant in this process. This expedition allowed a colonial state to ‘crown’ the king of an independent country, and to present ‘demands’ to him that would secure some measure of overall authority by Natal over the king’s administration of his own country and thus tragically compromise his independence. The importance of Baines’ map is that it charts this geo-political intrusion for us all to see today.

A special correspondent

Besides working daily on gathering measurements for his map, Baines was also recording details of life en route to the coronation as part of his appointment as Special Correspondent to the Natal Mercury, the Durban-based newspaper, which appeared three times a week in 1873. The newspaper editor proudly advertised the appointment of Baines to colonial readers, who would have been following with intense interest the events in Zululand. He declared his

pleasure to announce that we have been able to secure the services, as special representative of this journal, of our old and well known friend – artist, traveller and writer – Mr T Baines FRGS. Mr Baines, on receiving our request, at once agreed to waive other engagements, and accept a position offering him such ample scope for the exercise both of his pen and pencil. Our readers, therefore, will be kept apprised of every incident connected with the expedition.27

Whether Baines was to be paid for his services to the newspaper is unclear, but what is clear is how welcome this offer was to Baines as a way to enable his part in the expedition and escape, if briefly, his ongoing financial wrangles with the Gold Fields company and the accompanying stress referred to earlier. Baines was clearly a Shepstone supporter, according to Norman Etherington, who ‘links Thomas Baines with Shepstone’s visionary plans for expanding Natal influence to the Zambezi and beyond’.28 Perhaps Baines was also motivated by a desire to shape through his journalism how readers perceived this important phase of Anglo-Zulu engagement. Jane Carruthers and Marion Arnold suggest that Baines, ‘[n]ow firmly within the Natal camp and the friend of many locally born political leaders … undertook many commissions that were highly propagandistic, although not necessarily lucrative’.29

Whatever the case, when reading the pieces Baines wrote in 1873, one is struck by the carefree, jocular, and sometimes jingoistic tone he adopted, which sits occasionally uneasily with the scientific seriousness which he also shows when capturing most minutely the daily progress of the expedition and events at camp. Although Baines had shown a similar humorous side to his writing in his Blue Jacket Journal (1855), written at sea en route to Australia before the Gregory expedition nearly 20 years previously, this relaxed tone is not one heard from Baines in the years before this expedition, beset as he had been with problems. This is also a Baines surrounded by friends and companions; he is happy in these weeks, as we shall see when analysing the journalistic pieces he wrote. He has many roles to play – newspaper correspondent, cartographer, artist – in an unknown environment which he finds fascinating, amid conducive company. Wallis concurs with this assessment: ‘His [Baines’] letters from Injembe to his sister are livelier and more full of quip and jest than usual, while his journal and his articles to the Natal Mercury while visiting Zululand show no trace of gloom.’30 Robarts attests to Baines being ‘one of the lads’ – Baines had evidently seen a good deal of ‘roughing it’ in his life31 – and an interesting travel companion. The two men evidently got along and shared an interest in ascertaining correct measurements for their physical position in Zululand. Baines mentions Em Robarts in the Natal Mercury of 19 August 1873: ‘Mr Robarts of the Victoria Mounted Rifles proposed to take a lunar distance for longitude, but the nearly full moon was so bright that it dimmed the only star (Antares) that we could use, and the attempt did not succeed’;32 and again the next day, 10 August: ‘Mr Robarts came at night and assisted me in taking a lunar observation, which occupied us til midnight.’33 Besides Robarts, to whom he gifted the painting of the VMR in the tent plus ‘a tracing of his map of the road we have come and also a list of the distances’, Baines referred to others, too, as ‘friend’, which was not the norm for Baines, frequently the loner.34 From the outset, in his first article for the Natal Mercury, Baines notes:

I had the good fortune to fall in with my friend Captain Drake, formerly of the Justicia of Cape Town, now commander of a buck wagon and tent, which he hospitably invited me to share with him. It need hardly be said that I accepted the invitation as freely as it was given … a friend in need kindly lent me a horse … and thus relieve[d] Shank’s nag of at least twenty miles of the journey.35

It seems Baines was hardly well equipped as an independent observer on this trip – no tent and no horse speak to a severe impoverishment – and yet he had an optimistic outlook in relation to the camping trip he was about to make. His optimism was well founded: Baines’ report for the Natal Mercury written at Flag Staff, Umhlali and published on 29 July records offers to share tents from Captain Escombe and also from Dr Lyle; the same article reports: ‘I got out the sextant – kindly lent me by Captain Wilson, and nautical almanac by Captain Airth – and observed the two following stars’; plus a ‘social breakfast with my friends Mr and Mrs Hart’ in the morning.36 The third piece published in the Natal Mercury confirms that the friendship and cordiality extended further: from Rendezvous Camp near the Thukela River where the escort awaited the arrival of Shepstone, Baines reports that ‘Saturday night was duly honoured: “songs all round” was the order of the evening, the canvas walls allowing the songs of one tent to be audible to all the rest.’37

While this tent scene speaks to the men’s perceived role as kindred ‘colonial spirits’ tasked to extend British influence over the Zulu nation, the trip was not expected to be without tension and hardship when it came to anticipating how the Zulu king would receive the column moving ever closer towards him, not to mention the occasional difficulties the terrain would offer the wagons, guns, and oxen. In his next episode sent to the Natal Mercury, dated 19 August 1873, Baines observed: ‘We expect rough country tomorrow and if there were any ideas among us that this escort was to be a mere picnic in uniform, it is likely to be dispelled by the stern teaching of experience.’ A little later in this same article, a cautionary note is sounded: ‘I believe part of the duty of the corps is to prove to the natives that our intentions are peaceful … Nevertheless a wise precaution has been taken to order that every man shall be provided with ten rounds of ball cartridge.’38 In the meantime, however, the mood prior to the coronation for those escorts awaiting further developments was light, even frivolous: in order to pass the time while waiting for Cetshwayo to agree to an exact location for the coronation, a programme of athletic sports was organised – some pages of Baines’ diaries are filled with sporting results of one such programme with events such as high jump, sack race, and three-legged race listed.39 These are, of course, also reported in the Natal Mercury: ‘As for the four days we are to spend here, a committee of sports is to be formed, and foot and horse races, cricket matches, coast against up-country, and all sorts of amusements are talked of.’40

These efforts to relieve boredom were devised by, and for, the white men accompanying Shepstone, settlers in the main. But what do the pieces Baines was writing for the newspaper tell us about the Zulus who were with them as part of their escort, and also of Cetshwayo and his people? As an artist, Baines seems always to be evaluating the Zulu he sees as potential subjects for his pencil. His diary entry dated 28 August offers a good example:

I had noticed one fine young man wearing two or three Union Jack handkerchiefs as a shawl and presently some of our friends came and begged me to sketch the handsomest man in Zululand. He was asked to stand for me, the request being put in such a form as to render it a compliment; and as soon as he understood our wishes he threw off his mantle and faced towards me … He had no head-ring, but his crisp hair was two or three inches long, his forehead large, his eyes large clear and open, his nose aquiline, his mouth especially small and well formed … his neck massive, his chest full … Of course my sketch under such circumstances was imperfect, but I think I can correct and develop it.41

At the coronation itself, Baines was, of course, terribly keen to sketch the ceremony but ‘I did not use my sketchbook folio lest by any possibility I should give cause of offence, but folded small pieces of paper so that I could push them up my left sleeve or hold them in the hollow of my hand.’42 He reported doing a few sketches where he could: ‘the rush of the Zulus’ during the ceremony, the ‘thrones while they were vacant’, but, sadly, none of Cetshwayo himself as Baines could not get close enough to him. Other sources portray Cetshwayo and Shepstone at the coronation (Figure 10.4).

Baines does, however, provide a description of the crowned king: ‘Nevertheless his majesty looked right regal in his crimson and gold coronet, with its towering crimson ostrich plumes rising from each pinnacle and curling gracefully backward.’43 There are many references in the Natal Mercury articles to sketching Zulu men from the royal kraal, particularly the northern magnate ‘Oham’ [Hamu kaNzibe of the Ngenetsheni] and ‘Ziweda’ [Ziwedu kaMpande], the king’s half-brother. Hamu is singled out as a ‘really jolly fellow [who] has won all our hearts’ and a worthy subject to sketch, ‘a splendid specimen of humanity, and would have excited the admiration of our home farmers could he have been transported just as he was to Islington or Smithfield to be exhibited beside our prize cattle’.44 This demeaning comparison fits into the casually racist and patronising tone with which the Zulu are generally portrayed by Baines, perhaps in an effort to ‘fit in’ with the settler jargon and assumed views of his readership.

There are a few offensive descriptions of the royal wives, too, by Baines, repeated in the general editorial comments that preceded his pieces. A comparison of one particular set of descriptions is useful in that Baines’ observations are slightly softened by levity and an effort at euphemism, as opposed to that of the editor. Baines’ entry of 22 August recalls how one of Cetshwayo’s wives

has attained such enviable dimensions that she is valued at no less than a thousand head of cattle. Indeed one of the reasons given by Ketchwayo for wishing us to come down to him, is that he wishes his wives and sisters to see him crowned, and many of them are so beautiful that they could not possibly walk up the hill, and could not be carried without great inconvenience.45

In contrast, the editor summarises this entry by Baines baldly as follows: ‘some are too fat to climb the hill’.46 The hearsay description of the wives is intensified once Shepstone’s party is allowed to meet the women of the royal household a few days later. Baines’ diary entry of 30 August relays the party’s impression: ‘Of course all were in prime condition, and the belle of the nation was so fat that even the calves of her legs hung in folds over her ankles, just as the skin of an Indian rhinoceros does about its body.’47 How much of this is Baines angling for a smile from his readers in Natal is impossible to say. Although there are vestiges of a similar kind of patronising attitude in a few of his journal entries describing Aboriginal Australians from the North Australia expedition, these derogatory and dismissive attitudes, particularly towards the Zulu women, are of a piece with writing for a ‘popular’ settler audience and not for the Fellows of the RGS.48

One echo from the North Australia expedition recalls the more scientific side of Baines – on that expedition, the grass burning of Aboriginal Australians was misunderstood as an aggressive act rather than the farming practice it indeed was. On this campaign, Baines never feels under the same lonely threat when the Zulu burn grass nearby, understanding that it is a necessary form of communication, involving ‘signalling by means of smoke every movement that is made, and runners are employed to carry any messages not provided for in the telegraphic mode’.49 Unlike the North Australian expedition where there is limited verbal interaction between white and black men, in Zululand much more conversation is possible given the number of available translators and white men who could speak Zulu. Baines is, therefore, able to respond when approached by members of the Zulu royal family with a request for advice as to how to make beards grow – he suggests ‘a little fat or marrow or vegetable oil pressed out of the ground-nut as the only thing I would recommend’.50 Em Robarts corroborates this interchange in his diary, adding that Baines ‘gave them the best advice he could and seized the opportunity to get a sketch of them’.51

As to the future relations between British and Zulu after the coronation, Baines makes no prediction, save that Mr Dunn is singled out for praise for his ‘efforts in the cause of peace and British interests’, and Hamu, a rival for the throne at the time, is not judged to be a threat to the king ‘as long as his own rights are not invaded’.52 Praise is deemed fit for the accompanying volunteer escorts and, of course, for Shepstone, the ultimate chief, with whom Baines had ‘the honour of dining’ a few days after the coronation on Saturday 6 September, ‘[passing] a very pleasant evening’.53 Baines’ own death was to follow in less than two years and the Anglo-Zulu War a few years after that, but at this moment, brought together for a ‘short-lived pageant’, as Baines terms the coronation, Zulu and settler slept peacefully each in their respective camps.54

Finally – though much more could be said about the pieces Baines wrote for the Natal Mercury – we can derive insights into how he viewed the challenging environment of the Natal north coast and Zululand during the weeks he spent charting the expedition’s course. That the terrain was arduous and dangerous is well referenced by Baines. Crocodiles were a frequent threat to life when crossing the waterways, while some of their body parts were seen as lethal in Zulu witchcraft practices. The scientist and anthropologist in Baines is eager to record these observations and educate his readers. Of a crocodile caught crossing the Umvoti river, Baines wittily observes ‘that he acquires a musty flavour, but a little pepper, salt and hunger make excellent sauce for the tail steaks’.55 Besides the crocodiles, Baines writes of different kinds of antelope shot for the pot by members of the various escorts and sketched by himself, together with snakes and bird-life. The fascinating wildlife complements the landscape, which Baines describes scientifically but warmly. One such example can suffice to illustrate the confluence of scientific endeavour and aesthetic appreciation in Baines when applied to his Zululand environment:

Today I completed the plotting down of our track, and at night was fortunate enough to get a quiet moment for an altitude of Alpha Lyroc, which gave latitude 28 deg.21 min.41 sec. … The country now is less difficult, the ridges are broader and more level … One of these glens we passed today with a little waterfall trickling over a rock was a perfect little gem in the wilderness.56

This is all of a piece with the contented tone Baines adopts in his submissions to the Natal Mercury: the coronation expedition was a happy one for Baines, with a united party on expedition, no great privations, and many friendly companions to assist with any need, as well as enabling a contribution to science and one’s country through the map and observations. For once, Baines feels an insider, as is evident from his opening sentence addressed to Natal Mercury readers: ‘It would be but a poor compliment to imagine you so unacquainted with our border policy or with the history of our relations with the neighbouring tribes as to require enlightenment upon a subject which … has for some time engrossed the attention of Natal … our colony.’57

Baines’ emphasis on ‘our colony’ and ‘our relations with neighbouring tribes’ brings into stark relief the purpose of both the coronation and the mapping expedition, which was to promote British political and economic interests and to unite British settlers in a common interest. The same article a little further on contains a poem by Baines entitled ‘Ketchewahyo’s Coronation’, more evidence of what Dominy describes as Baines’ ‘doggerel verse’ penned for this trip.58 One particular verse reinforces the sense Baines projects of being an insider writing for other like-minded readers, assuming a pro-Shepstone bias for himself and others accompanying the expedition:

Then at once through all Natal, there rose a mighty voice,

Sure of Englishmen and colonists Somtseu59 can have his choice,

We’ll muster thick around him, and make his heart rejoice,

As he travels to Ketchwaiiyo’s coronation.

Chorus Hurrah, hurrah, we’ll sing the jubilee

Hurrah, hurrah, we’ll have a jolly spree

More power to the elbow of his Zulu Majesty

As we march to Ketchwaiiyo’s coronation.60

From the Natal Mercury archive of articles written by Baines, one gathers a picture of Baines himself on this expedition, ever busy, measuring everything from animals to distance, writing, drawing, staying up to midnight to copy his journals to catch the post, filling in names on his map – ‘I gave Mr Robertson a tracing of my map, asking him to furnish me with details of the country around, so that I may afterwards add them in’ – talking to local informants, gleaning information: in short, being the ever diligent servant of empire that he was.61

Cartographic expansion

Stalling the coronation with numerous delays, it is likely that Cetshwayo had second thoughts about the wisdom of his strategy in inviting Shepstone to perform the service. Moreover, unexpectedly as far as Shepstone was concerned, Cetshwayo had already been proclaimed king on 14 August in the traditional manner at the emaKheni kraal in the emaKhosina valley, and all his rivals had bowed to his accession.62 Shepstone’s ‘pantomime’ coronation was therefore superfluous, except insofar as it might offer support to the king against incursions from Natal settlers and the Boers, as well as some protection from Britain. Dutifully, Cetshwayo acceded to the agreement that Shepstone insisted upon at the coronation, although many of his chiefs did not approve. It was these terms that were later to be misinterpreted by Shepstone as introducing a ‘fundamental change’ in the relationship between Natal and Zululand.63 Some of them formed the basis for the invasion of Zululand in 1879 and the subsequent dissolution of the kingdom. R. L. Cope concludes that Cetshwayo and Shepstone were both disappointed, and that neither of them kept to the agreement that had been made.64 Zululand was annexed by Britain in 1887 and subsequently incorporated into Natal in 1897.

As to Baines’ legacy from the expedition, very little remains besides the map, the journals, and the newspaper articles. Single sketches can be found in various archives – for example, in the Killie Campbell Library – but no large ‘coronation expedition’ archive survives intact, such as is available, for example, for researchers interested in Baines and the North Australian expedition at the RGS. The most probable explanation is that Baines’ sudden death relatively soon after the coronation expedition left his papers and paintings unsorted. Carruthers and Arnold list the various effects he left after his death: ‘an engine and crushing machine worth £100, artist’s materials worth £25, firearms, various tools, a share in a wagon, manuscript maps, stationery, clothing and some mercury, the total value of which was £211’.65 Ironically, the RGS Baines holdings from the North Australia expedition sold in 2014 for £2.75 million, even then thought an undervaluation.

Reading Baines’ various narratives together – his cartography, artworks, and newspaper reports as a Special Correspondent – provides unique insight into the unfolding tale of Cetshwayo’s ‘coronation’, Shepstone’s part in it, and the roles of other important members of the Zulu kingdom such as ‘Oham’ and ‘Ziweda’. Mapping, painting, and writing, these accounts together form a narrative – both literal and metaphoric – that not only records Baines’ own experiences, but also portrays a crucial moment in the history of British settler colonial and Zulu relationships, when diplomatic missions (however performative) were still being undertaken, and before settler expansion into the Zulu kingdom and the unfolding of the Anglo-Zulu War. In acknowledging the Zulu kingdom’s land names in his colonial cartography, Baines maps the Zulu king’s possessions, but he also anticipates and depicts colonial encroachment and the erasure of the Zulu kingdom through settler violence and invasion. While not an official colonial agent on this expedition, as Baines spreads his map, so does he spread the reach of the British Empire.


1 J. P. R. Wallis, Thomas Baines: His Life and Explorations in South Africa, Rhodesia and Australia, 1820–1875, 2nd edn (Cape Town: A. A. Balkema, 1976).
2 See, e.g., Jane Carruthers and Marion Arnold, The Life and Work of Thomas Baines (Cape Town: Fernwood Press, 1995); Jane Carruthers, Thomas Baines: Eastern Cape Sketches, 1848 to 1852 (Johannesburg: The Brenthurst Press, 1990); Russell Braddon, Thomas Baines and the North Australian Expedition (Sydney: Collins in association with the Royal Geographical Society, 1986); and Marius and Joy Diemont, The Brenthurst Baines: A Selection of the Works of Thomas Baines in the Oppenheimer Collection Johannesburg (Johannesburg: The Brenthurst Press, 1975).
3 This chapter began as an article written by Jane Carruthers and Lindy Stiebel, ‘“The Last Hurrah”: Thomas Baines and the Expedition to the Coronation of Cetshwayo kaMpande, Zululand, 1873’, Southern African Humanities, 32 (2019), 57–82. Permission to use material from the article has been granted by both SAH editor Gavin Whitelaw and article co-author Jane Carruthers.
4 John Laband and John Wright, King Cetshwayo kaMpande (Durban and Ulundi: Shuter and Shooter, KwaZulu Monuments Council, 1980), p. 75.
5 Jeff Guy, Theophilus Shepstone and the Forging of Natal (Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2013), p. 383.
6 Charles Ballard, John Dunn: The White Chief of Zululand (Johannesburg: Ad Donker, 1985), p. 105.
7 Graham Dominy, ‘Thomas Baines and the Langalibalele Rebellion: A Critique of an Unrecorded Sketch of the Action at “Bushman’s Pass”, 1873’, Natal Museum Journal of Humanities, 3 (1991), 46.
8 Lindy Stiebel, Jane Carruthers, Vivian Forbes, and Norman Etherington, Thomas Baines: The Great Map (Durban: Campbell Collections of the University of Natal, 2001), CD format.
9 Lindy Stiebel and Jane Carruthers (eds), Thomas Baines: Exploring Tropical Australia, 1855 to 1857 (Canberra: National Museum of Australia, 2012).
10 Jeffrey Stone, ‘The Cartography of Thomas Baines’, in Michael Stevenson (ed.), Thomas Baines: Artist in Service of Science (London: Christie’s International Media, 1999), pp. 118–29.
11 See Lindy Stiebel, ‘A Map to Treasure: The Literary Significance of Thomas Baines’s “Map of the Gold Fields of South Eastern Africa” (1875)’, South African Historical Journal, 39 (1998), 64–9.
12 Wallis, Thomas Baines: His Life and Explorations, p. 217.
13 Stone, ‘The Cartography of Thomas Baines’, p. 120.
14 W. E. [Em] Robarts, Letter to his wife Liz dated 5 July 1873, Robarts family archive, Empangeni.
15 See, e.g., Wallis, Thomas Baines: His Life and Explorations, p. 216. The size of the map owned by the Robarts family is 500mm x 380mm and their coloured sketch is 255mm x 395mm.
16 Em Robarts listed nine men: Capt [corrected to Trooper by Bill Robarts] Henry T. Garland, Lieut. [corrected to Sergeant] W. E. Robarts, B. Armstrong, ? Jackson, W. Cowley, A. Blamey, [R. Plant inserted], J. Adams, H. A. Galloway, and Thomas Baines (artist).
17 W. E. [Bill] Robarts, 1995 inscription back of Baines painting ‘Victoria Mounted Rifles at Rendezvous Camp, Tugela River August 1st to 8th 1873’, Robarts family archive, Empangeni.
18 W. E. [Em] Robarts, fieldbook 27 August 1872 to 9 September 1873, Robarts family archive, Empangeni.
19 W. E. [Bill] Robarts from a talk that Robarts gave to the Zululand History Society on 23 March 1993. One copy was kept by the family and another donated to the Society.
20 See the Brenthurst Library, Baines African Collections, MS049/4; letter book vol. VI, MS49/6 (book no. 6433).
21 Graham Dominy, ‘Thomas Baines: The McGonagall of Shepstone’s 1873 Zululand Expedition?’, Natalia, 21 (1991), 75–9.
22 RGS Map Room South Africa, S.97 – Spec Routes of T. Baines and J. Sanderson, c. 1865. Twenty–six MS. Route maps illustrating the journeys of T. Baines, J. Sanderson etc. in Natal, Zululand RGS. Includes 26 sheets in various sizes. MSS c. 1865. Received 19 July 1888.
23 The new call number is CU18-AFS-ZAF-S701.
24 Wallis, Thomas Baines: His Life and Explorations, p. 219.
25 Stone, ‘The Cartography of Thomas Baines’, 128.
26 For a discussion of British late imperial practices when depicting African landscapes through painting, mapping, and writing, see Lindy Stiebel, Imagining Africa: Landscape in H. Rider Haggard’s African Romances (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2001).
27 ‘The Coronation of Cetywayo. Mr Shepstone’s Embassy’, Natal Mercury (29 July 1873), p. 2.
28 Cited in Dominy, ‘Thomas Baines and the Langalibalele Rebellion’, 76.
29 Jane Carruthers and Marion Arnold, The Life and Work of Thomas Baines (Cape Town: Fernwood Press, 1995), pp. 74–5.
30 Wallis, Thomas Baines: His Life and Explorations, p. 217.
31 Robarts, fieldbook 27 August 1872 to 9 September 1873.
32 ‘The Coronation of Cetywayo. In Zululand (by Our Special Correspondent)’, Natal Mercury (9 August 1873), p. 2.
33 ‘The Coronation of Cetywayo. In Zululand (by Our Special Correspondent)’, p. 2.
34 Robarts, fieldbook 27 August 1872 to 9 September 1873.
35 ‘The Coronation of Cetywayo. En route to Zululand (by Our Special Correspondent) Royal Hotel, Verulam’, Natal Mercury (28 July 1873), p. 5.
36 ‘The Coronation of Cetywayo. En route to Zululand (by Our Special Correspondent) Flag Staff, Umhlali’, Natal Mercury (29 July 1873), p. 5.
37 ‘The Coronation of Cetywayo. En route to Zululand (by Our Special Correspondent) Rendezvous Camp, near Fort Williamson, Tugela’, Natal Mercury (12 August 1873), p. 5.
38 ‘The Coronation of Cetywayo. In Zululand (by Our Special Correspondent)’, Natal Mercury (19 August 1873), p. 2.
39 Brenthurst Library, Baines African Collections MS049/11/3.
40 ‘Monthly Summary. The Coronation of Cetywayo. Mr Shepstone’s Embassy’, Natal Mercury (23 August 1873), pp. 7–8.
41 ‘Monthly Summary. The Coronation of Cetywayo. In Zululand’, Natal Mercury (23 September 1873), pp. 7–8.
42 ‘Monthly Summary. The Coronation of Cetywayo. In Zululand’, pp. 7–8.
43 ‘Monthly Summary. The Coronation of Cetywayo. In Zululand’, pp. 7–8.
44 Natal Mercury (4 September 1873), p. 3.
45 Natal Mercury (4 September 1873), p. 3.
46 ‘Coronation of Cetywayo’, Natal Mercury (2 September 1873), p. 3.
47 ‘Monthly Summary. The Coronation of Cetywayo. In Zululand’, pp. 7–8.
48 See Lindy Stiebel, ‘“Cooeing to the Natives”: Thomas Baines’s Encounters with the Other on the North Australian Expedition of 1855–57’, in Carruthers and Stiebel (eds), Thomas Baines: Exploring Tropical Australia, pp. 50–69.
49 ‘The Coronation of Cetywayo. En route to Zululand (by Our Special Correspondent) Rendezvous Camp, near Fort Williamson, Tugela’, p. 5.
50 ‘Monthly Summary. The Coronation of Cetywayo. In Zululand’, pp. 7–8.
51 Robarts, fieldbook 27 August 1872 to 9 September 1873.
52 ‘Monthly Summary. The Coronation of Cetywayo. In Zululand’, pp. 7–8.
53 ‘The Coronation of Cetywayo. Homeward Bound’, Natal Mercury (23 September 1873), p. 5.
54 ‘Monthly Summary. The Coronation of Cetywayo. In Zululand’, pp. 7–8.
55 ‘The Coronation of Cetywayo. En route to Zululand’, Natal Mercury (5 August 1873), p. 5.
56 ‘The Coronation of Cetywayo. In Zululand’, Natal Mercury (26 August 1873), p. 5.
57 ‘The Coronation of Cetywayo. En route to Zululand’, Natal Mercury (31 July 1873), p. 5.
58 Dominy, ‘Thomas Baines and the Langalibalele Rebellion’, 77.
59 This was Theophilus Shepstone’s Zulu name.
60 ‘The Coronation of Cetywayo. En route to Zululand’, Natal Mercury (31 July 1873), p. 5.
61 ‘The Coronation of Cetywayo. Homeward Bound’, p. 5. Mr Robertson was the missionary attached to the Mackenzie Mission at ‘Kwama Gwasa’. Baines had met the Robertsons on board the Basuto on the voyage from Algoa Bay to Natal.
62 Richard Lidbrook Cope, ‘The Origins of the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879’ (PhD dissertation, University of the Witwatersrand, 1995), pp. 47–8; John Laband, The Eight Zulu Kings (Johannesburg: Jonathan Ball, 2018) pp. 190–3.
63 Cope, ‘Origins of the Anglo-Zulu War’, p. 44.
64 Cope, ‘Origins of the Anglo-Zulu War’, p. 54.
65 Carruthers and Arnold, Life and Work, p. 75.

Worlding the south

Nineteenth-century literary culture and the southern settler colonies


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