B(l)ack-grounded and foreground

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 17
  • SDG 9
  • Abstract:

    ‘A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS,’ or so the saying goes. The inheritances of this phrase are attributed to a number of sources, including an ancient Chinese proverb, Napoleon Bonaparte (who remarked that ‘a good sketch is better than a long speech’) and, more accurately it seems, to Fred R Barnard, in the advertising trade journal Printers’ Ink, on 8 December 1921 (which carried an advertisement entitled, ‘One Look is Worth A Thousand Words’.) The inherent meaning of these statements is powerfully evoked in photographs of Zuid Afrikaansche Spoorwegmaatschappij (NZASM) infrastructure, completed in the late 1800s (i.e. 1883 to 1900) in the then Zuid Afrikaanshe Republiek (ZAR) ‘The formation of the NZASM was necessitated by the increase in economic activity in the ZAR, after the discovery of gold on the Witwatersrand. The massive competition for rail transport charges, between the various republics, had by then already set in motion attempts by the ZAR to seek independent access to a seaport’ (Barker, 2014:113). The company was established around 1890 and set about the construction of a number of railway lines – most important being the Eastern Line from Pretoria to Delagoa Bay (now Maputo), which was completed in 1894.