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Mapungubwe Koppie Photography

Mapungubwe Koppie

by Mike Rossi


Mapungubwe Koppie is situated in the northern region of the Limpopo, It is surrounded by mineral wealth. The name means Place of the Jackal. Its origins unknown.


At the peak of its civilisation, some say Mapungubwe had 9000 inhabitants. It was a hierarchical, class-based society, unlike the kin-based San communities — their approach to life drove the San away. The king and queen lived on the summit. As the rank in the tribe diminished, so did their position on the koppie, ending with the peasants at the bottom. It was tough being a peasant, because in a waged war they would be hacked down first, and their screams acting as an early warning system for the king and queen.


The king’s power and wealth lay in farming, flourishing trade and the mining of minerals. Mapungubwe society traded their gold, ivory, indigenous cotton, ostrich feathers and other precious items for Chinese ceramics, glass beads imported via the East African Coast. They negotiated with traders from Egypt, India, Persia, South East Asia and China.


The discovery of Mapungubwe goes back several decades to 1883. Francois Bernhard Lotrie, also known as Lottering, was responsible for the first recorded discovery. Lotrie was born in Grahamstown on 11th February 1825. He was a nimrod, a skilful hunter, a pioneer, a lover of nature and an odd character. Well, educated and the son of a French botanist, he chose a life of adventure, exploring darkest Southern Africa, prospecting for gold and hunting game. At the age of twenty-four, Lotrie acted as a guide to the famous Dr David Livingstone and accompanied him from Kuruman to Lake Ngami in the Kalahari.


Lotrie was an eccentric character, his adventures attracted much attention and rumours spread that he had explored a forbidden Koppie and found priceless treasures of gold. Lotrie took up residence in a secluded cave at the base of Mapungubwe, while still in his early eighties. He died a hermit in February 1917 at the age of 92. It was this wandering recluse who gave his African friend Mowena, an unusual earthenware pot.


Mapungubwe’s name originates from the ramblings of, by then, an old, partially blind Mowena who upon meeting Jerry van Graan, told him that a white man, by the name of Lotrie had taken the earthenware pot, among other items, from a mountain where kings were buried. Jerry van Graan enquired as to where the mountain was, Mowena refused to point out the koppie’s location. In late December 1932, Mowena’s son, for a few silver coins, agreed to show a group of adventurers, consisting of the Van Graans, the Van der Walts and du Plessis, Mapungubwe Koppie.


It is in the early hours of the morning when I arrived in front of Mapungubwe koppie with Mr. Ali Chauke, a knowledgeable Shangaan gentleman. Sunrise was seeping through from the East.


As dawn appeared with the chirping anthem of the day, Nimbus arrived with her voluminous body, cascading across the sky. The forlorn tree in front of me, lit up in the early morning backlight and the Mapungubwe rock face shone like wet mussels shells on an undiscovered beach.


Part of the "Shadows Over Stones" Photographic Art Collection. Available as “Custom Finish & Bespoke” Fine Art and Photo Prints, framed or unframed. Photography created as beautiful pieces of Wall Art for you to invest and enjoy, from OPENPHOTO-STUDIO.

  • Specification Unframed Print

    Unframed - Black & White Print - ref: 00253-1

    Print Paper Type: Fine Art - Cotton 215gsm

    Image Size: 60cm x 22.5cm

    Print Boarder: 4cm White

    Overall Size: 68cm x 30.5cm

    Backing: 2mm White Card

  • Specification Framed Print

    Framed - Black & White Print - ref: 00253-2

    Print Paper Type: Fine Art - Cotton 215gsm

    Print Size: 60cm x 22.5cm

    Print Boarder: None

    Card Mount: Single White 5cm

    Frame Profile: 33mm x 30mm - S2 Charcoal

    Overall Size: 75cm x 37.5cm

  • Bespoke Sizes & Specification

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  • "Shadows Over Stone" Collection

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PriceFrom £222.50
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