View of Nieu-Bethesda
|Municipality||Dr Beyers Naudé|
|• Type||Ward 7|
|• Councillor||Arthur Ronald Knottcraig|
|• Total||34.05 km2 (13.15 sq mi)|
|• Density||45/km2 (120/sq mi)|
|Racial makeup (2011)|
|• Black African||25.1%|
|First languages (2011)|
|Time zone||UTC+2 (SAST)|
Nieu-Bethesda (Afrikaans for New Bethesda) is a village in the Eastern Cape at the foot of the Sneeuberge, approximately 50 kilometres (31 mi) from Graaff Reinet. It was founded in 1875 as a church town, like many other Karoo villages, and attained municipal status in 1886. The name is of biblical origin (John 5:2-4) and means "place of flowing water".
Nieu Bethesda is situated on the farm, Uitkyk, which belonged to BJ Pienaar. There was a very strong water supply on the farm and BJ Pienaar changed the course of the Gats River to drain the vlei's (marshes) and turn the area into fertile lands – where Nieu Bethesda stands today. On 15 December 1874, the farmers of this area met for the first time with a view to establishing a village and Dutch Reformed Church congregation. A town council was elected. In February 1875, a petition group of 169 men met the church council of Graaff-Reinet, headed by the Reverend Charles Murray, son of the first preacher Andrew Murray .On the same day, negotiations were concluded to buy Uitkyk from Pienaar's sons. It was not until 1878 that Graaff-Reinet agreed to the petitions of the Nieu Bethesda people. Rev. Charles Murray named the new settlement Nieu Bethesda in reference to the strong fountain and its biblical reference. In 1880, the church struggled to run the village so, in 1886, it became a municipality, but with administrative rights only. The church retained the properties. This meant that residents had to pay two taxes, an arrangement that led to friction for many generations. The town experienced a period of growth from its establishment in 1870s to about 1930.Nieu-Bethesda was eclipsed by larger towns during the 1930s and ‘40s. The Great Depression, improved transport and the town's isolated location led to a mass exodus, leaving the town in an impoverished state.
The town of Nieu Bethesda carries a peculiar history and has therefore become a tourist attraction. The Dutch Reformed Church which was founded in 1875 in the area began holding its services in BJ Pienaar's wagon house. A new church building was inaugurated in 1905. The Wagon House (now known as the Old Church Hall) was then used as a church hall and a venue for English church services.
In the 1930s, a Nieu Bethesda-born teacher known as Helen Martins returned to the town. After her father's death in 1945, Martins began transforming her home into a work of art. She employed Koos Malgas, a Nieu Bethesda local to assist her with her artwork. She and Malgas constructed cement and glass statues inspired by biblical texts, the poetry of Omar Khayyam, and the works by William Blake.In 1976, Martins aged seventy-eight, took her own life by swallowing caustic soda. Martin's house known as The Owl House is now run by the Owl House Foundation formed in 1996 and is now a major tourist attraction.
The town was also thrust into the spotlight by one of its residents James Kitching,vertebrate palaeontologist. Kitching became famous for collecting specimens in Nieu Bethesda for Robert Broom, the keeper of vertebrate palaeontology at the South African Museum. Kitching was the first member of staff to be appointed to the Bernard Price Institute for Palaeontological Research, set up at the University of Witwatersrand in 1945. In 1970,he was the first person to collect and identify a specimen of a Karoo therapsid in Antarctica and so demonstrate that Antarctica and southern Africa were once connected. Today, Kitching's work is stored at the Kitching Fossil Exploration Centre which depicts the setting in the area around Nieu Bethesda 253 million years ago during the Permian Period.
The town is also the focal point in Athol Fugard's play, "Road to Mecca" in 1985.
The town of Nieu Bethesda has about 1540 residents.The town is still racially divided with the African (25.06%) residents staying mostly in the Kloofroad area of Pienaarsig. The Coloured (65.19% of the town population) and Black African (22% of the population) residents abide in Pienaarsig, the former township and the White residents (8.70% of the town population) stay along the banks of the Gats River that runs through the town. Nieu Bethesda is surrounded by 8 commercial farms which provide employment for locals. There are also tourism projects such as Kitching Fossil Exploration Centre, Bethesda Arts Centre and The Owl House which generate income for the town. There are no ATMs in Nieu Bethesda and the town relies on Graaff Reinet for banking services. There is one school known as the Lettie de Klerk Primary School in Pienaarsig. For health services, Nieu Bethesda has one clinic and a resident sister.
Andrew Geddes Bain, was a South African geologist, road engineer, palaeontologist and explorer.
Francis Guthrie was a South African mathematician and botanist who first posed the Four Colour Problem in 1852. He studied mathematics under Augustus De Morgan, and botany under John Lindley at University College London. Guthrie obtained his B.A. in 1850, and LL.B. in 1852 with first class honours. While colouring a map of the counties of England, he noticed that at least four colours were required so that no two regions sharing a common border were the same colour. He postulated that four colours would be sufficient to colour any map. This became known as the Four Color Problem, and remained one of the most famous unsolved problems in topology for more than a century until it was eventually proven in 1976 using a lengthy computer-aided proof.
Graaff-Reinet is a town in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. It is the fourth-oldest town in South Africa, after Cape Town, Stellenbosch, and Swellendam. The town was the center of a short-lived republic in the late 18th century. The town was a starting point for Great Trek groups led by Gerrit Maritz and Piet Retief and furnished large numbers of the Voortrekkers in 1835–1842.
Hanover, a small town in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa, is named after Hanover in Germany. The town was established in 1854.
Laingsburg is a town located in the Western Cape province in South Africa. It is a relatively large agricultural town in the semi-arid Great Karoo. It was partially destroyed in a flash flood in 1981.
Aberdeen is a small town in the Sarah Baartman District Municipality of the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. With its numerous examples of Victorian architecture, it is one of the architectural conservation areas of the Karoo.
The Sundays River or Nukakamma is a river in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. It is said to be the fastest flowing river in the country. The Khoisan people originally named this river Nukakamma because the river's banks are always green and grassy despite the arid terrain that it runs through.
The Owl House is a museum in Nieu-Bethesda, Eastern Cape, South Africa. The owner, Helen Martins, turned her house and the area around it into a visionary environment, elaborately decorated with ground glass and containing more than 300 statues including owls, camels, pyramids, peacocks, and people. She inherited the house from her parents and began its transformation after they died.
James William Kitching was a South African vertebrate palaeontologist and regarded as one of the world’s greatest fossil finders.
The Evolutionary Studies Institute (ESI) is a paleontological, paleoanthropological and archeological research institute operated through the Faculty of Science of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. Previously known as the Bernard Price Institute for Palaeontological Research (BPI) it was renamed the Evolutionary Studies Institute in 2013 to better showcase the scope of its research.
The Cistecephalus Assemblage Zone is a tetrapod assemblage zone or biozone found in the Adelaide Subgroup of the Beaufort Group, a majorly fossiliferous and geologically important geological group of the Karoo Supergroup in South Africa. This biozone has outcrops located in the Teekloof Formation north-west of Beaufort West in the Western Cape, in the upper Middleton and lower Balfour Formations respectively from Colesberg of the Northern Cape to east of Graaff-Reinet in the Eastern Cape. The Cistecephalus Assemblage Zone is one of eight biozones found in the Beaufort Group, and is considered to be Late Permian in age.
The Sneeuberge or Sneeuberg mountain range was historically known as “Sneeuwbergen”, meaning ‘snow mountains’ in Cape Dutch, and refers to a significant portion of Southern Africa's Great Escarpment in the Cradock, Murraysburg, Richmond, Graaff-Reinet, Nieu-Bethesda and Middelburg districts of the Great Karoo, most of which are in the Eastern Cape Province.
Middelburg is a town in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, in the Great Karoo. It lies in the Upper Karoo, 1 279 m above sea level, with a population of 19,000. It falls under the Inxuba Yethemba Local Municipality, in the Chris Hani District Municipality.
The Camdeboo National Park is located in the Karoo and almost completely surrounds the Eastern Cape town of Graaff-Reinet.
Pearston is a small town in the eastern Karoo, in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. It lies between Graaff-Reinet and Somerset East at the foot of the Coetzeesberge, about 160 kilometres (100 mi) north of Port Elizabeth. It falls within the Blue Crane Route Local Municipality and has a population of approximately 4,500 people.
People of the Karoo refers to notable individuals who come from, or whose lives have included substantial engagement with, the area known as the Karoo. The Karoo is a widespread physiographic province in the western interior of South Africa, straddling much of the Northern Cape, southern Free State, Eastern Cape interior and parts of the Western Cape Provinces.
Jeremias Frederik Ziervogel M.L.A. was a founding member of the Cape Parliament, in which he represented Graaff-Reinet, South Africa, and was prominent in fighting the Eastern Province Separatist League.
Middleton is a hamlet in the Blue Crane Route Local Municipality of the Sarah Baartman District Municipality in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. Middleton is situated on the banks of the Fish River off the N10 road and is about 30 km south of Cookhouse.
Jeni Couzyn is a feminist poet and anthologist of South African extraction who lives and works in Canada and the United Kingdom. Her best known collection is titled Life by Drowning: Selected Poems (1985), which includes an earlier sequence A Time to Be Born (1981) that chronicles her pregnancy and the birth of her daughter.
Regiment Groot Karoo was an infantry battalion of the South African Army. As a reserve force unit, it had a status roughly equivalent to that of a British Army Reserve or United States Army National Guard unit.
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Arid Areas Programme Case Study 6: Nieu Bethesda
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