Young Tarkastad Writer Preserves Town’s History

At only 22, Simamkele Maholwana is writing a book on the history of a largely unknown town called Tarkastad. Unlike many, Simamkele (who only moved to Tarkastad in 2012) is excited by the treasures this town hides.

Simamkele’s interest in writing peaked in school. While there, he was involved in a number of extra-mural arts-based activities. He describes his younger self as the “diary type” because of his habit of documenting stories he found interesting. His interest in literature and poetry was such that his English teacher suggested that he form a poetry group.

All things historical has been an interest since he was a child. Antiques, the Queenstown historical museum and asking older people around him about life in times past was a particular love. His schooling background sharpened his interests and future as an amateur historian. As a student at one of the Eastern Cape’s most prestigious schools, Queen’s College Boys’ High School, he had access to a range of historical material.

Young Tarkastad writer writes book on town's history
Author, Simamkele Maholwana, is undertaking Tarkastad history for his first book. Photo: Loyiso Gxothiwe

Soon after their arrival in Tarkastad, he stumbled upon a picture album of Tarkastad’s 1962 centenary. His curiosity pushed him to want to do something about the information in the album. The idea to write a book originated from Oom Eddie, the local butcher and a seasoned local. The book will be a creative endeavour inspired by Tarkastad’s history, not a “history book” in the traditional sense.

Simamkele has conducted more than a dozen interviews with locals, most of them older citizens from the town’s retirement home. The residents were friendly and open to him. He has gone into homes and spaces which he thought he would never have the opportunity to enter. The interviewing process provided him with information and new relationships. It has also changed his misconceptions about people and given him new perspectives on human interaction.

His research has led him through private homes, internet sites, libraries and places that have proved his sense that Tarkastad is an incredibly significant area to this country’s history and future, economically and socially. He discovered that the Great Trek under Hendrik Potgieter and Piet Retief had begun in and moved through the Tarkastad area. Tarkastad was a crucial trade spot in those days due to its strategic positioning and, now defunct, railroad and train station. Even more interestingly, he discovered that an Afrikaner woman, who relayed information between army camps during battles between Xhosas and Afrikaners, hid treasure. According to public knowledge, this treasure has never been found. Tarkastad also has some highly contested gold mines and other mineral deposits on its farms.

Simamkele is passionate about leadership and youth matters.  He hopes his book will inspire Tarkastad youth to start honing their talents and always be positive about the future. He also wants the book to foster love for the town and inspire initiative in its leaders.

The book will be presented and sold at the annual Tarkastad Agricultural Show in February next year. Simamkele chose this strict deadline to help push him to work harder and to actually finish the project. This is Simamkele’s first book and so he welcomes any support, not just financial or material, from residents. Residents who want to add information to Simamkele’s book can contact him on Facebook. Tarka Development Group would like to congratulate him, and wish Simamkele all the best on this brave and very important project.

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