- A mixture of luck and accident led to a Swiss-born Englishman from
India painting a number of Cape scenes in 1839 and to this Africana treasure finding its way to Stellenbosch 30 years ago.
- Solomon Caesar Malan (1812-1894) was a brilliant young Swiss student who went to study at Oxford. He became a British
citizen and accepted a professorship in classics in Calcutta, India, in 1837. His wife, Mary, had to return to England
because of poor health, and he accompanied her as far as the Cape, where he remained for four months during the winter of
1839 before returning to India.
- During this short period, Malan, a 27-year-old amateur painter, produced approximately 90 unique paintings and sketches
in pen, pencil, water colour and sepia wash: these included scenes of contemporary Cape Town and its environs as well as of
his journey through Stellenbosch and Franschhoek to Genadendal and from there through the Helderberg basin back to Cape Town.
- One could regard these works of art from the time before the invention of photography as the equivalent of the photographs
taken by the modern tourist - a way of recording one’s experiences.
- His son, Arthur Noel Malan, published a biography of SC. A South African doctor, Philip Traub, came across a copy of this
biography in a London junk shop in 1966. He saw the brief reference to the Cape sketches and went through a great deal of
trouble to trace the owner of these works, Edward Malan, a descendant of SC.
- A former Matie, the late Dr Avril Malan, also heard of these works and decided to try and bring this Cape Africana back to
- Dr Malan then bought the volume with 175 works including the Cape works as well as the Indian scenes. In 1968 he donated this
to the University of Stellenbosch for safekeeping.
- In that same year, the University exhibited the collection and also published a book of the collection – a publication that
has since become an Africana collector’s piece. When Stellenbosch commemorated its 300th anniversary in 1979, a part of the
collection was once again exhibited, and since the University inaugurated its Sasol Art Museum in 1991, a part of the collection
has been on permanent exhibition for the public.