Joane Pim

<i>Beauty is necessary</i>, by Joane Pim

I came across Joane Pim in an interesting way. I had a job with much boredom but also much internet access, and in the serendipitous way of long internet wanderings I came upon an article called ‘Rediscovering Moses Tladi: recent findings concerning the work and life of South Africa's first black landscape painter’ by Angela Caccia (now Angela Read Lloyd). Moses Tladi (1897 or 1903 - 1959) worked as gardener for Johannesburg luminary Herbert Read, while, with his employer's encouragement, painting the garden of Lokshoek, Read's estate (and other landscapes). This was at a time before apartheid's spatial laws, so Moses Tladi owned property in what is today an upmarket Johannesburg suburb.

Caccia quotes Tladi's daughter Rekiloe who told her of their property, then on the outskirts of Johannesburg: ‘‘My father loved shrubs. And there were jacaranda trees. Our nearest neighbours were two Van Zyl families. The children were our first playmates. The Van Zyls were Afrikaans-speaking, but some of them also spoke Sesotho very well.” Enough to bring tears to one's eyes of a South Africa that could have been.

But that was not the South Africa allowed to bloom, and in 1956 the family was forced to move to Soweto where their allotted shack could not keep all the family's possessions. ‘‘The move to Soweto killed him,” his daughter told Caccia. (He had already had a heart condition, the reason he was found unfit for military duty with the Allied troops in North Africa.)

The Pims lived next door to the Reads, at Timewell. Across the road was Brenthurst, home of the Oppenheimers (whose garden was designed by Joane Pim). Howard Pim, Joane's father, was brought out as accountant on the mines by Cecil John Rhodes himself. In 1894 he started a private auditing firm in Johannesburg, where Joane was born in 1904.

The family were Quakers and Howard Pim was a patron of the arts, involved in the Bantu [black people, from the Nguni word ‘abantu’, meaning ‘people’; an outdated and issue-laden appellation] Men's Social Club, governor of Fort Hare University (a university for black students) and he took an interest in Moses Tladi whom he apparently called a ‘‘a native genius”.

Joane Pim similarly took an interest in Rekiloe Tladi, whom she advised to become a social worker.

Also, at the time that the Tladi family and thousands others found themselves in shacks in Soweto, it was Sir Ernest Oppenheimer who lent money to the Johannesburg City Council (pleading poverty for their social engineering schemes!) to build permanent houses in Soweto, one of which went to the Tladi family. This is the reason for the Oppenheimer Tower in Soweto.

But it was Joane who benefited most from her close association with the Oppenheimer family. In 1950 she was appointed garden consultant to the Anglo American Corporation. >>