Joseph Millerd Orpen

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Joseph Millard Orpen was born in Ireland in 1828. At the age of 20 he emigrated to the Cape Colony, where he took up sheep farming. It is believed that later he moved to the Orange Free State where he became a surveyor and politician.

Mr. Orpen copied rock art in the Orange Free State and in the Eastern Cape Colony, at the suggestion of George William Stow, a self taught geologist, who became an influential writer of the Southern Africa’s indigenous peoples. Charles Sirr Orpen, one of Joseph Orpen’s brothers, was a close friend of Mr. Stow, whom used notes by C.S Orpen in his book Native Races of South Africa.

Joseph Orpen, single handed tracked and found one of the last San of the Drakensberg, Qing. Both travelled and visited rock art sites in the region and during their discussions while sitting around a fire, Qing, provided insights on its meaning, which were the core for the San thought and art. Mr.Open recorded these diligently, and thanks to him, researchers today are able to understand the meaning of the art in the Region.

Even though Orpen was of an imperial turn of mind, he was known to have the interests of the indigenous people at heart. In July 1874, Orpen published in the Cape Monthly Magazine “A Glimpse into the Mythology of the Maluti Bushmen”.

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