Mdantsane is a unique, vibrating, eclectic, African place. Follow us on a pilgrimage to Mdantsane to discover the street culture, fashion, food, people, music, homes, taverns, humor, businesses, history and what's hot in the second biggest township in South-Africa, located close to the city of East London in the Province of the Eastern Cape. Join us on this journey while we capture the spirit of this amazing place for you in the here and in the now. We are going to introduce you to many individuals, artists, musicians, groups and associations.
They are the HEROES OF DAILY LIFE. They are the people who create, innovate and improve their life and their stories deserve to be told. This is a place for only good and positive stories of humanity, that will send out a message of courage, endurance and strength to the world through their pictures and words.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Paul Xiniwe - 19th Century Political Activist, Entrepreneur And The Man Who Opened The First Hotel For Africans In King Williams Town

The Eastern Cape is full of historical surprises. 
Who was Paul Xiniwe?

Paul Xiniwe - owner of the Temperance Hotel in King Williams Town

Paul Xiniwe lived in the 19th century in the Eastern Cape. 
He was born in 1857 and died in 1902.  
Mr. Paul Xiniwe went to Lovedale in 1881 as an advanced student based on the recommendations of the Reverend Edward Solomon, of Bedford.

He had spent his youth in Bedford and had previously occupied positions on the railway as a timekeeper and later as a telegraph operator. 

In January 1881 Paul started studying at the by now famous Lovedale College. The College has produced many African leaders and later freedom fighters over the years.
In the second year of his studies Paul obtained the seventy-fourth certificate of competency at the Elementary Teachers Examination. 
He graduated from the Lovedale College like many other future leaders of South Africa and started to teach at the Edwards Memorial School in Port Elizabeth. His school was said to stand high in efficiency in the classification of schools of the district. 

But Paul was destined to be more than a teacher in his life. After some years of teaching he had saved enough money, so he could resign as a teacher. He bought properties in the cities of East London, Port Elizabeth and King Williams Town, and opened merchant stores there. In the years to come he became a prominent business man in the Cape Province. He was interested in politics, a Christian in belief and he took a very keen interest in the welfare of the African people.

In 1884 he presented a paper at the Native Educational Society, in which he stressed that the time had come for Africans to become members in Parliament.

He was a memeber of Imbumba Yama Nyama and became later a leader of the South African Native Congress.

But even more astonishing is the fact that in 1984 he opened the Temperance Hotel at Market Square in King Williams Town. It was the first hotel for Africans in the Cape Province and the double storey building was acquired at the time it cost 2000 Pounds. 
In a very short time the Temperance Hotel was known throughout the Cape Province. 

In Imvo Zabantsundu (June 3 to November 21, 1961), Z. K. Matthews noted the following observations concerning Paul Xiniwe: 

“One of the best known buildings in King William’s Town is the Temperance Hotel. For generations this hotel has been a home away from home for many thousands of Africans, who, for one reason or another have had occasion to pay a visit to King William’s Town. Some have spent a night or two there, others have had a meal or two there, while others have gone in there just to rest their feet after a round of busy shopping in the town. One wonders how many of those who have had the benefit of this place ever spare a thought of gratitude to Paul Xiniwe, who established this home for Africans many years ago. 
Like so many of his contemporaries Paul Xiniwe was educated at Lovedale where he qualified as a primary school teacher. After he left Lovedale he entered the teaching profession and taught at various schools in the Eastern Cape. 
Eventually he decided to give up teaching and to blaze a new trail for Africans in business. This he did at a time when the belief was still widely held that no African could run a business successfully. . . . But the Temperance Hotel was not merely a business place. It was a center of culture. Both Paul Xiniwe and his wife were capable musicians. In their younger days they had both been members of an African Choir which toured Europe and they always encouraged music in their home and in the district”.
(Z.K. Mathews from "Paul Xiniwe blazed new trail for Africans”, Imvo Zabantsundu, October 7, 1961).  

By the way Imvo Zabantsundu ( Native Opinion) was a newspaper published by the brilliant 24 year old John Tengo Jabavu, another lovedale graduate. He had set up his own newspaper with white and black political allies and the first issue appeared on Monday the 3 November 1884 and its appearance was a landmark occasion in the political history of South Africa, heralding the birth of an independant black press, a major step in the struggle for racial equality in the still new colonial system

The African choir who toured Europe is an amazing story in itself. 
The other members of the African choir were Johanna Jonkers, Josiah Semouse, Charlotte Manye (Maxeke). These young New Africans seem to have been inspired by the visit of the "New Negro Orpheus McAdoo and the Virginia Jubilee Singers" who visited South Africa in 1890 singing all forms of Negro Spirituals. In appropriating the Negro Spirituals, Charlotte Manye Maxeke and others were among the earliest who established a Black Atlantic connection between New Negro modernity and New African modernity (Pitzer College).

Paul Xiniwe A Man Of Great Influence And Power At His Time

Paul married Miss Ndwanya, the sister of Mr. Ndwanya, a law agent who was respected alike by the Europeans residing in the province and the "natives" at Middle-drift. 

He became the father of five children, three sons and two daughters.

Unfortunately Mr. Paul Xiniwe died at an early age leaving a widow and five children to look after themselves. 

According to the website Ancestry 24:  "Mrs. Xiniwe who, with her husband, had been to Europe as a member of the African choir, was a lady of experience, tact, character and business acumen. Difficult though it was, she maintained her late husband’s property, and carried on the business and educated her children. This lady indeed commanded the respect of all who knew her, white and black. Paul Xiniwe was a man of his word. He swore he would never touch liquor. When he became very ill his doctor advised him to take a little brandy, but he made up his mind that he would not do so, although it was said brandy was the only thing that would save his life".

To illustrate a little bit the spirit of the time in which Paul Xiniwe lived we just have to look at the images and listen to the following facts. 
King Williams town was a booming place with businesses mushrooming at every corner. But STILL It was unusual for an African man in the 19th century to become an entrepreneur and be successful with it, at the same time promoting his culture and the arts, all the while being actively involved in politics. But Paul Xiniwe somehow managed. The fact, that he was an extremely well educated, well groomed and easy to talk to man made him popular amongst the White settlers and business men as well.

By 1880 many of the large businesses, that dominated King Williams Town for the next two decades had already emerged. They were Malcher & Malcomess; Baker, Baker & Co; Whitaker & Dyer and J.W.Weir.
These business used traders as intermediaries in the rural areas and wholesalers were able to build up a large two-way trade by selling imported goods and purchasing skins, hides and wool for the export.
According to John Noble, who estimated conservatively the purchasing power of the Cape African's "at the low amount" of 400.000 pounds annually, 60.000 woolen blankets were sold in King Williams town in one year only, among other things like American ploughs, hoes, picks, sheets, axes, iron pots, ring beads, clothing, grain bags, flour, sugar, wire, knives, ochre, buckets and chains.

King Tanning, the image was taken in the 1930's

A Shop In King Williams Town in the 1930's

Paul Xiniwe was without doubt a great modernizer of his time, who managed to induce change (At least for him and some around him) with great skill in an environment, that was not open to change.

The streets of King Williams Town look very much different today, that in the last century. How much of that change can be attributed to a man like Paul Xiniwe. Business is now open to people of all color, but still it is difficult to be successful.

Preparing For Trade On The Streets Of King Williams Town

And while the houses and the cars, the clothes and the people change, while time moves on and the clock ticks away our time, and we think we are the ones who count now, nothing exists itself. Everything is linked and many have contributed to what is now.

A Historical Building in King Williams Town
King Williams Town Street Life

A Memorial in King Williams Town

The Sun Newspaper Building in King Williams Town

1 comment:

  1. What an interesting article !! I was looking for information about Paul Xiniwe as his picture is currently on display at the National Portrait Gallery, where I work, as part of the Black Victorians exhibition.



Related Posts with Thumbnails