Graham Leslie McCallum

The tree of happiness flowers and fruits most abundantly for the creative man

SADF – Military Service – through the eyes and pencil of an 18 year old – 11. the Mountains of the Kaokoland


Perhaps or because I had spent much of my childhood in and around the Drakensberg Mountains in Natal – the mountains of the Kaokoland fascinated me. Called the Baynes Mountains, the Zebra Mountains, Otjihipa and Okakora Mountains. They dominated the environment by their sheer size, number and variety. They created spectacular backdrops to sunrises and sunsets, giving me endless inspiration. Doing my military service made me very conscious of time, and the passing of time, and in some conscious and subconscious way I associated the mountains and sun with my personal life. I know it had something to do with the way the bright African sun created endlessly changing vistas over this undulating landscape, lighting first their upper slopes and crests, casting long shadows and then brightening into glare, then once again sinking into deepening shadows as evening twilight crept up. On moonlit nights the same would happen, only now in sombre tones.

(below) An enthusiastic excerpt from a letter written on the 20th of March 1985 back home from Epupa Falls, Kaokoland, expressing my visual fascination with my surroundings.

Kaokoland, letter

'Killing Time, 20 June 1985, Opuwo Base, Kaokoland, SADF, Military 111

(above and below) Two images depicting the mountains of the Kaokoland, with a figure in the landscape that represents my obsession with time.

Waiting, Opuwo, Kaokoland, 20 June 1985, Military 78

Himba Settlement, Kaokoland, 21 June 1985, SADF, Military

(above) Sketch of a Himba/ Herero Settlement at the foot of a mountain in the Kaokoland. Sketched 21 June 1985 in the only ink I had at the time (stamp pad ink).

Zebra Mountains, Military

(above and below) The Zebra Mountains, Kaokoland. 17 June 1985. These most remarkable mountains have clear stripes running down their flanks made of dark broken rock alternating with vegetation.

The 'Zebra Mountains' Kaokoland, 17 June 1985, SADF, Military 15

Mountain Range, Okongwati, 17 June 1985, SADF, Military

(above and below) Mountain Range, Okongwati, 17 June 1985. On the second of our border trips, two our our company sections were stationed at Okongwati. I was not, but our section visited the camp on our way back from Epupa Falls on the Cunene River. I was able to sketch this group of mountains as we camped in a dry water course (Omuhonga) a kilometre or so outside of the base. The sunsets in the Kaokoland were something to behold. The light effect in this drawing was achieved by mixing enamel paint with Avtar (aviation fuel). The mixture was highly evaporative and when spilled over a sketch in crayon would leave this lovely affect.

Mountains near Okongwati, 17, June 1985, Kaokoland, SADF, Military

Mountains near Eyuva Base, Kaokoland, SADF, Military

(above) Pen and ink sketch of the mountains near Eyuva Base, Kaokoland. This drawing was done with a Pilot Hi-Tecpoint 5, 0.3mm. These Japanese manufatured pens were cheap and freely available in South Africa at the time. When they ran dry, I would simply refill them with Quink Ink and keep on drawing.

Mountains, Kaokoland, Military

(above) Mountains of Kaokoland. June 1985. Conte crayon.

Mountains, Eyuva, Kaokoland, 3 July 1985, SADF, Military

(above) Mountains, Eyuva, Kaokoland, 3 July 1985. This sketch was executed in wax Chinamarkers.

Mountains near Opuwo, Kavangoland, SADF, Military

(above) Mountains near Opuwo, Kaokoland. Pen and Ink and wash.

Twilight over the mountains of the Kaokoland, 12 June 1985, Epuwo, SADF, Military

(above) Twilight over the mountains of the Kaokoland, 12 June 1985, Epuwo.

Mountains, Kaokoland, 28 May 1985, SADF, Military 19


(above) A chinagraph crayon drawing of the montains of the Kaokoland, 28th May 1985.

Mountains to the north of Epuwo, Kaokoland, 1 June 1985, Military

(above) A ballpoint pen of Opuwo and the mountains to the north.

Mountains and settlement near Opuwo, Kaokoland, 1 June 1985, Military 16

(above) A pen and ink drawing of the mountains and valley near Opuwo Base.

The Gate, Opuwo Base, Kaokoland, SADF, Military

(above) Ink and brush drawing of the mountains beyond Opuwo base.

The town of Opuwo, Kaokoland, 28 May, 1985, SADF, Military 38

(above) A pen and ink sketch of the mountains to the north of the town of Opuwo.

Opuwo base, Kaokoland, 23 June 1985, SADF, Military 22


(above) Epuwo Base.

Opuwo, Border Camp, Kaokoland, 8 June 1985, Military


(above) Epuwo base and mountains.

Eyuva base, 26 June 1985, SADF, Military


(above) Eyuva base, Kaokoland.


Opuwa, Kaokoveld, Military 1a


Graham Leslie McCallum

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