Arms in South Africa

Heraldry in Africa
Jonathan Webster
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Arms in South Africa

Postby Jonathan Webster » 08 Sep 2012, 02:10

Hello everyone, hope everyone is well;

I've recently become very interested in the heraldry of South Africa in general, could we have a section on South African; or at least African heraldry?

Also; I wondered if any of the South African members of the Association (or those clued up on South African heraldry) could answer a few questions, namely:

*Is there system of helmets like in other heraldic jurisdictions?

*How does the matriculation system work? (is it even a system?)

*How do 'family associations' work and what exactly are they?

*Do personal arms have supporters?

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Arthur Radburn
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Re: Arms in South Africa

Postby Arthur Radburn » 08 Sep 2012, 16:31

Jonathan Webster wrote:I've recently become very interested in the heraldry of South Africa in general

That's good news, Jonathan. There's lots to explore.

*Is there a system of helmets like in other heraldic jurisdictions?

No. SA heraldry is egalitarian. Roman-Dutch law, which prevails in SA, gives everyone the right to a coat of arms, so there's no honour or privilege attached to having one. There are different styles of helmet in use, e.g. tournament, barred, barrel, but none indicates any particular status. The tournament helmet is probably the most widely used, probably because of British colonial influence in the past.

The arms of Nicolaas van der Walt are an example :
Image

*How does the matriculation system work? (is it even a system?)

It's voluntary. Anyone can register arms at the Bureau of Heraldry, provided the arms are heraldically correct, and are not already someone else's property. An application for matriculation is published in the Government Gazette for objections before it's registered.

Personal arms can be re-registered ('matriculated') in the names of descendants, including adopted children. Younger children's arms are differenced, but no specific system is followed.

*How do 'family associations' work and what exactly are they?

They're associations which various families have formed to preserve their heritage, to research and publish family trees, to arrange gatherings, etc. They seem to be most popular among Afrikaner families.

As a corporate body, a family association can have a coat of arms. The standard pattern laid down by the Heraldry Council in 1966 consists of a shield and motto only, and the shield has a plain chief. The idea is that if an individual member of the association wants a personal coat of arms, he can adapt the association's arms by placing some charges to the chief and adding a crest.

Here's the Vermeulen Family Association arms, as an example :
Image

Although about forty family associations have registered arms, hardly any individuals have registered personal arms derived from them.

*Do personal arms have supporters?

Not as a rule. The Bureau of Heraldry will not register them unless the armiger is a traditional ruler, e.g. the King of the Zulus, or a bailiff grand cross of the Order of St John or the Order of St Lazarus, or holds a foreign dignity such as a peerage which qualifies him for supporters.

As registration is voluntary, nothing actually prevents anyone from using supporters, but there's no tradition of this, and I doubt that many people do use them.

Blazons of several thousand registered arms, badges, flags, and other items can be found on the National Archives of SA website : http://www.national.archsrch.gov.za/sm3 ... 6DB%3DHERE
Unfortunately, there are no images. There are about a thousand military unit coats of arms and ships' badges which are registered, but which aren't in this database.
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Arthur Radburn
IAAH Vice-President : Heraldic Education

Jonathan Webster
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Re: Arms in South Africa

Postby Jonathan Webster » 09 Sep 2012, 20:04

Every depiction of arms registered with the bureau I have seen has the helmet placed affronty. Is this always the case or is it just a matter of artistic licence?

Also; doesn't South African heraldry utilise extra tinctures?

Also, just out of interest; do you prefer the present arms of South Africa or the pre-2000 achievement ?
Last edited by Jonathan Webster on 01 Jun 2014, 16:08, edited 1 time in total.

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Arthur Radburn
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Re: Arms in South Africa

Postby Arthur Radburn » 10 Sep 2012, 10:38

Jonathan Webster wrote:Every depiction of arms registered with the bureau I have seen has the helmet placed affronty. Is this always the case or is it just a matter of artistic licence?

It's not always the case. In the 1960s and '70s, the Bureau routinely depicted the helmet facing dexter. Since the early 1980s, the helmet has faced the same direction as the crest, so it can be affronte or facing dexter.

Also; doesn't South African heraldry utilise extra tinctures?

Occasionally. Brunatre has been used a few times. So has red ochre, which is of cultural significance to the Xhosa nation in particular. Orange/tenné, which was one of the colours in the old national flag, also appears, and orange wavy fesses are found in several arms to represent the Orange River.

Also, just out of interest; do you prefer the present arms of South Africa or the pre-2000 achievement ?

From an heraldic point of view, I think the 1910 arms are better.
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Arthur Radburn
IAAH Vice-President : Heraldic Education

Jonathan Webster
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Re: Arms in South Africa

Postby Jonathan Webster » 10 Sep 2012, 15:15

This may sound a bit of a daft question; but is red ochre considered a metal or a colour?

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Arthur Radburn
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Re: Arms in South Africa

Postby Arthur Radburn » 10 Sep 2012, 19:58

Jonathan Webster wrote:This may sound a bit of a daft question; but is red ochre considered a metal or a colour?

It's a colour. In the current national arms, it's placed against a field Or. In the arms of the former Transkei homeland (below), it has an Argent cogweel and a chevron against it.
Image
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Arthur Radburn
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Jonathan Webster
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Re: Arms in South Africa

Postby Jonathan Webster » 11 Sep 2012, 14:21

Is Orange distinct from Tenne as a tincture in South African heraldry?

Also; do the current national arms have an official blazon and are they registered with the Bureau of Heraldry? (I an aware the Bureau was bypassed as regards creating them.)

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Arthur Radburn
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Re: Arms in South Africa

Postby Arthur Radburn » 11 Sep 2012, 16:55

Jonathan Webster wrote:Is Orange distinct from Tenne as a tincture in South African heraldry?

I don't think so. At one time the Bureau used both words, apparently interchangeably, but since the 1980s it has favoured 'Orange'.

Also; do the current national arms have an official blazon and are they registered with the Bureau of Heraldry? (I am aware the Bureau was bypassed as regards creating them.)

Yes and yes. The arms of the Republic and the provinces qualify for automatic registration, without any further process.

A registration notice for the national arms was published in the Government Gazette at the time. It includes a blazon which the Bureau apparently had to formulate from the artwork which was presented to it as a fait accompli.

Interestingly, the arms are not listed on the database on the National Archives website. As the database lists only arms for which registration certificates have been issued, I suspect that the Bureau did not issue one in this case.

This had happened in the early 1970s, when the Bureau was excluded from the process of designing the arms of some of the African homelands within the Republic. The arms were registered, but the Bureau showed its displeasure by withholding certificates.
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Arthur Radburn
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Ton de Witte
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Re: Arms in South Africa

Postby Ton de Witte » 11 Sep 2012, 20:03

This topic has been moved to African heraldry
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Ryan Shuflin
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Re: Arms in South Africa

Postby Ryan Shuflin » 12 Sep 2012, 19:18

do the traditional African rulers use arms of dominion


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