“The Pencil Sketch”

On the 31st December 1942, 67,000 P.O.W were held in South Africa. 63,000 of those were Italian P.O.W’s been held at Zonderwater Camp just outside Cullinan.

The Union of South Africa belonged to Great Britain, being part of the Commonwealth. As Britain was at war with Germany and its ally in arms Italy, many South African residents were enlisted to fight “Up North” in the Egyptian, Somaliland and Ethiopian campaigns.

One such soldier was a Greek by the name of Spiro Calogeriou. When he returned from Tobruk in 1943 he met an Italian P.O.W. by the name of Perrini. All that is known of Perrini is that he was from Napoli, and a highly gifted artist.Spiro received from General Jannie Smuts 180 pounds and a ford truck as a gratuity for services rendered during the war. He travelled west of Pretoria and opened a trading store in an area called Daspoort. At the same time, one of his friends that he served with in Tobruk was appointed head of the food store in Roberts Heights, a military training camp a few miles from Pretoria.

At the time there was a shortage of food and groceries and many other luxuries like toothpaste, nylon stockings, cigarettes, chocolates etc. The government controlled all these goods with a rationing system by issuing stamps that allowed purchasing of these highly sought after goods. Spiro quickly climbed on the band wagon. Buying the goods from his good friend at the military camp, he transported them to Cullinan that was buoyant with miners, traders, businessmen, soldiers and P.O.W’s that were employed outside the camp and had dispensable income. Perrini, who by now had built up a name for doing excellent portraits was the “mule”, taking orders and smuggling the goods in a huge leather bag that people knew he carried all his artist equipment in. It was in Dec. 1943 that Perrini saw a small photo of Costa Calogeriou in Spiro’s wallet. Perrini took the photograph and produced a pencil drawing which he gave Spiro as a gift.Spiro by now had grown his business called Callys Cafe into a lucrative venture. He was a busy man and when one of his cousins, Anna, visited him in 1955 he found himself short of a present. By now he was married with 4 children and his wife Zoey suggested the sketch of his father would be a good gift for his father’s brother. The portrait travelled to Hydra and then to Athens. In 1983 Spiro’s sister Eleni went to visit her cousin Anna in Athens and saw the portrait of her dad, beautifully framed and hanging in the kitchen. She commented on the excellent likeness and Anna gave the sketch to Eleni, saying that after all it was Eleni’s father. Eleni brought it all the way back to Pretoria and eventually gave it to her son Stavros. In July 2006 as Greek as it Gets was opened in Cullinan, and the sketch found its’ rightful place above the fireplace in one of the rooms.

The sketch had travelled from Cullinan to Pretoria, from there on to the Greek island of Hydra and then onwards to Athens, back to Johannesburg in 1983, on to Pretoria in 1994 and eventually to Cullinan in 2006. It left Cullinan in 1943 and returned to where it was created. Many thousands of kilometres and 63 years later it had completed the round trip. Who knows, it’s not impossible to think that Perrini could have been in that same room at some time or other.

The Pencil Sketch

View ”The Pencil Sketch”