THOMAS BAINES IN SOUTH-WEST AFRICA
After his controversial dismissal from Livingstone's Zambezi Expedition on which he had served as artist and storekeeper, Baines returned to Cape Town from the Zambezi Delta in December 1859. In 1860 he met up with his old friend James Chapman, a trader and explorer, who had recently returned from a journey from Durban to Walvis Bay and now planned a second crossing of Africa, with Baines, from the west to east coasts. The expedition intended to set up trading posts across Africa and would start at Walvis Bay in north-west Namibia, head inland to Lake Ngami and follow the Zambezi river course to the east coast:
'The arrangement with Chapman was a very loose one and this united Baines better than working as a close team member. He was free to pursue his own interests, and noted of himself that in the interior 'a person who does not trade or make a profession of hunting is looked upon as a vagabond, with no ostensible means of gaining a livlihood'. Baines was not renumerated by Chapman but aimed to make money later from selling his paintings. His part of the bargain involved building suitable craft for sailing up the Zambezi River - with Chapman paying half the cost of the materials. In the event, nothing came of the trading store enterprise and the men were obliged to turn back after the rigorous climate and disease had prevented Baines from completing his boat. Nonetheless, inspecting the Victoria Falls was a tremendous highlight for both men, but more particularly for Baines who painted its splendours extensively. Indeed, much of his later fame rests upon the many Victoria Falls paintings which still exist. These, together with his first book, published in 1864 as Explorations in South-West Africa, provide a lasting testimony to his talent and experiences'. (J. Carruthers and M. Arnold, The Life and Work of Thomas Baines, Vlaeberg, 1995, pp. 57-8.)
Following Chapman, who had set off two months earlier, Baines took the Elizabeth Mary from Cape Town to Walvis Bay at the end of March 1861 and set off in May on foot heading due west up the Swakop valley, arriving at the trading post of Otjimbingwe a week later.
At Otjimbingwe he met Charles John Andersson, an Anglo-Swedish explorer who had recently bought the Walvis Bay Mining Company's establishment at Otjimbingwe and turned it into a profitable trading station. To Baines's disappointment Andersson was setting off to the Cape with cattle when he arrived in May. Andersson was an unique source of information for anyone travelling across South-West Africa, having explored Damaraland and Ovamboland, reaching the Etosha Pans and Lake Ngami in the early 1850s, and the Okavango river and Kunene in Angola in 1859.
Baines stayed in and around Otjimbingwe until heading west towards the end of June to join up with Chapman in July near Eikhams. The majority of the present watercolours appear to date to the first weeks of the expedition in Namibia in 1861. He would however return to Otjimbingwe from the interior in June 1863 and stayed as a guest of the Anderssons, working up sketches made on the expedition into some of his finest canvases (including an oil of the Victoria Falls he presented to Andersson and his wife), assisting Andersson with the Herero in the offensive against the Afrikaner traders and the Nama at Otjimbingwe, and working on illustrations of the birds Andersson had collected for a projected work on the natural history of Damaraland and the adjoining territories. Baines eventually left for Europe in May 1865 and in the same month Andersson, lame since his battle with the Herero against the Nama in June 1864, left his trading concern at Otjimbingwe to the Rhenish mission society and took his wife and family to Cape Town.
Andersson's exploration of Namibia through the 1850s and Baines's expedition with Chapman in the early 1860s resulted in the first expansive publications, maps and illustrations of South-West Africa. The territory resisted permanent settlement by Europeans until the arrival of the Bremen merchant Adolph Luderitz in 1883 began German colonisation and led in turn to the annexation of the whole of Namibia to Germany in 1892.