S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Duparquet, Father Charles Victor Aubert (plant collection, geography)

Born: 31 October 1830, L'Aigle, Normandy, France.
Died: 24 August 1888, Loango, Democratic Republic of Congo.

Charles Duparquet was a French Roman Catholic missionary with an interest in botany, geography and ethnology. After his ordination to the Congrégation du Saint-Esprit et du Saint-Coeur de Marie (French Order of the Holy Ghost), he taught botany for some time until sent to West Africa (Dakar and Gabon) in 1866. He soon moved to missionary work in Angola, where he came to know the region that is now Namibia. However, opposition from the Portuguese authorities made him return to France in 1867. There he convinced the church authorities to declare the region between the Orange and Kunene Rivers a province of the Congrégation. The declaration was made in 1879, the new province was named Cimbabasia, and Duparquet became its vice-prefect. Having worked in the church's Congo Province in Angola from 1873 to 1877, he travelled to Cape Town in March 1878, and via Beaufort West to Kimberley, which he reached late in April. Here he was dissuaded from proceeding overland to present Namibia, returned to Cape Town and from there went by sea to Walfish Bay. The next year he moved to Omaruru, where he established the first Roman Catholic mission station in the territory. However, it was opposed by the Rhenish missionaries, who instigated the Hereros against it.

During 1879 and 1880 Duparquet undertook two journeys into Ovamboland, Okavango, and the Kaokoveld, proceeding across the Kunene River and some distance towards Mocâmedes on the second journey. Here he established a mission station. His journal of these travels was published as Voyage en Cimbébasie in 1881. A Portuguese translation was published in Luanda by the Museu den Angola in 1953. In June 1881 he left for France via Cape Town, but later that year departed again for Angola. He founded two mission stations there and returned to Europe in 1885 or 1886. When it was decided to set up a mission station at the newly established town of Mafikeng he was sent there with several Irish priests, arriving in December 1886. He collected plants in the region and returned to Europe with a small collection which was worked on by Baillon. In June 1888 he returned to the church's Congo Province in Angola, but died shortly after his arrival.

Duparquet was a keen observer and corresponded with the director of the Jardin des Plantes (botanical garden) in Paris during his whole career. He established that the annual floods in Ovamboland were caused by the waters of the Kuvelai River, rather than by the Kunene River as had been thought. Some of his articles appeared in Les Missions Catholiques, including "Cimbebasie, notes géographiques" (1879), "Le fleuve Okavango" (1880), and "De Mossamedes à Huila" (1886). In 1879 an account of his travels and observations, based on his letters to Father Durand, was published by the latter in the Bulletin de la Société de Géographie. An account of his journeys in Ovamboland furthermore appeared in the Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society in 1882, based on Duparquet's articles in Les Missions Catholiques. The plant species Nerine duparquetiana and Mafekingia duparquetiana (later included in Raphionacme hirsuta) were named after him.

List of sources:
Dictionary of South African biography, Vol. 5, 1987.

Gunn, M. & Codd, L.E. Botanical exploration of southern Africa. Cape Town: Balkema, 1981.

Hall, A.L. A bibliography of South African geology to the end of 1920. Pretoria: Geological Survey, Memoir No. 18, 1922.

Logan, R.F. Bibliography of South West Africa: Geography and related fields. Windhoek: SWA Scientific Society, 1969.

South African bibliography to the year 1925. London: Mansell, 1979.

Tabler, E.C. Pioneers of South West Africa and Ngamiland, 1738-1880. Cape Town: Balkema, 1973.

Tabler, E.C. Addenda and corrigenda to Pioneers of South West Africa and Ngamiland. Africana Notes and News, 1975, Vol. 21, pp. 321-330.

Venter, R.J. Bibliography of regional meteorological literature. Vol. 1. Southern Africa 1486-1948. Pretoria: Weather Bureau, 1949.

Compiled by: C. Plug