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International Study Trip: South Africa - May 2005

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Trip Information and Schedule

In May 2005, a group from Georgia State University departed on the trip of a lifetime to travel the diverse landscapes of South Africa. The course offered by the Master of Heritage Preservation Program at GSU was entitled Landscapes of Memory: History, Culture and Historic Preservation in South Africa. Our travels were arranged and guided by Director of the Master Program, Richard Laub. It provided us with the opportunity to study the history of South Africa and the ways in which their historic resources are remembered, preserved and presented to the public.

While in South Africa, we learned that South Africa after apartheid is under many pressures to realign and reorganize many of aspects of the country’s structure. With regards to historic and heritage preservation, this country is extremely diverse in natural, physical and cultural resources. The country is now faced with ways to develop and manage these resources with emphasis on more comprehensive policies that focus on cultural preservation. Because so many of aspects of their country’s cultural heritage are intangible, they are now redirecting their focus and implementing preservation practices that embrace the preservation of these intangible heritage resources. It is evident that museum and preservation professionals throughout the various Provinces within this country are harnessing new preservation philosophies which are all-inclusive of ethnicities associated with the history of South Africa.

After firmly planting our feet on foreign soil following a grueling 18 hour flight, we arrived in Pretoria. Pretoria is not only the administration capitol of South Africa; it is also home to several prestigious universities such as the University of Pretoria. Infamous for its streets lined with jacaranda trees and “Blue Bulls” rugby fans, the city of Pretoria is diverse in culture, natural landscape and political structure within the country. While there, we were hosted by University of Pretoria staff and preservation professionals associated with South Africa’s preservation constituencies like the Northern Flagship Institute who oversees preservation institutions in the northern provinces of the country. Our first adventure was to the Sammy Marks Museum outside Pretoria, a fabulous Edwardian home. We were so fascinated with the historic buildings associated with the site that we stayed until well after dark touring the site and grounds.

The next morning we took a bus tour of Pretoria, including Church Square and the Union Building where Nelson Mandela was inaugurated. Many of these buildings were designed by Sir Herbert Baker, one of the country’s most prolific architects. We did an extensive tour of Paul Kruger’s home, the founder of the Transvaal Republic. Next door to the house museum stood Gamohle, a building rich in cultural history. Commonly called the ‘pass house,’ this building has been well preserved and offers insights into the effects of the administration of apartheid on a variety of cultures. The Northern Flagship Institute and Paul Kruger administration has hired two docents and recent graduates who have begun documenting oral histories from local townships and people who remember events associated with this site and apartheid administration associated with it.

We also visited the Voortrekker Monument in rural Pretoria. The monument is a national icon for the Afrikaners whose ancestors trekked from the southern cape colony and settled in the area. Dr. Jackie Grobler, Professor of History with the University of Pretoria was so kind to take us through the Monument and explain the story of the Great Trek as told through the monument’s friezes. We completed the day with a marvelous braai, or South African barbeque, at the home of Dr. Grobler. His family introduced us to South Africans’ love of meat and the endless varieties of beef jerky like biltong and vors!

We did have the opportunity to visit the University of Pretoria and were well received the staff of the History Department and other museum professionals. They provided us insightful lectures about the history of South Africa, the structure of heritage preservation in South Africa, security at museums, and restoring historic structures. While on campus, we also toured their cultural history museum which held in its collections the fabulous gold artifacts found at Mapungubwe, a region renowned for its resource in gold which was originally discovered by native Africans.

We departed early the next morning to venture into Johannesburg and Soweto. Soweto was a densely laid out community full of formal and informal housing thriving with activity. Next, we visited the former home of Nelson Mandela on Vilakazi Street and the extremely powerful Hector Peterson Museum, which commemorated the student uprisings of 1976 in Soweto. Next, we went to the Apartheid Museum in Jo’burg, and finished up the day with a bus tour of the downtown area.

Click on pictures to see an enlarged view.

Sammy Marks House Tea at Sunset Church Square in Pretoria
Pretoria Voortrekker Monument Group Candid
Hector Peterson Memorial Immersive Exhibit Apartheid Museum
Sowetan Harvesting Corn Soweto Township

The next morning we began our second leg of the trip, departing Pretoria for Kruger National Park. We drove from through the high-veld Province of Mpumalanga taking in vistas of breathtaking mountain passes. We barely arrived in time for the night game drive, but rhinos, elephants, jackals, and giraffes were well worth the scramble to get there. Two wonderful days were spent viewing the wildlife with our guides, “all-knowing” Duane and “Eagle-Eye” Roy. The drives offered much time for contemplation about the diversity of South Africa’s natural landscapes and how unique and precious they are. Kudos to original founder, Paul Kruger for recognizing this at the turn of the 20th century and establishing reserve land which is now this National Park.

Between our morning and evening game drives and the copious amounts of food we were provided, Richard (our Program Director) arranged for us to speak to the cultural heritage officer for Kruger, Majudo, and archaeologist Dr. Lynn Meskell who is working to reorganize cultural heritage resources within the park. Currently, park administrators like Majudo and Lynn are identifying archaeological sites within KNP that have strong cultural ties to the original peoples. Many of these sites are remnants of tribal dwellings and ancestral burial grounds of chiefdoms and their people. We learned that Kruger has many untapped cultural resources like these archaeologically significant sites, from remnants of native dwellings to rock art. Majudo and Lynn also helped us to understand the pressures that these resources were facing in their conservation, as well as the resistance that the Park officials are fighting to bring these sites to the wider public.

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Skukuza Entrance: Kruger "Impala" Elephant Crossing
Wildlife Sightings Traditional Braai Roy and Duane

The final leg of our trip was spent in beautiful Cape Town. We were lucky to have the ever-changing weather cooperate so that we could visit sites like Robben Island and venture to the top of Table Mountain. The first day in Cape Town, we took a ferry to World Heritage Site, Robben Island to view the prison that held Nelson Mandela and many other anti-apartheid activists. That evening, we had our first rendezvous with Beverley Crouts, Provincial Manager of the South African Heritage Resource Agency (SAHRA) of the Western Cape. SAHRA is South Africa’s national organization which institutes the National Heritage Resources Act, much like our National Park Service.

Beverley, along with many of her colleagues within SAHRA were extremely hospitable to us while were in Cape Town. They provided tours of many historic sites around the city. We had the opportunity to visit SAHRA’s central headquarters in the Cape and were briefed in the organizational structures and the challenges that face SAHRA as a new agency. Not only do they have many new sites relating to the struggle against apartheid but also, many cultural resources relating to non-white groups had been ignored under the system. Simultaneously, SAHRA is attempting to restructure the system of heritage preservation, while also trying to make existing sites relate better to the new regime. They have a three-tiered system of grading historic site significance – national, provincial and local. These resources can be formally protected by way of national declaration, provincial or local protection. The main focus they have today is to recognize intangible resources and reevaluate the way in which they interpret cultural heritage in a more inclusive and accurate light after apartheid.

With SAHRA, we toured Langa, the first black township to be established in South Africa. We then ventured on to the remains of District Six, a multi-cultural and multi-religious area that had been bulldozed under the apartheid system. The District Six museum powerfully displayed how deeply the loss of their homes had affected people. Finally, we visited the Bo-Kaap district, which was the traditionally Malay/Muslim district of Cape Town. Beverly Crouts, Solayman Ebrahim, Dumisani Sabayi, and many others from SAHRA truly made our experience in Cape Town incredibly wonderful and educational.

On our own, we toured the Castle of Good Hope, the historic fort in Cape Town. We also visited the Slave Lodge, where the Dutch East India Company had housed its slaves. Although the Slave Lodge had an interesting human rights exhibit on one level, the top level of the museum still had many apartheid-era displays. That evening, we met up with the SAHRA officials for a wonderful night out at a jazz club.

The temperamental Cape Town weather finally cooperated, and we were able to make the trip up Table Mountain. The view was stunning. Back on the bus, we took an amazingly beautiful road down to the Cape of Good Hope. The Cape was gorgeous. Traveling back to Cape Town, we stopped to view a colony of very silly African penguins.

To complete our tour of the Western Cape, we visited the region of Stellenbosch and traditional Cape Dutch architecture. The Village Museum in Stellenbosch did a wonderful job of displaying the evolution of the style over the years through its collection of houses built in different periods. We then headed over to Boschendal, a historic wine estate. The manor house was beautiful and perfectly preserved. After a wine tasting, we went to the Taal Monument, which celebrates the Afrikaans language. SAHRA had arranged dinner for us at Dal Josafat, another historic farm which is currently owned and maintained by SAHRA. The braai was wonderful, and it was fascinating to see a historic manor house still in use.

We had some free time on our last day to finish up our shopping and then we all went to dinner at Marco’s, a traditional African restaurant. The music was fabulous, and we were all trying to dance as well as the musicians! Later, we ventured up the mountain for a nighttime view of Cape Town before we headed on to Mama Afrika for more great music. We were all so sad to leave on Saturday. We had learned so much and met such wonderful people during our time in South Africa. It was undoubtedly a life-changing experience.

Click on pictures to see an enlarged view.

Tip of the Cape Cape of Good Hope Cape Town's Table Mountain
Bo-Kaap District Langa Township

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