Monument to rewrite SA story

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

For many generation, elders have shared stories about their families with each family having its own unique story to tell about life and experiences they went through. This was done to ensure that family values and traditions are passed on from one generation to the next.

Like it is important for families to preserve their culture, the same can be said about a country and its heritage, argues Gabi Khumalo.

One could not help but be moved but what the Department of Arts and Culture has done at Groenkloof Nature Reserve in Pretoria.

The erection of a National Heritage Monument there will not only ensure that South African’s heritage is elevated to a global status will sure to serve as a reminder to many generations to come of the journey this country has travelled.

The establishment of the National Heritage Monument is part of the South African Government’s efforts to redress historical imbalances and instil a sense of pride and identity among this great nation’s.

It’s not just an ordinary monument. This majestic site will be home to 400 life bronze statues of pre-colonial, colonial and anti-apartheid struggle heroes and heroines, a first of its kind for the country.  

The manner in which these statues has also been carefully thought out. The route they will be lining will be known as the Long Walk to Freedom, which will be the site’s most significant area and offers visitors access to South Africa’s exclusive cultural heritage.

On the day of the launch earlier this month, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa unveiled the first 56 life size bronze statues of the 400 which will become part of South Africa’s cultural heritage landscape.

Among the 56 icons’ statues include Chief Makhado, Charlotte Maxeke, Father Trevor Huddleston, King Hintsa, King Moshoeshoe, King Mzilikazi Khumalo, Yusuf Dadoo, Ray Alexander, Steve Biko, Dr John Langalibalele Dube, Walter and Albertina Sisulu, Anton Muziwakhe Lembede, Pixley Isakaseme and Solomon Tshekiso Plaatje.

Correcting misrepresentations of the past

Unveiling the statues, Minister Mthethwa noted that for a very long time, the South African story was single dimensional - told from the perspective of colonisers.

“The stories of the indigenous people of this land were distorted to reflect the perspective of the oppressor. Historical records, landmarks and national symbols like statues, glorified the deeds of those who were in power and suppressed the voices of the oppressed,” he said.

“Our challenge now is to correct the misrepresentations of the past and rewrite the South African story for future generations to have a broader view of our narrative. Twenty-one years since the dawn of democracy in South Africa, we can no longer view our history through the colonial prism.”

In line with these constitutional imperatives, the Minister said his department is committed to the preservation and promotion of the country’s heritage, adding that the establishment of the monument is a crucial step towards the revitalisation of the South African heritage landscape.

Economic impact

Minister Mthethwa also highlighted the fact that the monument will become a major tourist attraction site as well as a massive educational centre that any person anywhere in the world would be able to know about.

“It’s going to be a major tourist attraction area, but also an area where a nation would be able to reflect so that we are able to plan for our future,” he said.

Further statues are currently being made and the project is expected to take less than three years to complete.

“The department will continue to recognise our heroes in other sites of historic significance around the country, this include the unveiling of the statue of Bambhatha kaManciza, popularly known Chief Bambhatha at Greytown in KwaZulu-Natal Province.”

Commenting on the importance of heritage, Dali Tambo, Chief Executive Officer of the National Heritage Project Company and also the son of Walter and Albertina Sisulu emphasised that history should be represented in the heritage month in a big way and that it should form part of heritage tourism.

“We believe that heritage is a show business and it’s where you integrate with the public and bring these people to life. Its art, its history, its heritage. It meant to honour those who walked the path so that we can have the society that we have today,” he said.

The artist behind the statue of Solomon Tshekiso Plaatje, Guy du Toit, from Pretoria, said being involved in the project has been an amazing experience and opportunity for him.

“I’m very privilege to be involved with the whole project. Without the project like this, I wouldn’t be able to work on this scale and in bronze,” Du Toit said. –








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