Castle of Good Hope celebrates South Africa’s diverse heritage

During Heritage Month, Cape Town’s Castle of Good Hope launched a legacy project that highlights 350 years of South African history, from colonial and indigenous perspectives.

The Castle of Good Hope Legacy Project takes early South African history directly to schools
The Castle of Good Hope, South Africa’s oldest building, has seen its fair share of history, dating back to the 17th century. (Image: Castle of Good Hope)

The project is a collaborative effort between the castle and the Ministry of Defence and Department of Military Veterans to encourage young people to have an interest in and understanding of South African history.

Completed in 1679, the Castle of Good Hope is South Africa’s oldest surviving building. Over the years, it has been an important landmark for civilian and military life in the city, as well as an ongoing testament to more than 350 years of tumultuous but significant South African history. The building is currently a cultural hub, offering art and cultural exhibitions, guided historical tours and the curation of historically significant artefacts.

At the official launch of the legacy project on 22 September 2017, castle management CEO Calvyn Gilfellan announced that detailed timeline murals depicting the history of the castle and South Africa would be installed at almost 300 South African schools, taking these important events, people and aspects of the country’s history to young people directly and offering a contextual appreciation of how South Africa developed as a country over 350 years.

The Castle of Good Hope Legacy Project takes early South African history directly to schools
Statues of famous prisoners amaHlubi king Langalibalele‚ Zulu king Cetshwayo‚ Bapedi king Sekhukhune and Khoisan freedom fighter Doman at the Castle of Good Hope. (Image: Castle of Good Hope)

The original timeline mural will be exhibited at the castle itself, joining other popular exhibits that were set up during the castle’s 350th anniversary commemorations at the end of 2016. These include the Department of Military Veterans’ Centre for Memory, Healing and Learning and a set of statues depicting amaZulu, amaHlubi and BaPedi kings Cetshwayo, Langalibalele and Sekhukhune, as well as Doman, a 17th century Khoisan resistance leader, all of whom were once imprisoned at the castle.

Also part of the project is an online interactive tour of the castle and its history: a 360° view that takes anyone in the world on a virtual tour around the buildings while giving them a history lesson along the way.

Watch an introduction video to the Castle’s 350 Years in 360 Degrees exhibit here:

Speaking to SABC News at the launch of the project, acting director-general in the Department of Military Veterans Max Ozinsky said it was important to memorialise the often overlooked history of the castle. “The colonial history of the castle and the country is well known… [but it is often forgotten] that many leaders of resistance were [imprisoned] at the castle… and many important military decisions regarding the country’s colonial wars were made in these rooms.”

The school mural project, Ozinsky added, was aimed “to show South African history from all sides”. The timeline not only highlights the conflict between colonial rule and indigenous resistance, but also times of collaboration and co-operation between these forces for the good of the country.

The installation of the murals in schools will be handled by SchoolMedia, a marketing company that provides positive brand marketing to South Africa’s young people. It is the brainchild of young South African entrepreneur Khethi Ngwenya.

At the launch at the castle, Ngwenya told SABC News that during research for the mural’s timeline, collaborators realised just how much of the country’s early history was missing from the existing history curriculum taught in South African schools, but he added that hopefully highlighting these historical events and the important players would change that.

For more information on the Castle of Good Hope and its exhibits, visit the website here.

Source: SABC News, Castle of Good Hope, South African History Online

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