New names for Cape Town footbridges

26 June 2015

Cape Town’s Naming Committee has recommended names for seven footbridges crossing Nelson Mandela Boulevard and Rhodes Drive to the mayor for decision.

Tuan Guru, Ingrid Jonker, |a!kunta, Dawid Kruiper, Father John Oliver, Taliep Petersen and Father Basil van Rensburg are the names on the short list, released on 23 June, following a public participation process.

The chairperson of the committee, Brett Herron, said the naming of these footbridges was an opportunity to commemorate these people and events that influenced the character and culture of Cape Town.

“The naming of public spaces, bridges and roads, among others, is pivotal in building a shared community across different cultural, social and economic groups,” he said. “We want to create a city where residents feel acknowledged, heard and valued and this is why we have invested so much time and effort in the public participation processes.”

Leaving a legacy

|a!kunta, or Klaas Stoffel, was the first contributor to the Wilhelm Bleek and Lucy Lloyd Archive of /xam and !kun texts. Working with Bleek and Lloyd, he contributed some narratives and a large number of words and sentences to the archive to help preserve the traditional language.

Guru, or Imam Abdullah Ibn Qadhu Abdus Salaam, a prince from Tidore in the Trinate Islands and a descendant of the Sultan of Morocco, is regarded as the father of Islam in South Africa. In 1780, the Dutch invaders banished him to the Cape, where he was imprisoned on Robben Island for 12 years until 1792. While incarcerated, he wrote several copies of the Holy Qur’an from memory, possibly the first Qur’an in South Africa.

Jonker was an iconic Afrikaans poet who committed suicide by drowning at the age of 31 in Sea Point. Her poems, written in her mother tongue, have been translated into other languages. Nelson Mandela read Jonker’s poem Die Kind (The Child) in full during his inaugural State of the Nation address to Parliament in May 1994.

In commenting on the poem, he said: “In this glorious vision, she instructs that our endeavours must be about the liberation of the woman, the emancipation of the man and the liberty of the child”. Of Jonker herself, Mandela said: “She was both a poet and a South African. She was both an Afrikaner and an African. She was both an artist and a human being. In the midst of despair, she celebrated hope. Confronted by death, she asserted the beauty of life.”

Kruiper was a traditional healer and leader of the Khomani San in the Kalahari. He spoke for the rights of indigenous people to the United Nations in 1994, and was instrumental in the successful land claim for the San in South Africa, culminating in the restoration of 40 000 hectares of land in 1999.

Father John was an Anglican priest from District Six who died in 2013. He founded the Cape Town Interfaith Initiative. As a community leader, he worked to bring about unity. “Father Oliver was one of the city’s distinguished religious leaders who used the gospel to mediate wherever divisions existed in different communities,” said Mayor Patricia de Lille following his death.

“He played an instrumental role uniting religious leaders in the city and province through the formation of the Western Cape Religious Leaders Forum.”

Petersen was a singer, composer and director of a number of popular musicals. He worked with David Kramer, with whom he won the Laurence Olivier Award, the highest honour in British theatre.

“With Kramer focusing on lyrics and Petersen on melodies, they fused their respective unfinished Cape Town-inspired projects to create District Six: The Musical, an acclaimed meditation on the history of the region’s black culture,” writes music website, All Music. “The production was a hit, and a series of like-minded musicals followed, among themFairyland, Crooners and Klop Klop. Petersen and Kramer’s biggest international success was 1998’s Kat and the Kings, the first Cape Town musical performed on London’s West End and New York’s Broadway. It was nominated for a Tony Award and earned the 1999 Olivier Award for Best New Musical.”

Father Basil was a Catholic priest who gained international recognition for his fight against the forced removals in District Six. He mobilised public opinion against the mass removals, writing to newspapers and holding public meetings. During apartheid, a “Friends of District Six organisation was set up, attracting international media interest, much to the government’s embarrassment and annoyance”, wrote UK newspaper, The Guardian.

The process

The seven names have been recommended to De Lille for approval and, if supported, they will be recommended to the city council for a final decision.

According to the city, the recommendation follows an initial public participation process conducted in November 2013 and February 2014, during which the public was asked to propose names. More than 2 000 name proposals were received.

These were whittled down to 638 and the final seven were recommended for the concluding round of public participation, which ended last month.

SAinfo reporter