SA’s stories must be told, says slain activist’s son

Simon Blackburn speaks at GFI Art Gallery in Port Elizabeth
Picture: Fredlin Adriaan

Embarrassment over what happened in South Africa after World War 2 and before 1994 means large parts of South Africa’s history are skimmed over or simply forgotten.

But this should not be happening, slain anti-apartheid activist Molly Blackburn’s son Simon said.

Speaking at a fundraiser for victims of the Thornhill fires, which coincided with the Lost In The Dust exhibition by John Meyer now running at the GFI Art Gallery, Blackburn said it was vital to understand the history of others.

“In South Africa at the moment we have compartmentalised history,” he said.

“We are all interconnected, we need to look past those compartments. We need to have an understanding of one another’s backgrounds.”

Blackburn regaled a group of about 50 people at the Park Drive gallery with vivid descriptions of the iconic Battle of Spioenkop during the Second Anglo-Boer War between 1899 and 1902.

“History is so interconnected it is difficult to see where to start and to stop,” he said.

Blackburn and his wife, Cheryl, own Three Tree Hill Lodge overlooking the secluded Mfazimnyama Valley and Spioenkop Game Reserve with the Drakensberg mountains as backdrop.

A trained marine zoologist and former game ranger, Blackburn said he had been inspired to tell the stories of this lost history by a friend whose great-grandfather and uncle had served in the Boer War on the site where Blackburn’s lodge is now situated. “There isn’t anyone who doesn’t love a good story,” he said.

“Hearing a story being told is the most gripping thing.

“I would love to see more story-telling being done where people can find out more of our history.

“We need to rekindle the lost art of story-telling.”

A self-styled student of the Boer Wars, Blackburn is one of seven children born to Black Sash supporter and political activist Molly and Dr Gavin Blackburn.

Yesterday was the third time in 30 years that Blackburn had returned to Port Elizabeth.

Blackburn’s aunt and Molly’s sister, former ANC member of parliament Judy Chalmers, who was at the talk yesterday, said her nephew was a “master at describing events”.

GFI Gallery chairwoman Dorothea Moors said it was an honour to have Blackburn present his talk and thanked him for sharing an incredible story.

The exhibition runs until July 10 in association with the National Arts Festival.

Leave a Reply