LETTER: Keeping memories of our heroes alive

Professor Barney Pityana addresses a full hall at the South End Museum for the George Botha Memorial Lecture earlier this year
File picture: Brian Witbooi

Bay’s cultural life

We at the South End Museum have noticed with concern the recent printing of articles and letters to The Herald that seemingly assume that some heroes from the indigenous/people of colour communities seem to have been neglected by community leaders.

We wish to correct this misconception.

The board of trustees of the South End Museum has, over the years, taken a leading role in remembering these heroes, namely:

  • Remembering Dawid Stuurman as a Khoi chief and a freedom fighter against colonialism and oppression, who escaped twice from Robben Island, was sentenced and banned to Australia, where he died in 1830.

The museum, to remember him, set up two exhibitions on Stuurman and the Khoi community, in 2004 and 2007.

Under the guidance of former chairman Errol Heynes, the Khoi tribes were called together in a number of meetings at the museum to discuss Khoi history and their position in society.

We printed a book on the life and times of Stuurman, with financial support from the National Heritage Council (NHC) that unfortunately has gone out of print due to a lack of further financial support.

We set up, with NHC, the proposal to repatriate the remains of Stuurman from Australia. The national talks, with representative Khoisan chiefs from all over the country, took place at the museum in 2014.

Unfortunately, with his remains buried in a mass grave, the repatriation evolved into a spiritual one with government members leading the way and unfortunately not including the Khoi chiefs and South End Museum;

  • Remembering George Botha and his untimely death in detention, keeping his memory, as well as that of other heroes who died in detention, alive with a series of lectures;

The South End Museum George Botha Memorial lectures have been held annually at the museum from 2006.

A number of national and local speakers have graced this lecture, for instance Prof Derrick Swartz, Prof Kader Asmal, Prof Jonathan Jansen, Prof Adam Habib and Rev Maxwell Salsone

These lectures are being bound into volumes by the local university for research purposes.

The research on the political activities of George Botha continues.

  • Remembering other heroes with displays at the museum: Prof Dennis Brutus, Frank Landman, Molly Blackburn, D S “Baby” Pillay, Omar Cassem, Dan Qeqe, Eric Majola, Dr Raymond Uren, and many others;
  • Remembering poet Arthur Nortje, who died in England.

Having taught at South End and Paterson high schools, and under the guidance of Brutus, he evolved into a brilliant poet, having printed a number of poetry collections, for instance Anatomy of Dark – Collected poems of Arthur Nortje.

He emigrated because of the political uncertainty in the country.

Nortje, a product of Lakeview/ Dowerville has to be remembered.

Talks are about to begin with the university to consider his memory;

  • The museum is also researching the communities of Korsten, as well as the Mfengu community via oral history;
  • A number of booklets and articles have been written by the museum, with the assistance of community leaders, that cover the history and the activities of heroes from the Indian, Chinese, Malay and other communities.

Further, we invite people, who have not followed the annual South End Museum schedule, to attend these events and so join in discussions to improve and donate towards the celebration of past heroes.

– Cecil Colin Abrahams, administrator, South End Museum

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