Sharing the untold story of the Khoisan kraal at the Castle

2016-04-19 09:03

Cape Town – A Khoisan kraal and two sprightly goats are some of the latest additions to the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town.

The traditional settlement is one of the first things visitors see as they enter the grassy courtyard.

Viewed by many as a bastion of colonialism, the country's oldest surviving building is undergoing a conscious shift in narrative, its heritage co-ordinator Moeshfika Botha said on Monday.

The settlement at the castle. (Photos by Ron Martin, Facebook)

"There is a notion or perception that the castle was built on vacant land. But something had to be displaced for the physical structure," she told News24.

Projects were in place throughout the year to recognise the displaced indigenous people, as well as their art and language. Input was received from a number of organisations and artists.

The castle's first cornerstone was laid 350 years ago.

"The traditional narrative was told from school textbooks and from the Jan van Riebeek aspect. We are trying to tell the untold stories. There are some uncomfortable truths."

‘It was not empty land’

Calvyn Gilfellan, the castle's CEO, said they tried to recreate pre-colonial times.

"Before the fort there were people living there. It was not an empty land without inhabitants."
He said the idea to commemorate the castle's 350th year was not taken lightly.

"With Fees must fall, Rhodes must fall, and xenophobia last February, the context was not amicable to put this in the public space," he said.

Much "soul-searching and research" took place before a decision was made.

Gilfellan said it was important to re-evaluate symbols to uncover what they meant, what stories they could tell and what they were hiding.

The kraal was set up at the end of last month.

Very much at home, the goats kept the grass short and explored their environment with unbridled enthusiasm, Gilfellan said with a laugh.

Botha said the installation had been "phenomenally well received".

"I think people are tired of static exhibitions and of looking and not being able to touch. A lot of people are saying 'It's something I never knew'."

Building understanding

She said the castle should be a platform for open social debate.

"We don't want to politicise things. We want the castle to serve as a platform for nation-building, healing and reconciliation through dialogue and art," she said.

Gilfellan said most reactions were positive.

"I saw an Afrikaner couple and their young kids in the parking lot. An 11-year-old was asking why there is a kraal inside the castle," he shared.

"The mother said something like, 'Jannie, hulle was voor ons hier' [Jannie, they were here before us.]. So for me that is encouraging and shows we are in fact reaching the objective. If you tell the stories, you build understanding."

Read more on:    cape town  |  culture

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