Social ills the result of being removed from our culture – heritage expert

2016-04-21 13:00
CEO of the Castle control board, Calvyn Gilfellan, petts the resident goats, Charleen and Sharon. (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

CEO of the Castle control board, Calvyn Gilfellan, petts the resident goats, Charleen and Sharon. (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

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Cape Town – The display of a traditional Khoisan village inside the walls of the Castle of Good Hope acknowledged the positive aspects of the culture, an official said on Wednesday.

Heritage consultant, Ron Martin, said many descendants of the Khoi Khoi and San people, especially on the Cape Flats in Cape Town, were part of communities with high incidents of violence.

“You would never ever find something like spousal abuse in the typical Khoi household,” he said in front of a traditional river reed hut.

“Because we were removed from our culture, this is why social ills take place.”

The Castle’s first cornerstone was laid 350 years ago.

Its management commissioned Martin to develop the village as one of the ways to recognise the indigenous people displaced by the Castle.

Reawaken culture

Martin said visitors had asked him the significance of going back all those years.

“If we can just re-adopt the salient points of culture or reawaken or resurge them, we can essentially then also adopt those positive human values that are associated with it,” he explained.

“And maybe our society would be a much better place.”

Set against the yellow walls of the courtyard and mountains in the distance, the village comprised traditional huts, an animal enclosure and screens used for communal activities and in the bush.


(Jenna Etheridge, News24)

CEO of the Castle control board, Calvyn Gilfellan, petted the resident goats, Charleen and Sharon. “This is the kraal before the klip kraal,” he said while looking around the wood and leaves.

“For me it is vital that we show our kids, everybody, how it was before Van Riebeeck was here. So it is bringing history alive and telling the untold stories.”

The intricacies and symbolism of Khoi and San life were on display. Dried and matted river reeds were used over a timber frame to build shelters for parents and their small kids. The reeds swelled up and closed gaps to keep families warm in winter.

Huts soon evolved. When sailors dumped broken hessian bags overboard with their rubbish, the Khoi would pick them up and use them for building materials.


(Jenna Etheridge, News24)

Ritualistic practices

Evolution was also clear today. Musician Collin Meyer played traditional music instruments for guests but was also seen with pliers to help shape a bow.

A fire started with a firelighter burned as the melodic clicks of the language left linguistic consultant Bradley van Sitters’ lips.

Pointing at the horns beneath the fire, Martin said these were pivotal in ritualistic practices. “There is always a pair because they signify reconciliation and the coming together of two opposing forces.”

The burning of a ceremonial herb signified the burning away of all differences.

With a smile, Martin said, “Reconciliation, I believe, starts with the foundational people of the country.”


(Jenna Etheridge, News24)

Watch below for more on Khoisan life, art and the language:

Read more on:    cape town  |  culture

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