A walk on the other side of history

2011-01-07 14:22

So, there I was. The doors of the house Paul Kruger once lived in flung open for me to walk in.

His name is known the world over thanks to the sought-after Krugerrands and, of course, he was the first president of the Transvaal Republiek.

As a black man, I don’t know whether I felt jarred, out of place or plain confused as I took my first steps over the threshold.

I felt like an unwelcome intruder in baas’s house while he wasn’t there.

After all, this man was the embodiment of Afrikanerdom, a hero to the Boers, and I was about to get an insight into that period in his life when South Africa fought the British Empire for sovereignty with him at the helm – and it raised a few questions.

I mean I haven’t been to Chief Albert Luthuli’s house yet, I felt uncertain.

Am I embracing his past and history or am I a curious new-generation tourist merely taking a peek into how life was at the turn of the last century?

Am I betraying my grandparents and their parents history and struggle by walking in the footsteps of an Afrikaner icon?

My mind whirling with mixed emotions, I continued.

At the entrance I am greeted by a collection of rifles.

I counted no less than five, all lined up and taking aim at the intruder at the door or by the gate. I felt they were aimed at me.

The creaking wooden flooring and old worn-out floors and furniture make the house look like an antique convention.

Every item you look at represents a bygone era, from the irons to the hoisted beds with their white linen.

A plethora of framed pictures of Kruger and his family members, presumably his wife and children, adorn the walls.

There are also some photos of Afrikaner war generals with flags and sashes and, of course, long beards.

The original paraffin lamps are still intact as well as the crockery such as tea sets – probably the ones he used to sip from.

The age-old telephone still occupies its pride of place in his study along with his roll of tobacco, while the family piano decorates the lounge.

The work room is the most fascinating of the rooms.

A throwback to another time with a collection of “gadgets” such as pounds, mincers and a few more unrecognisable utensils which have been replaced by food mixers, electric kettles and juicers in today’s kitchens.

Not too keen to prolong my stay in this house, I chose to step outside to see more.

There I found an outside oven, used to break bread I suspect.

The amazingly spectacular views of the hill and the faraway plains prove that Kruger nibbled the upper crust of fine living, even in the 1900s.

Walking out, I felt as confused as I was walking in.

Kruger’s house, at the foot of a hill in an obscure Boekenhoutfontein farm near Phokeng in Rustenburg, was declared a national monument in 1936 and has been preserved by the Simon van der Stel Foundation since 1971.

It is now administered by a hotel company.

» Mofokeng was hosted by DStv’s Learn So Much More documentary channels

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