‘Courageous Conversations’ to mark anniversary

2013-09-16 00:00

THE 175th anniversary of the Battle of Blood River/Ncome will be commemorated in November with a conference titled “Courageous Conversations”, which the organisers hope will break new ground in the debate on socio-cultural issues.

It is being arranged by the Msunduzi Museum in Pietermaritzburg and the Ncome Museum on the site of the battlefield. The three-day conference is the direct result of a challenge issued last year by the rector and vice-chancellor of Stellenbosch University, Professor Russel Botman, when speaking at a function marking the centenary of the establishment of a museum at the Church of the Vow in Pietermaritzburg.

Botman said the Msunduzi Museum with its emphasis on transformation as well as its close association with Voortrekker history and the Battle of Blood River/Ncome reflected South Africa’s ability as a nation to make peace and strive for reconciliation. He called on the museum to regard reconciliation as an ongoing process and to provide a safe platform for “courageous conversations” to take place and “talk this country into its future together”.

The “platform” will be the newly constructed Ncome Museum near Dundee on the eastern side of the Ncome River, which looks onto the replica laager of 64 bronze Voortrekker ox wagons on the opposite bank. The Ncome Museum includes a reconciliation bridge that links Ncome Museum and the Blood River Heritage site.

Msunduzi Museum director Mlungisi Ngubane says the conference will provide a “safe environment for open, honest and courageous discussion, which will hopefully bring about cultural renewal and constructive change in heritage institutions”.

The Battle of Blood River/Ncome on December 16, 1838, that pitted migrating Dutch-speaking farmers from the Cape Colony against the army of Zulu King Dingane kaSenzangakhona, has become a defining moment in South African history, fuelling policies of racial supremacy and also a symbol of black resistance.

Its anniversary in 1961 was chosen by the ANC to launch its military wing Mkhonto weSizwe to take up arms against the white regime.

Speakers at the conference include Bheki Mngo­me­zulu (UKZN), Pieter Labuschagne (Unisa), Frans-Johan Pretorius (University of Pretoria), Ben Khumalo-Seegelken (Carl von Ossietzky University, Oldenburg), Raymon van Diemel (South African Military Academy), Jabulani Maphalala (KZN Commissioner for Traditional Leadership Disputes and Claims), Phillipe Denis (UKZN) and political analyst Somadoda Fikeni.

The conference, “Courageous Conversations”, will be held at the Ncome museum — 43 km from Dundee and 24 km from Nquthu — from November 6 to November 8.

For more information contact Elrica Henning at eolivier@msunduzimuseum.org.za or Phumelele Ngubane at pngubane@msunduzimuseum.org.za or contact the museum on 033 394 6834/5.

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