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Old and new monuments: The Voortrekker Monument and Freedom Park

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Voortrekker monument was erected as a symbol of Afrikaner nationalism. Taken around 1997. (Photo by Joachim Meyer / via Getty Images)
Voortrekker monument was erected as a symbol of Afrikaner nationalism. Taken around 1997. (Photo by Joachim Meyer / via Getty Images)

The development of the Voortrekker Monument and Freedom Park correlates with specific political paradigm shifts in South Africa: the mid-20th century transition to an Afrikaner nationalist government, and the late-20th century transition from apartheid to constitutional democracy. The sites are unique case studies on the relevance of memorials and the parallels between them allow for a comparative interpretation, although their historical contexts could not be more different. 

Planning and construction of the Voortrekker Monument sprang from the Afrikaner nationalism of the 1930s and 1940s. Its inauguration incorporated historical re-enactments and cultural events and reinforced the National Party’s 1948 election victory and the adoption of apartheid as state policy. The monument commemorates the Battle of Blood River (1838) and narrates the Afrikaner trek to self-determination. Freedom Park was driven by the post-1994 opportunity to revisit our country’s historical narrative. Preceded by ritual journeys from all nine provinces, the site was established to commemorate those who fell during South Africa’s anti-colonial struggles, while contextualizing their history within appropriately African themes. 

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