Preserving history for the next generation

PHOTOS: siphelele nketoLocal women preparing Griqua dresses for National Heritage Day.
PHOTOS: siphelele nketoLocal women preparing Griqua dresses for National Heritage Day.

TO make sure that history does not get lost in the changing of times, East Griqualand Museum has made it a priority to keep the old records, including old typing machines and cash register tills, to preserve the city’s heritage.

As the country commemorates Heritage Day on Monday, September 24, the Fever visited the museum to find out more about the history of Kokstad.

Curator at the East Griqualand Museum Audrey Steenkamp says many of the town’s historical objects and books are stored in the museum.

According to records, former leader of the Griqua people Adam Kok III arrived in Mount Currie Mountain in 1863, coming from the Free State Province. He settled at the mountain and, after spending some years at the mountain, he built a house for Griqua people to have shelter, school and place of worship.

Kok kept his 20 000 stock and 300 carts, which were used as transport at the mountain, until Reverend Willard Dower built the first house, now called Dower House, in Kokstad town.

Dower House was recently renovated by government and is now used by Kokstad small businesses.

In 1870, Dower built a Griqua Church, now situated in Hope Street, and it took seven years to complete it because there were financial problems.

Most people worked in Kimberly, while others were dependant on agriculture for a living.

Edward Barker, who was a land surveyor at the time, inspected the Kokstad town, on Kok’s instruction, with the aim of developing a town.

Here are some interesting facts about the town.

The Kokstad Park between Hope Street and Barker Street was previously used by Griqua people for public gatherings and the Kokstad Magistrate’s Court building was used to jail criminals.

Adam Kok III died on December 30, 1875, and his spouse, Margaret Kok, died at 65 years old. Their graves are both next to the Kokstad Police Station.

The current Kokstad Regional Centre was previously a Royal Hotel.

There was an area next to Esayidi TVET College that people used to have competitions in agriculture and trophies that were won at the time are still kept at the museum.

As part of recognising Edward Barker, a street in Kokstad was named after him. Other streets that were given historic names in Kokstad town include Adam Kok Street, Dower Street, Hope Street, Groom Street and many more.

At a media briefing last week, Greater Kokstad Municipality mayor Bheki Mtolo said there is much history that needs to be restored in Kokstad.

A statue of Adam Kok III is expected to be erected at a national Heritage Day event on Monday and a municipal building is also to be renamed after Adam Kok III. Local women at the museum have been making Griqua dresses that will be displayed at the National Heritage Day commemoration in Riverview Stadium.

Steenkamp thanked government for recognising the Griqua community, saying: “Young people need to visit museums to know history. The museum is partnering with local schools to promote history and cultures.”

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