Heritage month: Remains of Michael Balie returned to Genadendal

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Minister Marais presents the human remains, the skull, of Michael Balie to Dr Isaac Bali
Minister Marais presents the human remains, the skull, of Michael Balie to Dr Isaac Bali
  • The Western Cape government has returned the remains of Michael Balie to the Genadendal community.
  • Balie was one of the very first "non-white" teachers formally trained at the Genadendal Training College.
  • MEC Anroux Marais said her department is committed to realising the vision of a socially inclusive Western Cape.

The Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport (DCAS) has returned the remains of Michael Balie, the first "coloured" teacher in the province, to his hometown community of Genadendal, for a "dignified and respectful burial".

Balie was one of the very first South African teachers formally trained at the Genadendal Training College, which later became known as the Genadendal Mission Museum.

Research officials say Balie was tragically killed by an ostrich on the Twistwyk Farm in Genadendal in 1870. At the time, heavy rainfalls in the area uncovered his remains.

To commemorate Heritage Month, the department held a symbolic handover on Monday, as Balie's human remains were laid to rest in front of the Herrnhut House. 

Cultural Affairs MEC Anroux Marais said the department was committed to realising the vision of a socially inclusive Western Cape for all who called it home.

Minister Marias and Dr Isaac Balie unveil the plague to memorialize the burial of Michael Balie at the Genadendal Mission Museum as the community looks on.
Photo Supplied

"In line with this vision, we launched our Human Remains Reburial Programme in George in June 2018," said Marais.

Marais said the departmental guidelines for the management and reinterment of "Human Remains and Associated Archaeological Remains emphasises that museums are not appropriate institutions to hold human remains whether archaeological of historical".

"Regardless of how these were acquired, where such exists, proactive steps must be undertaken to ensure the deaccessioning where they are in collection and reburial of human remains," Marais added.

According to the department, they are now regulating museums by handing over the remains to community representatives to be buried "with the respect it deserves".

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The department said it had facilitated the involvement of interested community groups, like the "Board of Trustees of Genadendal Mission Museum together with the Museum Manager, Dr. Isaac Balie as claimant, the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA) & community stakeholders, and traditional leaders such as the Moravian Church of South Africa".

"We understand that the sacred burial requires the performance of rituals in museums and that reinternment must be seen as a process, rather than an event. Therefore, phase one requires us to hand over the remains to the community of Genadendal with the utmost respect," Marais said.

The burial ceremony took place on the premises of the Genadendal Mission Museum, and was conducted by "traditional stakeholders" and Dr Isaac Balie, according to cultural protocols and prescripts, said the department.

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