A public meeting held at the Castle of Good Hope on Saturday 16 March, which, attended by residents and members of SAHRA to discuss the heritage declaration of the Bo-Kaap, was stimulating and productive.
Entrance to the Castle (The Heritage Portal)
Statues of former Kings Cetshwayo, Langalibalele and Sekhukhune and 17th century resistance leader, Doman at the Castle of Good Hope, representing the changed attitudes in this colonial structure.
Here, deep in the bowels of a structure completed 340 years ago and representing colonialism and suppression, two groups worked enthusiastically towards a common goal, that of establishing the Bo-Kaap as a National Heritage Site. There does appear to be an argument to seek World Heritage status too.
Facilitated by the Castle CEO, Calvyn Gilfellan, there was a definite feeling in the air of SAHRA standing firmly behind the desires of the community to progress, by initially establishing twenty individual properties as heritage sites to form the basis of an overall declaration. It was pointed out that once these properties were declared, it would facilitate the addition of others. Even the area demarcated as the heritage site would be open to further inclusions or removals, subject to due process.
Castle of Good Hope CEO Calvyn Gilfellan
Some of the Bo-Kaap residents attending the meeting
After the appalling decision to flatten District Six, and the debacle presently been revealed about the lack of government progress regarding restitution, I believe there is added pressure to ensure that the Bo-Kaap is adequately protected for the future.
Presentations by Ben Mwasinga, Gcobani Sipoyo and Heidi Weldon of SAHRA further explained the intricacies of the process and opened up dialogue from community members who raised interesting and valid points. The officials appeared to welcome and embrace all views.
Ben Mwasinga of SAHRA
Gcobani Sipoyo of SAHRA
Heidi Weldon of SAHRA
As with most government departments finance is not available. However, should applications be made for funding, to the National Heritage Council for example, SAHRA would support these, based on merit. It was stated that SAHRA has a natural bias towards conservation, and this aspect is always given priority.
The importance of oral recording was also stressed because, as we are all aware, with the passing of time important knowledge and information is being constantly lost.
I came away from the meeting feeling that this was heritage in action, with proactivity from SAHRA and the Bo-Kaap residents, hopefully leading to a successful declaration of a Provincial Heritage Site in the near future.
The state of some of the structures in the Bo-Kaap indicates the urgency required for protection of the area
Some of the infrastructure in the Bo-Kaap is in a parlous state
Chris was a member and subsequent chair of the Swartland Heritage Foundation for many years. He has also completed the Urban and Architectural Conservation course at UCT. At present he is the chair of the West Coast Museum Forum.