Mpumalanga Heritage Newsletter - Wits historian, Professor Peter Delius recently became the first recipient of the Mpumalanga Heritage Award of Merit for his contribution towards the research, documentation and conservation of the unique heritage and history of our region. Mpumalanga Heritage Chairman, Duncan Ballantyne gave a speech introducing the award which is published below.
Main Image: Mpumalanga Heritage chairman, Duncan Ballantyne, Prof. Peter Delius and vice chairman, Marius Bakkes, with the special award made by the local artist Tony Fredriksson of one of the historical Lydenburg heads.
Mpumalanga Heritage, a registered non-profit civic grouping, started as the Mpumalanga Historical Interest Group, early in 2012. Some like-minded locals, all interested in a wide spectrum of history, got together to form a collective to share knowledge and do monthly excursions. A regular newsletter containing various contributions on history concerning research, enquiries and facts, goes out to a wide data base of interested individuals, paid-up members and related organisations. Membership is a nominal annual fee of R150.00.
The geographical region of concern is the province of Mpumalanga and the immediate surrounding areas. The historical links with the adjacent areas of Limpopo, the Kingdom of Swaziland and the southern regions of Mozambique, are not denied. All aspects and interests of history and heritage conservation are accommodated.
Since its inception a great many historical excursions, nearly 50, over much of the province, have been undertaken. Other regular meetings often include knowledgeable speakers – locally as well as from outside the province.
Since being registered as a Section 21 company, a substantial range of current and future projects has been identified. These include a provincial blue plaque project. The first of these iconic heritage markers was unveiled late in 2014 at Webster House at Uplands Preparatory School. Another was the replacement and additions of the historic Jock Trek plaques indicating some of the important transport routes through our area.
Mpumalanga heritage is also acting as an active stakeholder in civic organisations formed to better the state of affairs at Pilgrim’s Rest as well as Botshabelo. Mpumalanga Heritage acts as a watchdog against all possible threats to heritage resources due to neglect and other actions by government and the private sector. The organisation however, endeavours to work closely with the provincial government and all heritage structures in place, to ensure a healthy culture of heritage conservation in the region. It is seeking representation on all constitutional as well as private organisations and initiatives responsible or involved with the conservation and development of vital and valuable heritage assets in the region.
One of the projects identified shortly after the establishment of this organisation was to honour individuals for their past and present outstanding contribution towards the research, documentation and conservation of the unique heritage and history of our region. The first to receive such an award is the Wits historian, Professor Peter Delius, who is also a member of our organisation.
Professor Peter Delius joined the University of Witwatersrand History Department in 1981, and has several books to his name, including:
- The Land Belongs to Us
- The Conversion
- Putting a Plough to the Ground 1850-1930
- History from South Africa
- Apartheid's Genesis 1939-1961
- A Lion Amongst the Cattle
- Democracy X: Marking the Present: Re-presenting the Past
- Mpumalanga: History and Heritage
- Mpumalanga: An Illustrated History.
He completed his PhD at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London University in 1986 and has previously worked as a Research Officer at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies.
This Award is mainly for his research, documentation and compilation of Mpumalanga: History and Heritage, and Mpumalanga: An Illustrated History, which followed.
In 2005, the Mpumalanga Provincial Government initiated a Heritage Project aimed at rediscovering the province’s past, and using this to inform its contemporary identity and development. This project resulted in the publication of Mpumalanga: History and Heritage (2007), a major work written by a team of researchers led by Delius. In 2008, the Mpumalanga Provincial Government facilitated the publication of a shorter and more accessible version entitled Mpumalanga: An Illustrated History, written by Delius and Michelle Hay. This book has since been translated into Sindebele and Siswati and is available on the internet for free download.
The award is a boxed, framed cameo scale model of one of the famous Lydenburg Heads. The Lydenburg Heads are the Earliest Iron Age art found south of the Equator. They are carbondated to 490 AD, or over 1,500 years ago. We from Mpumalanga are proud to say that this find was made in our province and region of interest. Though not within our boundaries anymore, these artefacts are considered a national treasure by South Africa and are now on display in the Iziko South African Museum in Cape Town.