The remains of Klaas and Trooi Pienaar arrive in South Africa

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20 Apr 2012

A triumph over oppression is how Minister of Arts and Culture Paul Mashatile described the arrival today, of the remains of Klaas and Trooi Pienaar. “We saw the removal of our people, taken to far-away lands for research purposes as part of colonial oppression -- it is part of how our people were disrespected. We have triumphed over that evil.” he added.

The couple’s repatriated remains arrived at OR Tambo Airport early Friday morning from Vienna, Austria. The Pienaar’s bodies were illegally exhumed in the Northern Cape back in 1909, and shipped to Austria, where it was used in medical studies by world renowned Austrian anthropologist, Dr Rudolph Poch.

The Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture, Joe Phaahla, led the South African team that traveled to Vienna, earlier in the week, to finalise the return. “We are pleased that we can tell the South African people, that we have accomplished the mission for which we left,” Phaahla said.

It was an emotional reunion for members of the Pienaar family and community leaders of the Khoisan, who had traveled from the Northern Cape to witness the homecoming. A descendant of the Pienaar’s, Maggie Padmaker, had tears in her eyes as she spoke about her great grandparents, “I feel very happy that the government has made this effort. It is exciting to be in with our ancestors who are getting back their dignity. This is a big achievement. It may be easy to take that for granted, but for me and the rest of the family, it gave us great pain to think of how our people were treated. The fact that they have returned home, where they belong helps ease that pain.”

After four years of negotiations, an agreement was finally reached between the South African and Austrian governments on the return of the Pienaars’ remains. The repatriation is part of the South African Government’s effort to restore dignity to the victims of colonialism and racism. “The return of the remains of Klaas and Trooi Pienaar is part of our ongoing process of healing, promoting social cohesion among all South Africans,” added Phaahla.

The Pienaar’s journey home also coincides with South Africa celebrating Freedom Month. “The Pienaars are truly getting their freedom today. They are our ancestors and they are part of our heritage. For us that is very significant… They will now rest in peace among their people,” Mashatile said.

A reburial ceremony is planned for early May.

For further details please contact Lisa Combrinck 082 821 4886