Speech by Minister Pallo Jordan on the Launch of Architectural brief of Sarah Bartmann project at Hankey Eastern Cape

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07 Mar 2009

Honourable Premier,
Your worship the Executive Mayor of Kouga,
Your Worship the Mayor,
Khoikhoi and San Traditional and Civic leadership here present,
Members of the Executive Council,
Members of Parliament,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen.


Running like a red thread through the historical experience of the Khoikhoi and the San people, since the advent of colonialism in Southern Africa, is a narrative of dispossession, racial oppression and even genocide.

Our democratic Constitution guarantees each citizen of South Africa fundamental human rights under the Bill of Rights. Our Bill of Rights is based on the culture of human rights as it has evolved both before and after the 20th century, to accord each individual protection against any form of discrimination under the law.

Government policy since 1994 and the laws this government has passed provided further protections to the individual’s economic. Social, political and cultural rights. These rights are entrenched and their application is monitored and enforced through statutory bodies such as the Human Rights Commission and the Gender Commission.

Our government also recognized that it had a duty to make manifest these protections and to give substance to the rights contained in the Bill of rights.

This is why the Government is developing the Sarah Bartmann Centre of Remembrance and the KhoiSan Heritage Route as commemorative markers which will stand as reminders both of the violation of the rights of the Khoikhoi and San people, their dispossession under colonialism and apartheid, but also to underscore the contribution the Khoikhoi and San have made to the struggle for freedom and democracy, while also preserving for transmission to future generations the indigenous knowledge of these communities and the enduring aspects of their culture.

There have been a number of attempts to have the remains of Sarah Bartmann returned to South Africa since the 1940s. After the eminent American biologist, Stephen Jay Gould, came across her remains in a store room at a Paris Museum and he published an account of her in the 1980’s, the urgency of repatriating her remains took on a new dimension. In 1994, President Nelson Mandela launched an international campaign requesting the French National Assembly to have her remains returned to the land of her birth for a proper and dignified burial. The French National Assembly finally took that decision.

After much debate and public consultation, an appropriate place of burial was found. It is this small koppie, called vergaderingskop. Her remains arrived on South African soil on 3rd May 2002, after 187 years, she was finally home. The casket was flown to Cape Town and on Sunday 4th August a Khoikhoi cleansing ritual and dressing ceremony took place in preparation for her burial. The remains of Sarah Bartmann were finally laid to rest on 9th August 2002, South African Women’s Day and also International Day for Indigenous Peoples.

Sarah Bartmann has come to be regarded as an international icon of the marginalized indigenous peoples. Her name is invoked around every struggle for human rights and racial equality. This gravesite represents the re-affirmation of the

dignity of women, specifically the women of formerly colonized and oppressed peoples.

It is therefore most appropriate that the democratic government has acknowledged not only the tribulations and trials of Sarah Bartmann, but through our recognition of her, also to affirm the role that the Khoikhoi people played in the struggle against imperial and colonial domination in South Africa.

A solemn tree-planting ceremony heralds the construction of a permanent structure to commemorate the life of Sarah Bartmann and to establish a repository where the heritage, the history and the culture of the Khoikhoi and San people can be preserved, uncovered through rigorous scholarly research and can be fed back into the broader South African community.
Programme Director,
Ladies and gentlemen,
The Sarah Bartmann centre will be developed on 80 hectares of land adjacent to her gravesite.

This land, located south and southwest of the Baviaanskloof Mega-Reserve, was graciously donated by the Kouga Municipality and I want to use this opportunity to express our profound thanks to the municipality for their generosity. It will be a multi-purpose space of national significance, intended for use by both national, provincial and local communities. The centre will be the gateway into the Baviaanskloof Heritage Route and form part of the larger Integrated Development Plan to promote Kouga as a tourism destination. The integrated development planning process will ensure that local government planning is geared towards economic development and specifically, toward local economic development.

The development of the infrastructure for the establishment of the heritage route and the centre, will feed directly into the Local Economic Development projects of the Kouga Municipality, which include the development of tourism

nodes, poverty alleviation through Extended Public Works Programme, and rural development.

We have invited the South African architectural community to participate in what promises to be an exciting
competition to develop and design the Sarah Baartman Centre of Remembrance. The brief for the architectural competition was developed in conjunction with the Reference Group of the Sarah Bartmann Project, the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, and it has gone through a process of consultation with Khoikhoi and San community members, and the three tiers of Government.

The centre will include a large multi-purpose space, a library, exhibition spaces, including living exhibition spaces, and an indigenous plants garden and nursery. The latter could serve as a very useful research facility as well to uncover the hidden aspects of Khoikhoi indigenous knowledge, while classifying cataloguing and creating a modern data base

and audit of cures, medicinal plants and other indigenous species.

The architectural brief is based on the doctrines of memory, healing, and hope:
Memory – to affirm the personhood and the life of Sarah Bartmann, and to develop a space as a repository for the cultural-heritage of the KhoiSan.
Healing – given the past injustices against Sarah Bartmann, the Khoikhoi and San peoples, to affirm the culture of human rights,
Hope – to affirm the cultural heritage of the Khoikhoi and San people, and expressing the hope for it renewal, through transmission to these to younger generations and rigorous research to preserve those aspects which have enduring value.

It now gives me great pleasure to formally and officially declare the competition for the design of the Sarah Bartmann Centre of Remembrance open.

(The President clicks a button to activate a website which at that moment will be shown on the daylight screens).

The Sarah Baartman Centre of Remembrance will be linked to the development of the KhoiSan Heritage Route, which shall be a nation-wide project of significant KhoiSan heritage sites. Sites under consideration include the Kat River valley settlement, which rose in rebellion against British colonialism in 1850 ; Adam Kok’s grave in Griqualand; the graves at Kinderlê, where 32 Khoi children were killed in 1804; Wonderwerk cave; Phillipolis; and Ratelgat, owned by the Griqua Ratelgat Development Trust, the sites of Griqua churches and other institutions in the eastern Cape, northern Cape and the western Cape; as well battle sites associated with the War of 1799 to 1803.

This list is not exhaustive, and was developed during consultative meetings with communities since 2003. This underlines the need to enter into further discussions and a continuing dialogue with the Khoikhoi and San communities, as well as the rest of society.
The retelling of and the promotion of the rich history of the KhoiSan of Southern Africa has equally been fraught with difficulties, and is long overdue. We as a society need to educate ourselves about this, the first South African nation, to reproduce the best examples of their art work, music and dances, and to re-learn virtually everything we were taught about these people.

Permit me, in closing, to use the words of Speelman Kieviet spoken during the last years 1799-1803 war:
“Time is important. It is a national cause, and can you as a nation remain inactive? Arise courageously and work for your motherland and freedom.[1]”

Time is indeed important, and the promotion of the KhoiSan heritage and commemoration of the KhoiSan heroes, leaders and people are a national cause.

The development of the Khoisan Heritage Route, along which will bethe Sarah Bartmann gravesite, the Sarah Bartmann Centre of Remembrance, as well as other physical markings elated

to the history and heritage of the KhoiSan.

Time is important, and we shall need it to do justice to this project.

I thank you.


[1] Ross, R. The Kat River Rebellion and KhoiKhoi Nationalism: The fate of an ethnic identification. To found at  https://openaccess.leidenuniv.nl/bitstream/1887/4264/1/1246876_085.pdf.
See also Elbourne, E. Blood Ground. Colonialism, Missions, and the contest fro Christianity in the Cape Colony and Britain, 1799-1853. McGill-Queen’s Press, 2002. p346