Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Jacaranda City

is South Africa's administrative capital (> Cape Town = legislative & Bloemfontein = judicial capitals) but Pretoria is also known as the Jacaranda City.

Between 50 000 and 70 000 Jacaranda trees "paint the city purple" during early summer. This plant/tree is exotic (not indigenous) to South Africa and is now prohibited from being planted - it's now listed as an highly invasive alien tree in our country.

Trivia: the first Jacarandas were planted in Pretoria over 100 years ago. The first trees were import from Brazil, although the country of origin is Argentina.

The Union Building in Pretoria was designed by Sir Herbert Baker according to the acropolis-concept in a neo-classic architectural style (Italian Renaissance). The building was completed in 1913 and is the official seat of South Africa's government, i.e. the office of the state president. In 1994, this building formed the backdrop to a joyous occasion - SA's first democratically elected president, Nelson Mandela, was inaugurated here. The statue of a horse-rider (in forefront on photo) is of Gen Louis Botha, the first prime minister of SA when in 1910 the country was promulgated as the Union (> Republic 1961) of South Africa.

Did you know that the 2 wings of the Union Building represent the billingual nature of South Africa (when only Afrikaans and English were official languages)? By connecting the two wings this symbolises the unity, which these 2 cultures achieved after the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902).

The Voortrekker Monument commemorates the "Great Trek" (groups of pioneers, who trekked north on ox-wagons) as well as the Battle of Blood River. Most South Africans no longer view the monument as making a political statement, but instead view it as a cultural memorial, commemorating the pioneer spirit of SA, although it's also seen as an icon to Afrikaner nationalism. What about calling it a "struggle" monument? Doesn't it celebrate the liberation from an oppressor, since the Voortrekkers, leaving the Cape Colony from 1835 onwards, viewed the British colonists as oppressors?

Trivia: it is said that the architect, Gerard Moerdijk, was influenced by the design of the "Voelkerschlachts Denkmal" outside Leipzig in Germany, which is 11 times bigger though than the Voortrekker Monument. Construction of the Voortrekker Monument started in 1937, the cornerstone was laid on 16 Dec 1938 (exactly 100 years after the Battle of Blood River) by 3 descendants of some Voortrekker leaders, but the monument was only inaugurated on 16 Dec 1949 (World War II, during which many SA citizens fought in Europe, interrupted procedures).

Did you know that the monument was designed in such a way that on 16 Dec, every year and at 12 o'clock, a ray of sunlight shines through a "cleverly" designed opening in the arch-like ceiling onto a cenotaph (symbolic grave) in the centre of the monument, illuminating the engraved words (from the national anthem) - "We for thee, South Africa"? The ray of sunshine is meant to symbolises God's blessing on the lives and endeavours of the Voortrekkers.

The Voortrekker Monument is surrounded by 64 (granite) ox-wagons representing the "laager" of wagons during the Battle of Blood River. This surrounding wall of wagons is said to form a symbolic "rampart against anything clashing with the ideals and views of the Voortrekkers". The lawn and flowerbeds are always kept in immaculate condition, and just outside the laager-wall is a garden with many indigenous plants.

The unique marble frieze inside the monument consists of 27 bas-relief panels depicting the story of the Great Trek from 1835-1852. The panel featuring in the photo represent the scene of the Battle of Blood River (panel 21) on 16 December 1838 between King Dingane's Zulu warriors and the Voortrekker, led by Andries Pretorius - after whom the city of Pretoria is named. What seems impossible, happened: 530 Voortrekker successfully defended their laager against 12 000-15 000 Zulus without a single Voortrekker-life lost that day.

The "Trek" to Natal (today the province of KwaZulu-Natal) started by crossing the treacherously steep Drakensberg mountain range, and ended with most Voortrekker leaving the province again along the same route in 1843 (panel 26) once the British had also annexed Natal (other than the Cape Province). The Voortrekker goal and ideal was to establish their own republic free of British rule.

Trivia: at 92m x 2.3m the Italian marble frieze of 27 panels inside the Voortrekker Monument is the largest of its kind in the world. Mostly Voortrekker descendants from whoever is depicted on the frieze, acted as models so that the designers could create "look-alike" identities.

The Ou Raadsaal (Old Government Building) is situated on the southern side of Church Square in the centre of Pretoria. Designed by the Dutch architect, Sytze Wierda, it was the seat of the ZAR (Zuid Afrikaanse Republiek) and the foundation stone was laid in 1889 by ZAR President, Paul Kruger (after whom the Kruger National Park is named). From the balcony of this building Lord Kitchener announced that the British had also annexed Pretoria (during the Anglo-Boer War, 1899-1902).

A statue of a 6.2m bronze figure was unveiled in during a low-key ceremony in July 2006. It represents Chief Tshwane, the man said to have inspired the naming of the metro-pole of Tshwane (> Greater Pretoria). The statue caused controversy because there's a difference of opinion on whether a chief, by the name of Tshwane, actually existed. Apart from that, it was was also suggested that this statue should replace "Oom Paul" - the former president of the ZAR, Paul Kruger (mentioned above) - on Church Square. In the end, the Statue of Tshwane was erected in front of the City Hall in Pretoria - and Oom Paul remains "standing" in the centre of Church Square. An engraving meant to feature at the base of the statue states that through Tshwane's existence "our city origin and history sprung".


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Dana said...

Is the Voortrekker Monument you mention in this post the one which says, "Moenie vir mekaar kwaad word op die pad nie"? I heard about such a monument that the travelers had set up with Genesis 45:24 on it, but my understanding was that it was a smallish stone. I have looked for more information about this monument, but have not been able to find it, so wondered if you could help me. Thank you.

Angelika's World in Photos said...

Hi Dana - I'm quite certain that those words don't appear in the Voortrekker Mon in Pretoria but what about the the "Vredesboom" (Peace Tree) 7 km outside Brits? Some Voortrekker leaders and the "state" fought during the Battle of the Crocodile River (1864) and a cairn (= stone monument) was erected under a Karee Boom (tree) to commemorate the peace negotiations which took place there after the battle.

Dana said...

Thanks, Angelika. I'm only operating off something I read in a magazine a long time ago in South Africa and one little quote from the book A Drink of Dry Land: Journeys through Namibia, which said that the words were carved under a Voortrekker Memorial Stone at the Eye of Kuruman.

From what I remembered, it wasn't a peace monument, but one that was constructed on the traveling route, reminding those who followed to not quarrel with their traveling companions. I'm operating on such little information, but it was a nice thought, and one I've quoted since then (in English, though) as a blessing to friends and family going on long trips.

Angelika's World in Photos said...

I find this very interesting because I've been to Kuruman & visited "The Eye" (a natural fountain delivering 20-30 million L of water DAILY!)but wasn't aware of a Voortrekker memorial stone OR even that Voortrekker groups travelled through here. I've also visited the nearby Moffat Mission (with its "connection" to David Livingstone) as well as the Truce Tree in town.
So in response to your comment I did an ADVANCED SEARCH on Google with all of the following words: Kuruman Voortrekkers "Memorial Stone" - & found what you mention: "A drink of dry land...." by Chris Marais but NO further indications that this memorial stone does OR did exist!!??

Dana said...

Right. It is interesting. I'm pretty much inclined to think it just doesn't exist. If the one book were the only place I had heard it, I would likely just let the whole thing go in my mind. But it still kind of bugs at me, because of having first read it while in South Africa, in an article years ago about (I think) the Voortrekker route.

The sketchy details I recall along with the information you've gifven here, make me agree that if it does exist, it wouldn't be at this Voortrekker monument for two reasons--(1) it actually was described in the original article as being ON the Voortrekker route, in some out-in-the-country place and (2)it was not a monument to remember something, but actually built during the time of... It was to be a "marker" for travelers still to come, and a reminder, as Joseph had reminded his brothers, for those who were to come along on that route, not to quarrel.

It really is possible (perhaps likely) that the whole thing is a myth. However, as it was part of a larger article (this little bit was not the point of the article), it has always puzzled my mind a bit. I wish I could remember any other details from the original article, such as anything about the actual location.

Thanks again for your time and the search you did.