By Marné Pienaar
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path in life.” – Psalm 119:105
If the Voortrekkers can be characterized by one thing, it is their steadfast faith. A faith so great that they would bind themselves and their descendants to a vow.
With the inauguration of the Voortrekker monument on 16 December 1949, a quarter of a million people attended the event and these words of Dr. Heard DF Malan’s speech:
“If that soul-searching question then forces itself upon you: Afrikaner, quo vadis, where are you going? … then stop, and turn back! Back to your people; back to your people’s highest ideals; back to the pledge also entrusted to you to keep; back to the people’s altar, on which your sacrifices must lie, and if it is demanded you yourself are also sacrificed; back to the sanctity and the inviolability of family life; back to your Christian walk; back to your Christian faith; back to your church; back to your God!”
The faith of our ancestors is still confirmed today in the Voortrekker Monument. On each level of the monument, which has become a beacon of hope for us as Afrikaners, the Voortrekkers’ trust in God is depicted with various images and objects.
On the frieze in the Hall of Heroes
If you have ever been to the Voortrekker Monument, that first step through the heavy wooden doors is as breathtaking as the first glimpse of the monument as it pokes its head out from behind the hills and stands proudly on Monumentkoppie.
Like in a cathedral in Europe, you feel the grandeur of the monument and its symbolism.
For the Voortrekkers, faith and dependence on God was part of their daily routine.
Six times a Bible is depicted on the frieze panels and especially at important points along their route. A few notable scenes:
On the second frieze panel, even before the Great Trek, we see the first Bible. On this panel, the handing over of a Bible from the British settlers to the Uys trekking party is depicted. The Bible was handed over by Justice of the Peace Thomas Phillips to Jacobus Uys, the head of the Uys-trek family, as a sign of appreciation for the services he rendered to the community.
No important decision is made without deep dependence on God, especially the election of leaders. On the frieze panel where Piet Retief becomes governor of the Voortrekkers, he is kneeling with his hand on the Bible.
Later also with the taking of the Vow, Sarel Cilliers stands on the canon Grietjie. To his right stands a Voortrekker with a Bible under his arm.
In Sarel’s own words in his journal, he describes it like this: “… on a cannon carriage (the vow was recited) … in a simple manner as solemn as the Lord enabled me to do so.”
In the Cenotaph Hall
The Voortrekker Monument exhibits many Bibles from Voortrekkers in the Cenotaph Hall. Likewise the very Uys Bible that is depicted on the frieze panel.
The famous tapestries that also depict the story of the Voortrekkers during the Great Trek also give a good insight into the daily life of the Voortrekkers.
On one of these tapestries we see the pain that the Voortrekkers also had to go through along the way, a funeral. Along the way, the Voortrekkers naturally had to say goodbye to their loved ones. We also see a Voortrekker with his Bible under his arm. Hurts, but in faith they go on.
Another scene depicts the typical evening in the camp. Evening service, neatly at the table. Together as a family, together as a community we are strong, anchored in God.
We move to the latest exhibition of the Voortrekker Monument, which was inaugurated in April 2022 – the Freedom Journey.
This exhibition takes the visitor on a journey, from the Cape Colony, to a free and independent republic.
The first room in the exhibition is a typical Cape-style house. We’re on our way, but what are we packing?
On the table, life-size, the State Bible. In the front of every oxcart, the State Bible traveled all the way from the Cape Colony, from the eastern border. Without God, the Voortrekkers do not tackle anything.
We travel further, over the Orange River, we experience the fear of Vegkop and carefully walk closer to Umgungundlovu. The impi’s war cry creates a terrifying atmosphere and you know Retief’s murder and the murders of Bloukrans are waiting for you.
On the negotiation table, the same one on which Retief and Dingaan negotiated, on which the contract of sale was signed by both parties, we see Retief’s bloody prayer book, which, together with the contract of sale, is still visible in Retief’s pocket at the bottom of KwaMatiwane (Murder Cup). was found.
But you step out and are greeted by the miracles of Blood River, where 464 men stood up against an overwhelming force of 16,000 Zulu warriors.
“For the honor of His name will be glorified, by giving Him the glory and the honor of the victory.”
On every level of the Voortrekker monument, but also on every level of our Afrikaner identity, our faith in God is confirmed.
- Marné Pienaar is a media officer at the FAK.