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Mthethwa visiting Sarah Baartman Centre of Remembrance site in Hankey

Apr 26, 2019
Mthethwa visiting Sarah Baartman Centre of Remembrance site in Hankey

Sarah Baartman Centre of Remembrance is towards honouring the memory of the Khoi woman, Sarah Bartmann

Hankey - Minister of Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, will undertake a courtesy visit to the Sarah Baartman Centre of Remembrance construction site in Hankey on Friday.

"The determination of the visit is to tour and witness progress done thus far. The Minister while there will also meet the community of Hankey and afford feedback concerning the construction," said the Department's Petunia Lessing.

"The site visit will take place between 13:00 and 14:00 at the construction site in Hankey."

The Sarah Baartman Centre of Remembrance is towards honouring the memory of the Khoi woman, Sarah Baartman, who was displayed in a human zoo in England and France in the early 19th Century.

At the time, indigenous people from all over the world were displayed in fairs, circuses and human zoos. Sarah Bartmann was “displayed” for what was believed to be unusual body features.

The “display” of indigenous humans was part of the 19th century’s idea of the superiority of the Colonial West. Sarah Baartman died in France in 1815. After the humiliation of being displayed as a curiosity, her body was dissected by H Cuvier and stored in a French Museum, the Musee de la Homme.

Negotiations for the return of the remains of Sarah Baartman was initiated by the Griekwa National Conference since the early 1990’s.

The requests by the Griekwa National Conference and the Khoi and San community led to discussions between the late President, Nelson Mandela, and French President, Francois Mitterand, for the return of Sarah Baartman.

A diplomatic negotiation was undertaken, with discussions between South African Ministers and French Ministers. By 1996, the two governments agreed to appoint Professor Phillip Tobias from South Africa, and Prof Henry De Lumley, the then Director of the National Museum of Natural History, to negotiate an agreement.

By 2002, the interaction between the two eminent scientists, Professor Phillip Tobias, from South Africa, and Prof Henry De Lumley, the then Director of the National Museum of Natural History, had become resolute by administrative red tape.

Returning Sarah Baartman's remains to South Africa

In 2002, after six years of negotiations between the South African and the French Governments, Senator Nicolas About inspired by the rendition of the poet Ms Dianna Ferrus lobbied the French Parliament, who on 21 February 2002 passed legislation providing for the return of the remains of Sarah Baartman, also known as Saartjie Baartman.

While Senator Nicholas About lobbied the French Senate to pass the legislation, Madame Nicole Bricq, the delegate in the National Assembly, introduced similar legislation in the Assembly. The French Senate voted unanimously for the return of her remains. The legislation made provision of a window period of two months for the return of the remains of Sarah Baartman to South Africa.

The than Deputy Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, Mrs. B Mabandla led the South African delegation from 27 April 2002 to 02 May 2002 that received Sarah Baartman’s remains on behalf of the South African government in a ceremony held at the South African Embassy in Paris on 29 April 2002.

Her remains arrived in South Africa on 03 May 2002 and were kept at the South African Defence Force Mortuary in Cape Town.

After the return of the remains of Sarah Baartman from France, she was given a Christian burial and her remains were interred on Vergaderingkop, in Kouga, on Women’s Day 08 August 2002.

"In the year 2009, the Department of Arts and Culture initiated a design competition towards a centre of remembrance to honour and document the life of Sarah Baartman, and the heritage of the Khoi-Khoi and San people of Southern Africa," said Lessing.

"The winning architect was Chris Wilkinson from Wilkinson Architects. The structures to be built were divided in two distinct groups, being the secular part located on the arrival side of the site, and the symbolic part located on the national heritage site.

"The heritage site contains the burial site on the apex of Vergaderingskop. The construction of the Sarah Baartman Centre of Remembrance commenced in 2014."

The Breaking of the Ground ceremony for the construction of the Sarah Baartman Centre of Remembrance took place on 02 May 2014 in Hankey, Eastern Cape. The hand-over of the site to the contractor, Lubbe Construction took place on 23 April 2014.

Lessing said that in October 2017, the construction was ceded from Lubbe Construction to Transtruct Building and Civil Engineers.

The Sarah Baartman Centre of Remembrance forms part of the Resistance and Liberation Heritage Route, an initiative by government to address post-1994 heritage strategy of creating inclusive memorials and monuments.

"This serves to promote, preserve and celebrate Africa’s liberation heritage by profiling and celebrating fallen heroes and heroines of the liberation movement and also educating South Africans about our liberation heritage and antiquity," Lessing added.

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