Carruthers and Frescura receive highest honour in the heritage community
Vincent Carruthers (left) and Professor Franco Frescura (right).
At the 2022 HASA Symposium, Gold Medals were awarded to Vincent Carruthers and Professor Franco Frescura. The Gold Medal is a prestigious award in heritage and recognizes a lifetime of contributions and work in heritage by men and women who have given unstintingly of their time and expertise to conserve South Africa’s heritage resources and who, in the words of the preamble to the National Heritage Resources Act, have by their example “encouraged communities to nurture and conserve their legacy so that they may be bequeathed to future generations”. Awards are made annually and are the highest honour in the heritage community.
The Gold Medal awards have been in place since 1969 and, over a period of 39 years, a total of 74 gold medals have been awarded, initially by the Simon van der Stel Foundation and, since 2011, by the renamed Heritage Association of South Africa. In addition, Gold Certificate awards were introduced in 2015 to recognize organizations making contributions to heritage (3 have been awarded) and since 2017 Certificates of Merit also acknowledge the contributions of individuals (a total of 6 of these have been awarded).
Dr Judy Maguire introduced Vincent Carruthers:
After this morning’s fascinating lecture, Vincent Carruthers scarcely needs further introduction. If I were introducing him to a stranger for the first time, I would say of all the people on the planet he is the one who knows the most about the Magaliesberg.
In fact I first met Vincent through reading his book “The Magaliesberg” when it was first published in 1990 which still today, now in a fourth edition, remains the seminal and most comprehensive book about the Magaliesberg 30 years later.
The same is true for his book “Cradle of Life”, about the Cradle of Humankind – it is the only holistic and comprehensive reference dealing with the Cradle and it too is a seminal text.
Vincent was also on the team that prepared the nomination dossier for the Taung hominin sites to be inscribed as sister sites to the Cradle of Humankind.
What is noteworthy about Vincent is his encyclopaedic knowledge of heritage resources across deep time – he has a knowledge and understanding of geosites, palaeontological resources, archaeology rock art sites, ethnological heritage, South African War sites, historical sites, struggle sites as well as the challenges and threats facing the conservation of heritage and biodiversity in times of change.
Vincent’s encyclopaedic knowledge is both multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary and is not purely academic. Vincent has the ability to demonstrate the linkages between disciplines and the way that the different subject areas interact to enhance the context and understanding of heritage resources.
Vincent can “translate” the language and literature of many subject areas to locate heritage in a broad landscape enabling it to be better understood in its contextual environment. The physical landscape is presented as a theatre of events and memories embedded in a rich and varied landscape of which he has a deep understanding an excellent way of explaining to a broader public.
Vincent has received many awards and medals during the course of his life as a conservationist: the Chancellor’s Medal, North West University; the Gold Medal, Wits University; the Rotary Paul Harris award; the Zoological society of South Africa, Stevenson Hamilton Medal; and a lifetime award from the Wildlife and environment society of South Africa.
The Heritage Association of South Africa would like to acknowledge his long and passional service and contribution towards the recognition, protection and preservation of heritage by awarding him its Simon Van Der Stel Gold Medal.
The citation for the Gold Medal awarded to Vincent reads as follows: “for his substantial contribution towards the research, recording and conservation of the natural, cultural and historical heritage resources of the Magaliesberg and beyond.”
Over a 45 year career in academia, Professor Franco Frescura has a remarkable record of achievements in the field of historical and culture conservation, fulfilling leading roles as a researcher, an educationalist, and an administrator.
His doctoral research in the field of Southern Africa’s indigenous architecture and settlement patterns is widely regarded as the leading work on the subject, and he continues with this research to the present day. He has published his research widely, and to date has authored sixteen books, and close to 100 research papers and chapters in books, journals and conference proceedings. His work has appeared in journals on history of architecture, town planning, housing and housing policy, religion, anthropology, art history, education, social history, and heritage conservation.
A paper published in 1990 on “National or Nationalist: The Work of the Monument’s Council, 1969-1989″ is still quoted by researchers as a model for the misuse of heritage as a tool for discrimination.
In the field of architectural education as Final Year Studio Master, Franco Frescura has supervised over 335 dissertations at an MArch level. He is also credited with the introduction and promotion of academic courses in Heritage Conservation, Research Methodology, Indigenous Knowledge Systems, and Indigenous Architecture and Built Environments at the Universities of Port Elizabeth (now UMMU) and UKZN.
Together with Dennis Radford, Frescura developed a survey methodology for small colonial towns and villages, applied to Keiskammahoek in 1983, and the KwaMsiza (also known as KwaMatabeleng) Ndebele village north of Pretoria in 1984.
Supported the HSRC, he has conducted the following conservation impact studies: Uitenhage (with Albrecht Herholdt, 1986), Uniondale (1987), Oudtshoorn (1987, 1993), King William’s Town (1987), Grahamstown, Fort Beaufort (with Lesley Townsend, 1989), Adelaide and Bedford (1989), the Kat River Valley, Eastern Cape including Shiloh, Goshen, Hertzog, Healdtown, Mgwali and St Matthews (1992), De Rust and Calitzdorp (1993). In 1993 a second, more comprehensive survey of King William’s Town was conducted jointly with Denver Webb. In 2011 a conservation impact study of the Grey Street precinct was undertaken jointly with Lindsay Napier.
In 1993 Frescura was the Regional Coordinator for the Eastern Cape for the national survey of mission settlements undertaken by Japha and Todeschini on behalf of the Department of Environment Affairs.
Frescura has lectured widely on the subject of culture and heritage conservation. In addition to most Departments of Architecture in South Africa and neighbouring countries, Frescura has also lectured in the USA, Canada, America, Britain, Germany, Italy, Czech Republic, Tunisia, Vietnam, and Iran.
A major component of Frescura’s research has always been its cross-disciplinary approach and he has surveyed post offices and mission stations; in particular exploring the influence that missionaries were to have on indigenous knowledge systems, as well as an analysis of the Cape colonial infrastructure.
Frescura has published five books on the postal history of the Cape of Good Hope and a book on mission stations is in the press.
More importantly, over the years this research has received five international gold medals, in Wellington, Dubai, Washington, Melbourne and Port Elizabeth.
Frescura has also not been afraid to stray off the beaten path, and in 1994 he accepted the position of Senior Manager, Philately, at the South African Post Office, ensuring that over a five year period our national culture began to appear in stamp issues. He introduced figures such as Enoch Sontonga, Gerard Sekoto, Mahatma Gandhi, George Pemba as well as our Nobel Prize winners, the Standards Bank National Arts Festival, the cultural symbols of various regions, rural wall art, and women in the work place. Sport also found a place. He has also sat on a number of local and regional committees engaged in historical, architectural and cultural conservation.
The citation for the Gold medal for Franco Frescura reads as follows: “for his lifelong contribution to the built heritage, architecture and cultural studies. His research, publications and engagement in campaigns has demonstrated an impassioned commitment to heritage, documentation and the preservation of so many elements of South African architecture. His reach across disciplines has been inspiring.“
Click here to make a nomination for a Gold Medal, Gold Certificate or a Certificate of Merit.
This article first appeared in The Heritage Portal.