Tulbagh hosts heritage symposium

by | Jul 20, 2019

Tulbagh hosts heritage symposium to commemorate 50 years of reconstruction after 1969 quake


Fifty years after the devastation of Tulbagh by an earthquake in 1969, heritage lovers will descend on the historic Boland town to celebrate its dedication to restoration success, and to contemplate the transformation of heritage conservation and other topical issues.

A four-day symposium consisting of lectures, workshops and field trips – open to all heritage professionals and enthusiasts – is timed to be part of Tulbagh’s half-century commemoration of the devastating 1969 earthquake.

The earthquake was followed by the complete architectural reconstruction of much of the old town back to its historic form.

The commemorative long weekend centres around the 18th annual symposium of the Heritage Association of South Africa (HASA), and will be hosted by Tulbagh Valley Heritage Foundation in association with the Tulbagh Oudekerk Volksmuseum, from 3 to 6 October 2019.

Keynote lectures at the symposium will appropriately examine heritage as a political construct and trace the events that have shaped the heritage environment of the district.

The programme will examine issues around the transformation of heritage in South Africa from the tangible, exclusively colonial, built heritage to a broader and more inclusive heritage. The weekend’s talks and outings thus take a much broader view than that of local history with its fascinating characters that have shaped the cultural landscape and heritage of the Witzenberg Valley.

It is expected that both heritage professionals and conservation enthusiasts – many of whom represent various South African heritage and conservation bodies – will stream to Tulbagh from all corners of the country, including Gauteng, the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal for the annual symposium. The programme line-up includes lectures by noted academics, heritage professionals and published authors who are all regarded as experts in their fields.  In total, sixteen lectures, three workshops and a book launch are scheduled – themed around South African heritage issues, many with a Tulbagh slant.

Jayson Augustyn-Clark, a councillor of the Heritage Association of South Africa and the organiser of this year’s symposium,  says: “It is important that in these crisis times for South African heritage that all heritage organisations stand together for the common good of furthering their individual and collective heritage agendas on the national stage.”

Symposium outline

On Day 1 – i.e. on the afternoon of Thursday 3 October – the Heritage Association of South Africa will hold its annual general meeting, which will be attended by representatives of many heritage organisations around South Africa, from as far away as Mpumalanga.

On Day 2 – Friday 4 October – the programme is open to all. While it is aimed at heritage professionals and those heritage enthusiasts who work and volunteer for heritage organisations, general heritage lovers are also welcome. The day includes a keynote lecture by Mxolisi Dlamuka, the CEO of Heritage Western Cape, as well as workshops and panel discussions on various related topics.

Other topics covered will examine the ongoing restoration at Dal Josafat and Wupperthal, the professionalisation of the heritage industry, and the important role of local heritage organisations in facilitating heritage conservation and tourism.

On Day 3 and 4 – Saturday 5 and Sunday 6 October – the programme offers a more general programme of lectures aimed at anyone with an interest in Cape history and heritage issues. The formality of the weekend lectures will be peppered with fascinating visits to heritage properties and outings to many historic sites of the valley.

Lecture topics

  • The initial lectures will look at the first nations of the Cape, the pre-colonial indigenous peoples of the area, as well as the introduction of slavery and arrival of the missions.
  • Later sessions examine the legacy of the Bain’s family through the extraordinary construction of many Cape mountain passes, and the enigmatic life and times of Dutch governor Rijk Tulbagh.
  • Le-Motte in Franschoek will be exhibiting some of their artworks to accompany their fascinating talk on “Pierneef in Tulbagh”
  • Other sessions will unravel the pre-earthquake Tulbagh history as well as the mid-20th century South African sociopolitical situation and concurrent events that resulted in the extraordinary restoration of Tulbagh after the quake.

Outings and field trips

A number of tours and visits to historic sites are planned, including an ‘Open Street’ on Saturday and an ‘Open Heritage’ afternoon on Sunday. Twee Jonge Gezellen, Montpellier and Schoonderzicht estates and the old Tulbagh Drostdy are among the significant sites that will be opened for heritage enthusiasts over the weekend. There will also be an opportunity to visit some sites further afield such as the heritage gems of Wolseley, a beautifully restored Anglo-Boer South African War block house, and some of the astounding mountain passes of the region.

The annual Gala Awards dinner will announce this year’s winners of the prestigious Simon van der Stel Awards for outstanding individual and organisational contributions to both South African and local heritage. In addition to a fundraising auction of recently donated valuable books, several blue plaques will also be unveiled during the weekend festivities.

Most of the lectures will take place in the Old Tulbagh Drostdy and the gala event in the Old Mission Church of Tulbagh. The latter building was constructed in 1840 to educate the recently emancipated slaves of the valley. In 2019 the building was donated by ……….. (BADISA) to the Tulbagh Museums, which will utilise the space for exhibitions about rural slavery. Funds raised during this year’s symposium will be put towards the restoration of this wonderful building.

The 2018 symposium of the Heritage Association of South Africa, previously known as the Simon van der Stel Foundation, was held in Barberton, Mpumalanga and was attended by over 130 delegates. Other previous host towns include Heidelberg, Clanwilliam, Genadendal, Paarl, Port Elizabeth, Potchefstroom, Mossel Bay and Johannesburg.

The Tulbagh symposium is organised by the Tulbagh Valley Heritage Foundation in association with Tulbagh Museums. For bookings, please contact gamacwhannell@gmail.com or call 076 836 0204.

To download the programme click here.

To book please complete the booking form.