Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Heritage South Africa Symposium (10 and 11 August 2007) – an update

Arrangements are forging ahead for the Heritage South Africa Symposium, and the programme is all but finalized. The overall theme is “The Heritage Timescale” and sessions deal with a broad spectrum of heritage which covers many issues from rock art to contemporary questions concerning our cultural identity, and what this is and means.

The first session explores the seemingly well-entrenched “Mermaid Myth” of the Karoo and its connection or otherwise to the so-called ‘mermaid paintings’ in the rock art of this region. The speakers in this session are Poem Mooneys, the ‘Stamvader’ of the Attaqua Khoi and Dr Jeremy Hollmann, rock art specialist, who has spent much time visiting each and every ‘mermaid’ painting site and has carefully researched the original meanings of these images. Poem Mooneys is au fait with many contemporary beliefs within the Khoisan communities of the Little Karoo as well as elsewhere.

The second session deals with ‘Village Life” and speakers in this session are Annalize and Maré Mouton, editors of the popular cultural and natural history magazine ‘Village Life’. Their contribution examines the role every household can play in conserving heritage and looks at family histories and appropriate future repositories for such fragile heritage – are Museums the right place?

Derek Thomas will also speak in this session and examine Prince Albert as a cultural landscape – the threats to its continued existence and sustainability into the future and strategies for its conservation and management.

Session three is entitled “Making the Intangible Tangible” and Christine Thomas will speak about her work in focusing attention on the old Gamkaskloof tradition of asking riddles – an aspect of intangible heritage that has all but disappeared. She will also explain the ‘capturing’ of the intangible heritage around the displaced Prince Albert communities of Rooikamp and Nuwerus, and the multi-pronged approach by means of which this has been rendered tangible. A short town walk around this neighbourhood with Christine and Baba Lekay, a former resident, is associated with this session as is a visit to the Fransie Pienaar Museum to view the Rooikamp exhibition.

It is hoped that session four, parts one and two, will generate much discussion around the “Question of Culture”. What gives us cultural identity? What signifiers are clues to this? How does culture change? Are we culturally disoriented or culturally homeless? Speakers in the session (Part 1) are Crain Soudien, educator and specialist in culture and museums in Africa, and Cheryl Carolus, businesswoman par excellence.

Speakers in session four (Part 2) are Gerrit Brandt and Zane Meas (Neville Meintjies of “Sewende Laan’ fame). With this diversity of academics juxtaposed with media folk and a fascinated audience from many regions of South Africa, it is hoped that discussion will be lively.

The excursion will be to the old property Remhoogte and Klaarstroom and will examine South African War links to these outlying heritage areas. Dr Taffy Shearing, a professional historian, has agreed to share her knowledge of this segment of history with us.

For those that would like to register, please contact Virna Gouws at the Fransie Pienaar Museum on 023 5411172 or Judy Maguire on 023 5411 713 or questar[@] It is possible to book for individual sessions at R50 per session which includes tea but not other meals. A limited number of ‘bursary session tickets’ are available at R15 – these are intended for the staff of local guesthouses, restaurants, tourism bureau and for those who are interested in going into heritage or tourism. There are also a few fully sponsored session tickets – for the last two categories, please contact Judy Maguire directly.

Please note that the venue has changed – the symposium sessions will now be held at the Hoërskool Zwartberg hall. Booking forms are available from the contact persons noted above. For out-of-town folk, please note that booking is brisk and accommodation will be at a premium because of it being a long weekend and there is to be a wedding in the town. Book and register without delay to avoid disappointment.

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