Khoi leaders spiritually cleanse Castle of Good Hope

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Khoi and San descendants yesterday cleansed the Castle of Good Hope to comfort the souls of their ancestors forced off the land where the colonial monument was built 350 years ago.

Heritage consultant Ron Martin, from the Goringhaiqua Indigenous House, said the cleansing was about “reclaiming this space and turning it into something positive”.

Ron Martin from the Goringhaiqua Indigenous House was part of a cleansing ceremony of the Castle of Good Hope yesterday. The ceremony included the use of a kudu horn. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

Ron Martin from the Goringhaiqua Indigenous House was part of a cleansing ceremony of the Castle of Good Hope yesterday. The ceremony included the use of a kudu horn. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

“We aim to redress the narrative, the accepted history told from one perspective,” said Martin.

“This space was cleared to build this castle. It has become a very tangible symbol of colonialism, apartheid and the pain of our people.

“Once you accept something negative and turn it into something positive, that is the first step of healing. That’s what we need to do now.”

Martin said the castle represented “dispossession to indigenous people”.

“It was part of a systematic process of dispossession. The castle was a very negative space for the first people,” he added.

“A lot of them still feel unwelcome in this space. We need to reclaim this space.”

Calvyn Gilfellan, chief executive of the castle’s board, said they would spend the next year inviting locals into the castle to get to know its role in their history.

“The historical narrative is full of holes. Those holes need to be plugged. We must acknowledge what was here before the castle,” said Gilfellan.

“Our narrative is not simply emotional. We have historians who have built an alternative history based on fact.

“It is not just about criticizing colonial history. We are starting with facts and telling an inclusive story.”

Katrina Frieslaar from Belhar said yesterday’s cleansing ceremony was emotional.

“Our forefathers suffered. That what was ours was taken from us. We need to heal and be released from that,” said Frieslaar.

“I feel my ancestors should rest.”

Aaron Messelaar, chairman of the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa, said cleansing ceremonies were significant to heal from the past.

“Colonials built this castle and brutally murdered our forefathers. We are coming to free their spirits,” said Messelaar.

“It is very emotional when you remember what has happened in the past. Tears are falling today too.

“We are guided by our ancestors to do the right thing. Our ancestors are leading us. We have prayed and released the bondage of the past.”

Moeshfieka Botha, culture, heritage and education officer at the castle, told Weekend Argus the castle would run a programme intended to “build an inclusive historical narrative of the castle”.

Activities would include the Aba Te Indigenous Legacy Project that will run at the castle every week.

This project will include lessons on the Nama language, traditional and medicinal herbs, Bushman bow-making and music as well as indigenous history.

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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