Minister to undertake a courtesy visit to the Sarah Bartmann Centre of Remembrance (SBCR) in Hankey, Eastern Cape

The Minister of Arts and Culture, Mr Nathi Mthethwa will undertake a courtesy visit to the Sarah Bartmann Centre of Remembrance construction site in Hanky, Eastern Cape on Friday 26 April 2019. 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. The site visit will take place between 13:00 and 14:00 at the construction site in Hankey.

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

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 to pass legislation providing for the return of the remains of Sarah Bartmann, 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 Bartmann 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 Bartmann'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 Bartmann 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 Bartmann, and the heritage of the Khoi-Khoi and San people of Southern Africa. 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 Bartmann Centre of Remembrance commenced in 2014.

The Breaking of the Ground ceremony for the construction of the Sarah Bartmann 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. In October 2017 the construction was ceded from Lubbe Construction to Transtruct Building and Civil Engineers.

The Sarah Bartmann Centre of Remembrance form part of the Resistance and Liberation Heritage Route, an initiative by government to address post-1994 failings on creating inclusive memorials and monuments. The Sarah Bartmann Centre of Remembrance forms part of the Resistance and Liberation Heritage Route, as part of the 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.

Source: Department of Arts and Culture

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