Exploring Rich Heritage: Recap of the Indigenous Knowledge Systems Seminar at the Historic Castle of Good Hope, Western Cape – February 14, 2024

The NHC in collaboration with the Castle of Goodhope and the Cape Heritage Museum hosted a well-attended and engaging Indigenous Knowledge Systems Seminar with a focus on Khoisan community and the Cape Malay Slaves’ descendants on 14 February 2024. ‘Cultural Heritage as a Resource to achieve social cohesion, national building, national identity and social transformation’ was the theme.

This was the first engagement in the Western Cape province which determined how the two indigenous communities would like their culturally rich heritage and history is to be preserved and promoted. Dr Thabo Manetsi, Executive: Core Business at the NHC facilitated the programme for the day.

The Khoisan community came dressed in traditional attires of animal skins and headdresses.

Dr Nomfundo Mali, Provincial Manager at Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB); Cape Heritage Museum (CHM) Curator, Mr Igshaan Higgins; Chief Tania Kleinhans from IRASA (Institute for the Restoration of the Aborigines of South Africa); Mr Sadick Crombie, Author of a Sport Heritage Publication – My Apartheid Diary; member of Cape Malay choir, Mr Zieyaad Hatts, Mr Anwar Alexander formed part of panel of speakers.

“One of the key primary reasons of convening like this is for the National Heritage Council to really get to understand the cultural diversity that is inherent in South Africa but most importantly to be informed about ways in which we can preserve and promote this rich and diverse wealth of heritage resources in South Africa”, said Dr Manetsi, NHC’s Executive Core Business.

Dr Mali from PanSALB touched on a few programmes that the entity has conducted in an effort to preserve and promote the heritage languages. “In terms of promotion and respect of other official languages key focus which would be the Khoi and SAN languages; specifically, Nama which is specified in the constitution which is promotion of Nama. PANSALB has 13 national language bodies, those are structures which represent each language including South African sign language, and heritage languages – which will be the Nama language. Those national language bodies their representation is such that each and every province nominate a representative to sit in that space to represent the issues of that particular language in that particular platform.”

Some of the concerns from the Khoi and San people was the exclusion of the Khwe language.

“We have a great relationship with nature, because we live in the Cape. We understand the sea and the mountain! A lot of indigenous knowledge or the Malay knowledge is not documented and we need to documented it! Dr Higgins urged the stakeholders in the room.

“Help us achieve the objective of preserving our heritage, put out a documentary that says ‘they want to learn more about the indigenous structures, knowledge etc. We need resources to achieve these things”, said Higgins.

As Dr Manetsi welcomed the Cultural Expressions group to the stage, said the audience needs to listen to the message instead of focusing on the aesthetics of the performance – the message is very key.

Mr Crombie, Author of My Apartheid Diary – “over many years, 7 years ago I started compiling a lot of notes and at times I felt who would want to would listen to a story that I have to tell? and other times I said to myself “stop writing!”. I would listen to somebody else tell our story, they sanitise our story, I would get angry and say to myself, stop writing again! Eventually the compilation ended up with 500 pages and culminated in a book – My Apartheid Diary. It tells our experience, our story!”

A member of the Cape Malay Choir Zieyaad, said “the Cape Malays all spoke the Malay language at the time and were also known as the Cape Muslims. The Islam and Malays had something in common which was the faith, tied by a common language and the presence of important political and religious people.”

He further added that what is happening today in Palestine happened more than 350 years ago! And that their ancestry includes the European settlers, Indigenous Khoi and San, slaves imported from the Dutch East Indie, which makes up the Coloured race. We are the indigenous people of this land!

The NHC encouraged the audience in the room to reach out to the entity to further explore the preservation and promotion of their rich cultural heritage.