As an adult, it peeked my interest a little more to know whether the historical significance of the Voortrekker Monument’s existence is still in place post 1994. Tickets can be bought at the entrance gates. R70 per adult and R35 for pensioners (of which we had two in the car).
Being summer holidays in Gauteng, most of the visitors seem to be foreign. Most South Africans are probably spending their time off along the coast or next to the pool. We took the steps up to the curio shop which were selling items of Afrikaans decent. From rusks, biscuits, leather shoes, coasters and more. Everything you would expect to find at a place celebrating the Afrikaner heritage. I did notice them playing Prime Circle’s latest album which I found odd, but at least it is something I would rather listen to than proper boeremusiek!
On exist we found a little take-away deli. Not having had breakfast yet, we had a quick bite to eat and something to drink to break the heat. I always find it interesting to watch the people that would visit a place like this and their response to what they see there. We were playing a game; “Spot the foreigner”. You had to point them out and then guess their country of origin. Right then a tourbus filled with Dutch visitors rocked up throwing the game into a tailspin.
We finally took to the steps leading up to the main building. Even though the last time we all visited at a young age, you are still left a little dumb found how imposing the structure is. A solid piece of architecture perched on a hill with the most amazing views of Pretoria in every direction. The gardens are beautifully maintained, which again, we were so pleased to see.
It is hard to believe that even though it is nearly 70 years old, it still feels contemporary in its setting and still attracts so many visitors. According to the website, it is the most visited heritage site of its kind in Gauteng and one of the top ten cultural historical visitor attractions in the country. It is also the only Grade 1 national heritage site in Pretoria.
A little history
The Voortrekker Monument also draws the attention on one of South Africa’s public holidays, Day of Reconciliation, celebrated on 16 December. The Day of Reconciliation came into effect after the end of apartheid with the intention of fostering national and racial unity. However, before 1994 it was known as Day of the Vow (In Afrikaans known as Geloftedag). On 16 December 1864 the Day of the Vow the Voortrekkers commemorated the unlikely victory over the Zulus at the Battle of Blood River.
Another reason for the Voortrekker Monument’s existence is to house artefacts and document The Great Trek (in Afrikaans Die Groot Trek). The Great Trek is the name given to the eastward migration of Dutch-speaking settlers (called Voortrekkers) who travelled by wagon from the Cape Colony into the interior of modern South Africa from 1836 onwards, seeking to live beyond the Cape’s British colonial administration. The Great Trek resulted from the culmination of tensions between rural descendants of the Cape’s original European settlers, known collectively as Boers, and the British Empire.
The inside of the Voortrekker Monument
All of the above is shown in great detail along the inside walls of the Voortrekker Monument.The Hall of Heroes you will find the world’s longest historical marble frieze castings telling the very graphic story of the Battle of Blood River. A level lower down in the Cenotaph Hall, you will find the a tapestry with more than three million stitches depicting the story of The Great Trek.There you will also find samples of the casts used (or versions not used) for the frieze castings.
The Cenotaph Hall is also home to the huge marble cenotaph (an empty tomb or a monument erected in honour of people whose remains are elsewhere). On 16 December, a tiny hole in the roof a small beam of sunshine falls on the cenotaph. At exactly 12:00pm, the beam shines directly on the inscription “Ons vir jou Suid-Afrika” (We for you South Africa). A line from the old national anthem to commemorate The Vow.
Make your way up to the very top (using the lift) to take in the breathtaking views of Pretoria. You can walk right around the building. You can a staircase even further up on the inside to look down at the cenotaph. Unfortunately my vertigo kicked in as it is deceivingly high!
In the end, it was great having a refresher in the history that shaped us into the people we are today. It is also sad to see how, even to this day, we need to celebrate the things that divide us. I guess history and the perspective depends on who documented it. I don’t believe it should be rewritten, but it would be awesome to see a more inclusive (or apposing) vantage points.
We would recommend this as a must to anyone visiting Pretoria. You potentially get understand the origins of the problems we see and encounter today. Even if the history does not interest, it is still a cool structure with gorgeous views.
For more info:
Eeufees Road, Groenkloof, Pretoria