Mr Nathi Mthethwa, the Minister of Arts and Culture, has urged South Africans to come visit the new National Heritage Monument. Mtethwa spoke at the official launch of the hugely significant heritage project yesterday, highlighting the importance of the site, and the need for South Africans to engage with their heritage.
The National Heriage Monument, situated in the Groenkloof Reserve in Pretoria, is conceived to be South Africa’s largest ever heritage project, featuring at its centre the “Long Walk to Freedom”, an awe inspiring procession of over 400 life size bronze statues representing South Africa’s pre-colonial, colonial and anti-apartheid struggle heroes and heroines. Yesterday marked the official launch as well as the unveiling of the first completed phase of this iconic attraction, including 56 completed statues.
Mthethwa, accompanied by Gauteng Premier, David Makhura, Arts and Culture MEC, Molebatsi Bopape, and Tshwane’s Executive Mayor, Cllr Kgosientso Ramokgopa, unveiled the first 56 statues, representing struggle legends such as Bishop Colenso, Charlotte Maxeke, Chief Bambatha, Chief Dalasile, Walter Rabusana, Steve Biko and Abdullah Abdurahman, amongst others.
Addressing delegates at the event, Mthethwa said, “The National Heritage Monument is a place of learning, a place of growth, and a place of self-reflection. It is a place for us to connect with our inner selves and go through the odyssey of the history of our people. This also poses a challenge for us to uphold the principles and values of our national heroes. These visionaries have left indelible footprints in the contours of our liberation landscape.”
Tshwane’s executive mayor Cllr Ramokgopa highlighted the cultural significance of the monument, acting as a place of learning and a celebration of the values these struggle heroes embodied. “The erection of this National Heritage Monument represents for us an act of ossifying the foundations of a value system codified in the birth certificate of our democratic society, the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. By unveiling the statues today we are merely pledging our single-minded and undivided loyalty to the injunctions of our Constitution.”
As the projects continues, with South Africa’s leading sculptors hard at work, South Africans can look forward to a world class attraction of great national importance. For the first time, many South Africans will be afforded the opportunity to engage with stories of the past that have perhaps been neglected or shrouded, walking among these impressive figures and feeling part of the “walk to freedom”.
The National Heritage Monument will be a heritage site that epitomises intangible aspects of our inherited culture, a culture that will tell the South African story, enable us to share our diversity and propel us to continue working towards nation building and social cohesion.
Through this site, South Africans will learn about the past, explore their own heritage, interrogate their own inherited culture and celebrate diversity and progress, inspiring South Africans to continue working towards nation building.