From the District 6 museum I made my way back in towards the centre of the city. I really enjoyed my time in Cape Town and things have changed, I believe, for the better over the last decade. I was doing a bit of research on the slave tree memorial – if one can call it that – and found this short story (Shadows of the old slave tree) published in 1996. Now I don’t know all the ins or outs – but I was surprised to see this piece had been written 20 years ago – according to what I felt, it could have been written last year, 5 years ago? Anyways, it’s really worth the read.
I thought, what a strange little thing, for something that should be so big. Or maybe that is just me. The Slave Tree represents the place where slaves where sold to a new owner; like a cow or a horse used to be sold on market day. In today’s acceptance of slavery, I have the feeling that’s where all the school children should come and talk about their ancestors. Accept the past, embrace the future. Don’t get me wrong Cape Town is covered with places where people can ‘remember’ – in museums. As Mike Nicol wrote in the piece I linked before:
<“On this spot stood the old slave tree.” That’s it. No dates. No reason for remembering. No meaning. Just this strange need someone once had not to forget.>
That was my exact feeling. The sale of the slaves was usually happening on the church square, and yes, when you turn around, you face Groote Kerk (the great church, in Afrikaans).
The Church is the oldest place of worship in South Africa, this is not the original building though. The first sermon took place at this spot in 22nd May 1695. The tower remains, as I read before visiting… but I couldn’t see it! Now looking at the pictures online I realise you have to stand in Alderney street and look at the Church; the tower is on the left of the building.
After Groote Kerk (The Reformed Dutch Church), I went to visit the Anglican Cathedral, St George.
The Anglican Cathedral, known as the ‘People’s Cathedral’ because of its stand during Apartheid, is the oldest Cathedral in Sourthen Africa. The current building was started in 1901 – but the original Cathedral was build earlier and completed in 1834.
One of the former bishops is Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the first black Anglican Archbishop in Africa. He was the face of the anti-Apartheid movement and for that received the Nobel Price in 1984. You can read about this amazing man here. Once in a while when his health permits he apparently comes to the Cathedral for mass.
If you have time and are there at the right moment why not try to walk the Siyahamba Labyrinth? You can read more about it here. The Labyrinth is an ancient meditation tool, which is available to all, regardless of your religious persuasion. At the time when I write the is a facilitated walk every second Saturday otherwise it open during normal office hours and Sundays. It is in the courtyard of the Cathedral. I missed it during my research.
One more interesting thing about the Cathedral is their tolerance and acceptance for different sexual orientations and ways of life. This hangs at the entrance of the Cathedral.
One of the former deans, Very Reverend Rowan Smith, did his ‘come out’ as gay while he was dean of the Cathedral. Read about it here.