10 June 2007

Old canals discovered in Cape Town

It is hoped that the revitalisation of the Grand Parade, South Africa's oldest public space, will be completed before the 2010 Soccer World Cup. The Grand Parade is the traditional heart of Cape Town. From here people such as General Jan Smuts, the Royal Family, and Nelson Mandela have addressed the public. Recently, the revitalisation project has led to the discovery of canals built in the 1660s. After Jan van Riebeeck's arrival in April 1652, the Dutch settlers built a fort on the site where the Grand Parade is today. Canals were built around the fort. The fort was built close to the mouth of the Vars Rivier, and the seashore was about where the train station is today. The settlers lived in the fort while the Castle was being built. They built a dam on the Vars River, and later built the canals and diverted the river into the canals. A team of archaeologists from the University of Cape Town has been digging out the soil that fill the old canals. The canals were 6 metres wide and were built in the 1660s. The Grand Parade revitalisation project might now be changed to include the old canals.

Our missing heritage

According to the Democratic Alliance (DA), the official opposition party, more than 14,000 objects, artefacts and art works have been stolen from South Africa's museums, galleries, churches and other heritage institutions in the past four years. DA MP Dianne Kohler-Barnard was speaking in the National Assembly during debate on the Arts and Culture budget vote, when she said the management of the department responsible for South Africa's cultural treasures was in a shambles. The last Auditor-General's report had found many problems, including assets misplaced, not recorded, incorrectly recorded or missing.

Pierneef's "Near Golden Gate" painting, valued at R5-million, was ripped off a wall at the SABC in Johannesburg in 2005. Seventeenth century ceramics from Cape Town are also missing. A Moses Seleko sculpture, The Gumboot Dance, was stolen in Pretoria in 2005. Two paintings by Gerard Sekoto, The Gardener and Hotela Bantu, were stolen from an Eastern Cape university.

Kohler-Barnard asked Arts and Culture Minister Pallo Jordan, "Minister, why aren't you doing your job? Why is it that you keep on and on repeating the same mistakes, hiring utterly incompetent staff?" Speaking at the end of the debate, Jordan rebuked Kohler-Barnard for speaking "as if she is the champion of the arts community". He made no reference to the disappearance of art works from institutions, and said the DA had a "schizophrenic attitude" towards his department.

St. Andrews Presbyterian Church's 100th

St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Schoeman Street, Pretoria, celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. Since it's foundation in 1907, the church has only had two organists. The first one was John YATES, from 1908 to 1962. He was followed by his son-in-law, Robin BRYANT, who is now 76 years old and still plays the organ which has 3,500 pipes.