The lives and deaths of memorials: The changing symbolism of the 1938 Voortrekker centenary monuments
Uys, Robert Benjamin
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This thesis is concerned with the lives and deaths of four 1938 Voortrekker Centenary Monuments. The 1938 Voortrekker Centenary saw the construction of more than 500 centenary monuments. Each one of these structures has a biography. This study will consider how monuments celebrate current regimes and ideologies instead of narratives pertaining to the past. It will explore how monuments dating from South Africa’s imperialist and apartheid pasts reflect continued inequalities in both rural and urban South African landscapes. It will also consider how monuments cement problematic and mythological versions of the past. The most infamous 1938 Voortrekker Centenary Monument is the Voortrekker Monument, designed by Gerard Moerdyk, in Pretoria. The Voortrekker Monument is important because in many ways it acts as a proxy to the hundreds of smaller 1938 Voortrekker Centenary Monuments scattered around South Africa. This study will look at how some of the theoretical frameworks concerned with the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria can be applied to three centenary monuments in the Riebeek Valley and Durbanville in the Western Cape. This thesis will consider how perceptions of the symbolism of these monuments have changed between their construction in the late 1930s and 2018. The Afrikaner nationalistic fever that gave birth to these structures will be dissected. It will also consider how the 1938 Voortrekker Centenary Monuments symbolically changed as South Africans witnessed the disintegration of apartheid. This study will explore how these monuments have integrated into the heritage and experiential economies. It will also consider some of the anomalies relating to these structures, including hauntings. Finally, the vandalism, destruction and futures of these structures will also briefly come into question.