Do you celebrate South Africa’s Heritage Month?

How do you spend your Heritage month with friends and family?

Since moving to Cape Town, Heritage Day marks one of my favourite South African public holidays (out of 14!).  Celebrating this rainbow nation’s diversity, culture and traditions, I love how the city comes to life with bursts of festivities!

Lisa Huang at Groot Constantia

This year, I find myself asking: What is heritage?

“A person’s heritage is made up of the practices and traditions that are passed on from parents to children. Heritage is also about what has been passed on from the family, community and place where people have been raised.” – SA History Online

By this definition, a nation’s heritage is inseparable from her people and history. I set out to explore South Africa’s history at the heart of one of its oldest suburb… Constantia.

Once upon a time…

Jan van Riebeeck landed in Cape Of Good Hope in 1652 to establish a station on behalf of Dutch East India Company (VOC). He began transporting slaves from the Far East Islands, who became one of the first colonial inhabitants of the Cape. In 1685, Hendrik Adriaan van Rheede, Commissioner of VOC appointed Simon van der Stel as Governor of the colony and granted him with any land of his choosing.  After sending scouts across the Cape, Governor van der Stel chose a fertile valley with views over False Bay – where he could manage the VOC’s business from his manor. He named his estate: Groot Constantia (Great Constantia).

If you are a fan of architecture and baroque-style pediment, you have to visit Groot Constantia. From the “Lady of Abundance” gable on the manor house, to the Greek-mythology inspired pediment gable by sculptor Anton Anreith at Cloete Cellar, Groot Constantia has some of the finest preservations of Cape Dutch architecture. In fact, the estate became a national historical monument in 1936.

Lady of Abundance

As I marvel at the estate’s grandeur, I couldn’t help but recognize that it also serve as a reminder of slavery and oppression. Similar to many of the world’s ancient wonders: Great Pyramid of Giza, Colosseum in Rome, Great Wall of China… they were built on the bent backs of slave laborers. Did Groot Constantia recognize any of these slaves? Are their heritage, culture and traditions celebrated today? I asked Nicole, our wine tasting guide and she shared the beautiful story of Anna de Koningh:

Anna de Koningh was one of three children of the slave known as Angela of Bengal. Her family was brought to the Cape by Pieter Kemp, a Free Burgher of Batavia, who sold them to Jan van Riebeeck. In 1666, Angela and her three children were set free by their then-owner Abraham Gabbema. Anna eventually married Olof Bergh, a Swedish V.O.C. official in 1678 and the Bergh family became the first South African ancestor of one of the best known Afrikaner families! Not only did Anna change her fate as the daughter of a freed slave, she inherited Groot Constantia in 1724 and became the lady of the Governor’s manor.  You can still find Anna’s cupboard at the Groot Constantia Iziko museum today.

Don’t you love Anna’s story?

I hope you will visit Groot Constantia and explore South Africa’s diversity, culture and traditions this Heritage Month! Don’t forget to stop by Jonkershuis Restaurant, where you can taste delicious dishes (bobotie, lamb curry and more) inspired by Cape Malay heritage.

Jonkershuis Restaurant

Lastly, remember to vote for Groot Constantia in this year’s Klink Awards for your chance to win some amazing prizes.

Written by Lisa Huang

About Lisa:

Lisa Huang is a travel addict turned food entrepreneur, she believes that food is the common language we all speak and a catalyst for change. As a Third Culture Kid (TCK), Lisa has lived in Taiwan, Singapore, China, United States, Peru, Costa Rica, and now South Africa.  Since 2012, she has become a proud Cape Townian and can now decipher the local time warp of now, now now, just now!