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Remembering our Past
14 September 2011, 12:35 PM

The importance of preserving life is by first knowing where we come from as well as where our roots lie. Thus I decided to visit Maropeng, the official visitor site of the Cradle of Humankind, an establishment that offers a warm and homely reception. Situated on the outskirts of Johannesburg, it is in a tranquil and remote area whose inside paints a different picture.

My journey starts when I am introduced to Maropeng’s General Manager for Marketing, Erica Saunders. With the focus on Heritage Day (also celebrated of late as National Braai Day) festivities, I reveal the basis behind my visit to this landmark, also known as the Fossil Hominid Sites of Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, Kromdraai and Environs, declared a World Heritage Site on December 2, 1999.

My journey is a revelation, despite not visiting the Sterkfontein caves – which is open every day, all year round, except on Christmas Day as well as Easter. Forty-five minute tours are conducted through the caves, with the first departing at 9am and last taking off at 4pm.

Maropeng is a hype of activity, with many stories to tell – bearing testimony to the evolution of mankind and our origins. This is evident in its interior design, consisting of portraits of our being and replicas of fossils, taking the mind back on a foray of our existence and how far we have come since the time of our ancestors.

Saunders reveals that Maropeng is a Public Private Partnership, with the Gauteng provincial government owning the land on which Maropeng is an entity. The Gauteng government’s Cradle of Humankind management company comprises of Blue IQ as its investment arm. The entities work together to look at economic deprived areas to unblock potential, develop skills and help create jobs.

Maropeng is a member of the South African Heritage Resources Agency, and works closely with Robben Island, Freedom Park, the Fredefort and the Nelson Mandela Bay metro to promote heritage. Saunders says that to them heritage is a 365-day activity, a sentiment echoed by Danny Goulkan, the National Heritage Council’s Marketing and Communications Manager. Goulkan believes that every year South Africans need to set aside a period to remind themselves of where they come from.

Goulkan stresses the importance of learning to live as a community and working as working as a team. He says the country’s heritage is in the hands of the present generation, and so is its making, saying: “If we want future generations to value our contribution, it would be what they regard as heritage in future. Let’s celebrate.”

“If we want future generations to value our contribution, it would be what they regard as heritage in future”

On my expedition at Maropeng, I am interested to find that the establishment also provides an educational aspect in its tours. They compile pre-packaged material which is then handed to teachers to study and acquaint themselves with before they visit the site with their learners. The study material focuses on the evolution of man and forms part of the school curriculum.

Tourism also forms part of Maropeng’s offering, with the entity working jointly with the provincial government as well as the Department of Education to conduct promotions. Saunders says they also do promotions in public spaces, an example in point being their latest promotion at the Trade show. As part of their promotional tours, the Maropeng marketing team also attended this year’s Teachers Day annual conference held in Vereeniging.

The World Heritage site also conducts promotion campaigns, in the form of competitions, on SABC’s radio stations Metro Fm and SAFm, among others. But Saunders is at pains that with the country having so much beauty like Maropeng, people still do not take time to visit such places and learn more about their heritage and more. She says an interesting statistic is that locals make up about 60% of the site’s overall tourists, as compared to international tourists’ of 40%.

Maropeng experienced an influx of both local and international visitors during last year’s FIFA World Cup. Saunders says although there are other World Heritage Sites in South Africa, like Mapungubwe, there is no competition among these sites, instead they work together. She wishes that more work can be done to build an ethos and create a mindset where people can unite and work as one.

Evolutionary experience
The journey that Maropeng takes you through, is that of the evolution of man and what man has achieved. Saunders wishes that the “breath-taking experience”could be shared by many and that people will see the importance in preserving our heritage instead of spending time “creating atomic bombs.”

Asked on feedback she gets from visitors to the site, she says it is a touching and unavoidable feeling on everyone’s part to realise that we all originate in Africa, South Africa to be specific. She says such a discovery helps people realise that no matter where we come from as human beings, our differences are very small.

International visitors rave about Maropeng as a place that compares to no other in the world in terms of humankind development, a place that is unique globally. It is based on this backdrop that Saunders encourages people to take back the lessons of the likes of the Proudly South African Feel Exhibition offered at this world class facility, and dwell on them to realise we possess the ability and prosperity to do good.

Maropeng’s clever design and décor ensures an experience that goes full circle with every picture and portrait telling a story. The whole evolutionary journey takes place underground, beneath the main building. The building itself is also known as the Tumulus Building, a Greek word for burial. It is perceived to be a place that houses our ancestors.

Inside the building, the journey starts with the Vortex Tunnel which is about the Big-Bang theory, followed by the Diversity Tunnel which takes you through the different phases of evolution and the specific time-lines. It takes you back to where life started. The underground experience also features a boat ride. The idea behind the ride is to tell a story about the four stages of life: water, fire, air and earth. The experience then ends with an exhibition divided into three segments: the past, the present and the future (of earth).

Part of the exhibition entails the discovery of some of the first-ever fossils like Little Foot (found in 1997 at the Sterkfontein Caves by Ron Clarke) and Mrs Ples, also a Sterkfontein find. With regards to the findings and other scientific matters taking place at Maropeng, the site works in hand with the University of the Witwatersrand’s Origins Centre.

It is also underground where replicas of fossils and hominids are stored. A close examination on the last four generations of hominids, before the existence of mankind, provides features that are pretty close to those of humans. “We have to know where we come from, Saunders reminds us… We have to realise in the bigger picture that humankind can play a big role in safeguarding the planet. We have to look after our heritage so that it is preserved for future generations to see.”

As we head towards Heritage Day festivities, Saunders says we need to remember Nelson Mandela’s words that “a nation that turns its back on its heritage will eventually become a nation that turns its back on itself.”

And as the nation hoists glasses into the air in celebration of Heritage Day, let us be reminded to preserve what mankind has built. Let us also think back that the last three generations of hominids that existed before mankind were purely carnivores, how befitting of National Braai Day!

– By Tshepo Tsheole

Celebrate your culture, your heritage
14 September 2011, 12:11 PM

Every year on September 24, South Africa celebrates Heritage Day. This year the day is marked under the theme: ‘Celebrating the Heroes and Heroines of the Liberation Struggle in South Africa.’ The aim of the 2011 Heritage Month is to help remind and reconnect the nation with its rich and diverse collective liberation heritage.

This theme will not only allow national, provincial and local spheres of government to celebrate the lasting legacy of the national liberation struggle, but will contribute towards the revival of political and socio-cultural consciousness across the country. Hoping to capture the imagination of the country as well as assist in promoting inter-generational dialogue and has great prospects in receiving priority from all tiers of government.

Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe is scheduled to address the national Heritage Day celebrations on 24 September, 2011, in Mpumalanga. Messages of support from other political parties represented in Parliament will also be delivered at the main event.

In a statement issued by the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, 17 September 1996, it stated:

“The day is one of our newly created public holidays and its significance rests in recognising aspects of South African culture which are both tangible and difficult to pin down: creative expression, our historical inheritance, language, the food we eat as well as the land in which we live.

“Within a broader social and political context, the day’s events…are a powerful agent for promulgating a South African identity, fostering reconciliation and promoting the notion that variety is a national asset as opposed to igniting conflict.

“Heritage has defined as “that which we inherit: the sum total of wild life and scenic parks, sites of scientific or historical importance, national monuments, historic buildings, works of art, literature and music, oral traditions and museum collections together with their documentation.”

In an address marking Heritage Day in 1996, (former) President Nelson Mandela said: “When our first democratically-elected government decided to make Heritage Day one of our national days, we did so because we knew that our rich and varied cultural heritage has a profound power to help build our new nation. We did so knowing that the struggles against the injustice and inequities of the past are part of our national identity; they are part of our culture. We knew that, if indeed our nation has to rise like the proverbial phoenix from the ashes of division and conflict, we had to acknowledge those whose selfless efforts and talents were dedicated to this goal of non-racial democracy.”

Over the last few years, South African’s have also dubbed the public holiday National Braai Day to commemorate a wonderful pastime that all South Africans, no matter their colour or creed, enjoy.

Tutu is the patron of the ‘Braai for Heritage’ campaign which is celebrated on September 24, an official public holiday to mark the nation’s multi-cultural heritage after the fall of apartheid in 1994. The archbishop emeritus said the fireplace was a traditional gathering place in Africa and that anything from meat to vegetables could be put on a braai, a pastime enjoyed by South Africans of all races.

“We want to continue that tradition of all of us gathering on September 24, braaing for our heritage,” he said. “The important thing is all of us on that one day again getting together and just enjoying the fact of being South Africans.”

Tutu braaing

– By

New Zealand apologise for opening transport chaos
13 September 2011, 1:43 PM

It might be eight years and even a retirement ago but Steve Thompson has not forgotten the hardest hit he ever received and he is expecting more of the same when England face Georgia in their second World Cup Pool B game on Sunday. England’s opening game on their road to glory in 2003 was against Georgia, their first appearance in a World Cup, and hooker Thompson got a personal taste of the power and aggression of the newcomers’ forwards. “We know what we are going to get out there and a lot of the lads have played them in the European Cup so at first hand they’ve seen what they are capable of,” Thompson told reporters on Tuesday. Courtney Lawes paid the price for striking an opponent with a two-match ban and the first suspension of the rugby World Cup on Tuesday as the rumblings of discontent over chaotic transport on the opening night reached parliament. Argentina go with first choice side against Romania Elsewhere, Argentina named a first-choice side to face lowly Romania, who almost beat Scotland in their opening match, and French coach Marc Lievremont returned to his indecisive ways by changing most of his lineup for the clash with Canada. Elsewhere, Argentina named a first-choice side to face lowly Romania, who almost beat Scotland in their opening match, and French coach Marc Lievremont returned to his indecisive ways by changing most of his lineup for the clash with Canada. Despite the suspension for the powerful Lawes, England will be relieved that the second row forward will only miss matches against Georgia and Romania, after the act of dropping a knee to the head of Argentine hooker Mario Ledesma was deemed a low-end offence. England manager Martin Johnson, however, said he was upset by the verdict handed down to Lawes, who will be available to return for the clash against old rivals Scotland on Oct. 1 in Auckland. “Disappointed to lose a good player for us obviously, we have the cover there but it’s not great,” Johnson bemoaned.

We have been the victims of our own success

By the time the Scotland clash comes around rugby World Cup organisers will be hoping there will be no repeats of the chaotic scenes witnessed in the city on Friday’s opening night of the tournament when an estimated 50,000 people flooded the public transport system which ground to a halt. That number was more than double what had been expected and Prime Minister John Key said in reply to a question in parliament that the local transport authority had to take responsibility for the overcrowded trains and lack of buses as it was not the government’s fault. World Cup minister Murray McCully said there would be no repeat after the next big match at Eden Park between Tri-Nations champions Australia and Ireland on Saturday. “We have been the victims of our own success,” McCully told Reuters. “But we’ve also been criticised pretty roundly for not being proactive enough in our planning, I will be taking that on board and making sure we’ve learned our lessons.” While New Zealanders could probably put up with train delays and a long wait for a bus home, the one thing that would cause them great consternation is an injury to flyhalf Daniel Carter. The standoff is key to New Zealand’s hopes of ending the All Blacks 24-year wait for another World Cup title and the news of a sore back, although minor, is still enough to cause a ripple of concern amongst supporters. Carter will probably be rested when coach Graham Henry names his side on Wednesday to play Asian champions Japan in Hamilton on Friday with assistant coach Steve Hansen suggesting a rotation in team selection, much to the frustration of All Blacks fans desperate for a first-choice lineup be named. “You know, we’re only one game into it and you just need to trust us that we’ll get this task done,” Hansen said. As priceless as many All Blacks fans think Carter is, the flyhalf is worth nothing in comparison to the value of hosting the seventh edition of the rugby World Cup, a report commissioned by tournament sponsors Mastercard revealed. The largest sporting event to be hosted in New Zealand is projected to bring an extra $491 million directly into the local economy with a long-term figure predicted to be worth as much as $1.2 billion. The figures would be welcome news to New Zealanders having to deal with the cost of rebuilding the city of Christchurch which suffered a huge earthquake in February. The All Blacks match with Japan, who suffered an even deadlier earthquake and tsunami in March, will be marked with a minute’s silence for those who died in both disasters. Wednesday also marks the start of the tournament for Samoa, who have drawn a lot of attention following their last match two months ago — a win over Australia in Sydney. The Pacific Islanders have been lumped in the ‘group of death’ with South Africa, Wales and Fiji but will begin their Pool D campaign against lowly Namibia and are confident of making the last eight once again. Elsewhere on Wednesday, Canada begin their campaign against Tonga in Pool A, Georgia kick off against Scotland in Pool B and Russia go through final preparations before their rugby World Cup debut against old cold war rivals the United States on Thursday.

– By

Rugby World Cup officially open
9 September 2011, 1:11 PM

The Rugby World up hosts New Zealand started their 2011 Rugby World Cup campaign with a 41-10 victory over Tonga on Friday. The All Blacks who lead 29-3 at half-time, scored six tries to one.

The opening day of the 2011 Rugby World Cup started with two war cries. The Sipi Tau of Tonga, calling for Power from Within. And the All Blacks responding with their Ka Mate.

After flyhalf Dan Carter scored the first points of the tournament via a penalty, the most potent backline in world rugby started running amok. Admittedly, Tonga’s defense was almost non-existent in the first half.

The All Blacks used the width of the field and played an expansive game. Following a stolen ball from a ruck in the middle of the park, fullback Israel Dagg scored his second try of the match. Although Richard Kahui assisted Jerome Kaino in scoring the All Blacks’ fifth try, Tonga put up a brave fight in the second half.

Taumalolo was pushed over for his teams first five pointer of the tournament. But it was the hosts who would have the last laugh and fittingly it was the wise old head of center Ma’a Nonu who scored the final try of the match for a comfortable 41 points to 10 win.

One billion television viewers were welcomed by New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key

Fireworks, song and dance were the main ingredients of the opening ceremony of the 2011 rugby World Cup in Auckland, New Zealand. Rich in culture, the island country in the south western Pacific Ocean stuck to its roots to treat the world to an opening spectacular. Scores of fan gathered at Auckland’s Eden Park to witness the extravaganza.

As the lights went out, the countdown to the start of the seven week tournament began. Decades of history summed up in an hour under the theme: ‘The journey’. And what would New Zealand’s journey be without the famous haka – performed by Maori Warriors. With more than 1 000 volunteer dancers and 400 singers of 19 nationalities, the hosts proceeded to tell their story.

Under the tournaments anthem ‘World in Union’ the 60 000 fans at Eden Park and a global audience of more than one billion television viewers were welcomed by New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key.All Black great and global rugby superstar Jonah Lomu was a surprise guest at the ceremony. Lomu who played 63 tests, scoring 37 tries for the All Blacks symbolised the country’s rugby tale. The ceremony closed with the sub-theme ‘The Prize’. The Webb Ellis Cup is the reason why the 20 teams are in New Zealand.

– By

Round up of news from New Zealand
8 September 2011, 1:46 PM

Veteran hard man Bakkies Botha will almost certainly miss South Africa’s rugby World Cup opener against Wales on Sunday, with the Springboks further hurt by an injury concern over winger Brian Habana. The 31-year-old Botha has been suffering from a chronic Achilles’ tendon problem that flared up again at training earlier this week. “We’re a little bit worried about Bakkies, he’s our major concern,” assistant coach Dick Muir told reporters. “It’s his Achilles and being a big man he obviously takes a lot of pressure in that area.

There is no easing into the World Cup for England

Tonga captain fit Tonga captain Finau Maka has overcome a troublesome ankle injury and will start against New Zealand in the opening game of the Rugby World Cup on Friday. “Finau did a fitness test this evening, prior to the training, and came through that well and trained with the boys tonight and he will be starting,” Tonga’s technical advisor John McKee told reporters at Eden Park on Thursday. Former Aussie captain says All Blacks player’s too old New Zealand’s hopes of ending their agonising 24-year wait for a second World Cup title rest on ageing shoulders that may have had one too many years in the trenches, according to former Australia captain Andrew Slack. Slack, who played 39 tests and won 14 out of 19 as skipper, cannot help but see parallels in Richie McCaw’s All Blacks with the much-fancied Wallabies side he led as a 31-year-old to a disappointing semi-final exit at the inaugural World Cup in 1987. England have tough first match There is no easing into the World Cup for England and Argentina on Saturday as they hit the ground running in a blockbuster that should decide who tops pool B and likely secures the path of least resistance to the final. Though Georgia, Romania and particularly Scotland will hope to have a say, the runners-up and third-placed finishers from 2007 are favourites to progress.

– By Your latest news round up

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