Remembering our roots

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The Battle of Blood River was regarded as one of the highlights of the migration of the Europeans into the interior or better known as the Great Trek.

Cecilia Kruger, the Senior Manager of Heritage Conservation explains that from about 1866 people started coming to this particular spot where the Bloodriver Heritage Site currently sits and put a stone mount together as the first monument to commemorate the battle.

“For different cultures the day has different meanings; this particular spot where the battle happened is commemorated by the descendants of the Voortrekkers for many years. You have different monuments for this site, the most impressive being the 64 wagons laager,” she explains.

About six days before the battle, the men who were inside this laager made a vow, which said that if God gave them victory they would build churches and think of this day as a Sabbath.

Families gather at this site for a week long of camping to engage in outdoor activities like tug of war, swimming, torch walking and special DVD screenings of the battle can be watched in the Heritage sites auditorium.

For visitor Koos Marais, it’s all about seeing the scene of one of the most important battle of the country and everything it entails. “As you grow up these things tend to disappear into the mist of time but I wanted to go on a journey of rediscovery and experience what it’s all about and that’s why I am here,” he says.

On Tuesday, the bridge of reconciliation was opened by President Jacob Zuma which now links either side of the river with each
other. Visitors can now easily access the Ncome Museum from the Bloodriver Heritage site and are encouraged to see the two different representations of the battle.

As visitor Mpekezeni Ndltshe walked over the bridge to look at the ox wagons, he explained that although people are stubborn to change, it is time for both sides to come together. He says, “it’s important to incorporate these two sides, the Africans and the Boers, so that they can come together and be a rainbow nation.”

The two sides might be symbolically united but only one side receives funding from the government, as Kruger explains: “It’s one battlefield but two sites. The Ncome site on the other side of the river is recognised as a national museum which means it is state funded 100% but the Bloodriver Heritiage Site does not receive a cent.”

The site relies on visitors coming to the site, which is very difficult as the roads leading to it are in dire condition.

This year the turnout was poorer than previous years due to the weather but that didn’t stop the celebrations of Reconciliation Day as visitors flocked with cameras and family to discover the area.

– By Nina Oosthuizen