Minister Anroux Marais' Speech at Vergelegen Heritage Site plaque unveiling
WESTERN CAPE MINISTER OF CULTURAL AFFAIRS AND SPORT, ANROUX MARAIS
PROVINCIAL HERITAGE SITE PLAQUE UNVEILING: VERGELEGEN
28 OCTOBER 2019
Good day, molweni nonke, goeiemôre,
It is indeed a privilege and honour to address you at this very significant occasion as we unveil the Provincial Heritage Site plaque at Vergelegen, in the City of Cape Town today.
At the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport we strive to provide for the conservation, promotion and development of heritage resources to facilitate processes for the standardisation or changes, where necessary, to assist with heritage resource management by implementing at provincial level the mandates of the World Heritage Convention Act, 1999 and the National Heritage Resources Act, 1999.
Together with the expert assistance of Heritage Western Cape, the City of Cape Town’s facilitation and valued input from stakeholders, the historic significance of this site is now officially acknowledged and will rightfully be promoted in the public domain as a Provincial Heritage Site.
As a result of in-depth research and following the relevant official processes, the high historical value of Vergelegen can now be highlighted. Vergelegen possesses high historical value associated with the first decade of the 18th Century, when the Cape of Good Hope was an emerging station of the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC) servicing the Dutch commercial empire’s maritime trade routes with the East, linking Europe, Africa and the East Asia. Vergelegen likely originated as a VOC outstation, one of a number positioned to control its trade interest between Table Bay and the hinterland. Vergelegen has strong associations with VOC officialdom, conceived under the ownership of the high ranking VOC official, William Adriaan van der Stel, Governor at the Cape between 1699 and 1706, having succeeded his father, Simon van der Stel, extending the influential van der Stel era of the VOC at the Cape, spanning almost three decades.
Vergelegen is one of the earliest examples of an idealised farmstead established at the Cape, influenced by European principles of a grand country estate. It predates the development of a rural vernacular at the Cape occurring later in the 18th Century and the grand estate later developed by the emerging prosperous free burghers.
Vergelegen epitomises the development of traditional rural agrarian land-use and settlements of Cape colonial farmers and the basis of a region-specific vernacular architecture on which other farms at the Cape and beyond were later modelled.
Vergelegen is strongly associated with the history of slavery at the Cape with van der Stel owning more than 200 slaves, the most ever in private hands on one property. Of special historical interest is the use of Vergelegen as a place of exile for the Rajah of Tambora associated with the use of the Cape of Good Hope as an official place of confinement for eastern political prisoners of rank of the VOC and his role in transcribing the Koran, possibly the first hand written Koran at the Cape.
The historical value of Vergelegen and its legacy lies in its socio-historical nature and is of outstanding significance for the memorialisation and acknowledgement of early practice and communities and their role and contribution to our democratic society as experienced today.
The Provincial Heritage Site Status will communicate clearly and definitively that the heritage community and agencies consider this site to be a major and important heritage asset that warrants serious and focussed conservation attention from all parties. Provincial Heritage Site Status immediately provides the full protection to these sites described in the National Heritage Resources Act (1999). This is indeed welcomed by the Western Cape Government as we can all agree that the value of the Vergelegen lies in its societal nature, amplified by its historical significance.
I look forward to collaboratively sharing the significance of the newly officiated Provincial Heritage Site. I thank all who had a hand in the approval of the Provincial Heritage Site status bestowed upon Vergelegen today. We are indeed grateful to each stakeholder as you have unleashed its potential to yield information contributing to a wider understanding of the history of co-existence in the Western Cape.
I thank you.