News

New book documents Ceres earthquake experiences

6 December 2018

The story of the earthquake that devastated three Western Cape towns in 1969 can now be viewed from the perspective of survivors, following the release of Ons Onthou, 29 September 1969 (We Remember, 29 September 1969) on Wednesday, 5 December 2018.

The book is made up of first-hand accounts from 91 people who were of varying ages when the earthquake struck Ceres, Wolseley and Tulbagh and what they experienced in the aftermath.

Ons Onthou was produced by the Ceres Transport Riders Museum and is the brainchild of Marthinus de Villiers, a member of the museum’s board of trustees.

“The idea for the book came about because the people who experienced the earthquake are slowly all passing away. So we wanted to record what they experienced that night and in the days after. We wanted people to tell their story about the earthquake in their own words,” he said.

De Villiers, who was ten and also living in Ceres when the natural disaster struck, added that the earthquake damaged or completely destroyed several buildings and changed the infrastructure of the towns. 

“I can’t remember exactly what happened that night, but I can remember the after effects. For instance, we weren’t able to go to the church and had our services in a hall on Sundays, because it was quite damaged and we were afraid that another earthquake could happen,” De Villiers added. 

Minister Anroux Marais of DCAS was present at the launch of Ons Onthou at the Ceres Golf Club on Wednesday and said the book was significant for several reasons. 

“Through Oral History projects and written discourse of this nature, personal histories and community experiences become shared heritage while promoting social inclusivity and community development through sharing and understanding,” Minister Marais said. 

“This very significant book allows locals to not only remember the destruction caused by the natural disaster, or to relive the trauma of the devastation, but also allows us to be mindful of the continuous resilience personified by all those who call Ceres and its surroundings home.

Ons Onthou, reminds us that in the face of great adversity and destruction, which many felt was the end of the world as they knew it, it was the sense of community that together they overcame the many challenges abruptly brought by the horrific incident of 1969.”

With much of the Western Cape’s history preserved only in the minds of storytellers, it’s important to capture the valuable stories beneath our social tapestry. BETTER TOGETHER.

Media Enquiries: 

Dr Tania Colyn
Head of Communication Service
Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport
Tel: 021 483 9877 / 076 093 4913
E-mail: Tania.Colyn@westerncape.gov.za