Premier Alan Winde officially opens the Leeuwenhof Slave Quarters Gallery | Western Cape Government



Premier Alan Winde officially opens the Leeuwenhof Slave Quarters Gallery

20 February 2022

Joint Media Release: Premier Alan Winde officially opens the Leeuwenhof Slave Quarters Remembrance Gallery

Yesterday, the Premier of the Western Cape, Alan Winde, and the Provincial Minister of Cultural Affairs and Sports, Anroux Marais, officially opened the Leeuwenhof Slave Quarters Remembrance Gallery.  

The Remembrance Gallery stretches out on the grounds of Leeuwenhof and occupies the former slave quarters, the Bo-Tuin Huys and the garden between those two important heritage buildings.

It reflects on the cruelty of slavery and includes an exhibition on "enslaved lives" - the story of Leeuwenhof's slave quarters and the lived reality of those who were enslaved not just in Leeuwenhof but also in the Cape. It also includes an art exhibition and rotating exhibition.

Speaking to the purpose of the gallery, the Premier of the Western Cape, Alan Winde, said: “When I became Premier and I moved into Leeuwenhof, I was told of the history of the buildings, which, as an estate in the 18th century once had slave quarters. It made both Tracy and I pause to reflect on the horror of slavery, that taints our country’s past, and so we decided to do something about it. This Remembrance Gallery is the result of the process that followed, and I would like to thank all involved for helping give a voice to those who were denied the most basic human rights all those years ago.”

Premier Winde continued: “This Remembrance Gallery also supports artists from our province today so that they can tell their story - to express themselves and to be able to make a living through their art which will be sold at the gallery. In this way, the Slave Quarters Remembrance Gallery not only honours those who were enslaved by telling their story now but is also an opportunity for their decedents to make a living through their art.”

The launch of the gallery, which was MC’d by Mr Africa Melane, included performances by Cape Town 7 Steps Minstrels, The Hilton Schilder Ghoema Band, Mr Ishmael Sabodien, The Poet Blaq Pearl, namely, Ms Janine Overmeyer and The Cape Malay Board Choir.

At the launch, the Provincial Minister of Cultural Affairs and Sport, Anroux Marais said: "While visiting Leeuwenhof in 2019, Premier Alan Winde shared the sad story of how those enslaved were locked up in the small wine cellar next to the dining room, while the host and guests were enjoying themselves in luxury. The enslaved were only unlocked and allowed out after dinner to clear the table and to attend to requests by the host.”

Slavery at the Cape impacted thousands of people and their families. Between 1658 and 1807, an estimated 63 000 people were taken from their homes and brought to the Cape as slaves for the expanding settlement by the Dutch East India Company (VOC), and later by the British colonial authorities. The people enslaved in the Cape came from Madagascar, South Asia, Southeast Asia, East Africa, and during the early VOC period, some were brought in from West Africa.

Premier Winde said: “Leeuwenhof’s history as an estate in the 18th century can help us to understand the local reaches of enslavement, and the historical trauma that continues. Through this exhibition, we pay tribute to the thousands of people forcibly uprooted from their homes in various parts of Africa and Asia and who were enslaved at the Cape, as well as those born into slavery locally.”

The Slave Quarters Remembrance Gallery will include:

  1. An exhibition on the history of slavery: this exhibition aims to create a place of reflection around enslavement. The “Enslaved Lives” exhibition contextualizes the Leeuwenhof Slave Quarters within the history and legacy of enslavement in Cape Town by focusing on the enslaved people who lived and worked at Leeuwenhof. It includes a “Remember us” list of names of people who have been enslaved at Leeuwenhof. Those who were enslaved were renamed as slaveholders chose. Very few historical documents remained to tell the story of enslaved people. This resulted in marginalisation within historical narratives.
  2. An art exhibition that provides a space where social, cultural, and economic legacies of slavery can be voiced works of art. The works in this exhibition are from the permanent collection of the Cape Town Museum. Several of the artworks have been procured specifically for this exhibition.
  3. The third element is a rotating exhibition of artworks for sale, curated by the Association for Visual Arts (AVA). Artworks are sourced through an open call for applications. Submitted artworks do not necessarily reflect slavery - the artist may have a connection with the history of slavery at the Cape. Last night’s exhibition is the first of a series of 5 exhibitions planned until March 2023.

“The artworks of the exhibition, the majority of which was produced by emerging artists, were in turn chosen to collectively form a visual storyboard of the Cape Town Story of historical trauma with the search for expression and healing through art", continued Minister Marais.

Going forward, the Gallery will be open to the public every first Saturday of the month, from 10 am – 2 pm, and by appointment. Guided tours of both the historical exhibition and the rotating art exhibition will take place on the first Saturday of each month. These tours are coordinated by AVA and the Cape Town Museum.