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Design for preservation and commemoration of historic events : a case for the South African Boer Wars, 1881 & 1899-1902.

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Were it not for mankind’s memory of Historic events there would be no need for the preservation and commemoration of those events and according to Nietzsche - the 19th century German philosopher - in order for the memory to remain it must cease to hurt (Dubow 2001). There is a process then by which tragic events and traumatic memories are eased into memory and it’s often the memorial which serves this “Cathartic Function” (Snyman 1999) removing the hurt and allowing the memory to live on, a process which is “necessary for survival” (Snyman 1999) Crain Soudien - author of Emerging discourses around identity in new South African museum exhibitions - has identified that in representing the new South Africa a particular politics of memory has surfaced “Consisting on the one hand, of discourses of nostalgia, and, on the other, discourses of reconstruction” (Crain 2008). In this treatise government policies are looked at briefly as a way to understand the dialogue of nostalgia, but the focus is on the latter; the discourse of ‘reconstruction’, the issues associated with reconstruction and construction and the mediums through which this has been or will be achieved both on an international and local platform. Having achieved this, a case will be made for the South African Anglo Boer wars and a discourse for the preservation and commemoration of this historic event will be sought. The South African Anglo Boer Wars of: 1881 and 1899 - 1902 dramatically changed the landscape of South Africa for ever. Originally known as the Boer War or even the Anglo Boer War the name was officially changed to the South African War before 1999 as the years 1999 to 2002 was the period of ‘Boer War’ centenaries. It was envisaged that the name change would better reflect the constitutional policy of all-inclusiveness in South Africa among fears that any centenary celebrations would be a sectarian affair as many considered, up until Peter Warwick produced his seminal study dispelling the “old hoary argument that this was essentially a “white man’s war” (Starfield, 2001) that the Anglo Boer War was a whites on whites War. This policy fell under a mandate known as the National Legacy Project (Marschall, personal communication) along with various other heritage projects. The South African Anglo Boer War - as it is often officially called - and its battlefields are protected under national heritage legislation and are therefore a determinant of our national identity. The battles of 1881 are precursors to the Great Boer War and are thus included. It is in this light that this study of heritage portrayal and celebration finds its case, in order to determine a design model for the preservation and commemoration of a part of our nations’ identity for generations to come. The theoretical framework determined to achieve this considers conceptual deliberations on: Issues of design, and mediums of design revealed in a range of precedents deliberately centred on the built environment as 'the museum or memorial is intended to create a setting for the projection of memory onto a built form providing a new linkage between memory and space” (Reconstructing Recollection 2000 cited by Mudenge 2006) Preservation and Commemoration: to keep alive or in existence; make lasting: to preserve our liberties as free citizens. and a service, celebration, etc., in memory of some person or event. Heritage: something that comes or belongs to one by reason of birth; an inherited lot or portion: a heritage of poverty and suffering; a national heritage of honour, pride, and courage.


Thesis (M.Arch.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2010.


War memorials., South African War, 1899-1902--Monuments--Designs and plans., Theses--Architecture.