Dr June Bam-Hutchison speaks on 'Gender, Symbolic Reparations and the Arts'

22 Feb 2018 - 08:15

Dr June Bam-Hutchison presented on the commemoration of women at the Castle of Good Hope at the international symposium on ‘Gender, Symbolic Reparations and the Arts: Exploring and Disrupting Narratives of Gender Based Violence within Transitional Justice’, Cape Town, 7 – 9 February 2018.

Dr June Bam-Hutchison

Dr June Bam-Hutchison  described the commemoration of women attached to the history of the Castle of Good Hope (built in 1666 by the Dutch East India Company) as a ‘dance of visibility and invisibility’ which has been  going on in the memorialisation of the Castle in post-apartheid South Africa.

In terms of contemporary forms of representing indigenous women at the Cape, she referred to the recently released big screen movie ‘Krotoa’ as an example of how Khoi women are memorialised, and links this to the Castle. It was only very recently that the memory of indigenous women became visibilised at the Castle through public programmes and the recent bench erected in honour of Krotoa during South Africa's Women's month with the 350 year commemoration of the Castle. In general, its history is told in male terms and from a predominant male perspective (both white and black).

During the brutal colonial years, women were tortured, incarcerated and executed at the site and within its spatiality, but this is not mentioned in typical scripted tour guide narrations. Women are also left out of military discourse and commemoration (though Krotoa played the role of political diplomat between the indigenous Khoi and the Dutch within a 17th century war zone). She emphasised the importance of women as holders of pre-colonial knowledge (such as Krotoa and many others from Khoi-descendant histories who suffered epistemicide at the Cape as a result of the wars of dispossession).

The Castle is symbolic of epistemicide of the knowledge of indigenous women (past and present) in particular. Honouring the role of women as knowledge bearers should be part of the memorialisation processes at the Castle. For justice to happen, the Castle needs to be inherently linked to the land question and also to women and their historical relation to land in terms of knowledge.

The historical violence at the Castle and implications for justice for women and girls have not been dealt with yet. The women’s voices have been smothered within its walls, within its militaristic daily rituals and its imposing architecture, and even recent memorialisation attempts.

She emphasised the need for proper awareness around gendered memorialisation and the identity contestations around memorialisation in contemporary South Africa.  She shared the panel in conversation with Professor Sabine Marschall, Professor in Cultural and Heritage Tourism at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban.