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Voortrekker Monument, result 1 of 1
Available to everyone
View from below main hall.
Image: July 26, 2018
Eeufees Rd, Groenkloof 358-Jr, Pretoria, 0027, South Africa
Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa
Latitude: 25.777 S
Longitude: 28.176 E
Granite, marble relief carving, stained glass
Art Deco, Neoclassical
40 m x 40 m x 40 m
At the center of the main hall featuring the friezes is a round opening, which creates a line of site down to the basement level (currently in use as a museum). Directly at the center of the opening on the basement level is a cenotaph reading “On Virs Jou Suidafrika” (Afrikaans; roughly translated to “We’re for you South Africa”).
Commentary: The Voortrekker Monument celebrates the arrival of the Dutch Boer farmers who undertook the “Great Trek” from the Cape Colony in South Africa to the area of Johannesburg and Pretoria from 1834 through 1854. The resettlement of some 15,000 Boers led to the founding of the Boer Republics Transvaal (1852) and the Orange Free State (1854). First conceived in 1931 and constructed between 1937 and 1949, the Voortrekker Monument must be understood within the wider political context in South Africa. The election of 1948 put the National Party in power, and the system of Apartheid was officially instituted. However, many of the precedents of Apartheid had already been established in the previous decades, as South Africans of Dutch Boer descent increasingly lay claim to a glorified pioneer past, which portrayed their ancestors as rugged farmers fighting for religious freedom in the face of the British colonial incursion, and against indigenous South African peoples. Monuments such as this one served to perpetuate this narrative through a blend of artistic and architectural propaganda. South African architect Gerard Moerdijk (1890-1958) trained at the Architectural Association in London and traveled in Italy before returning to his home country in 1913. He designed numerous public buildings throughout South Africa, but this is the building for which he is best known. In addition to creating the architectural program of the building, Moerdijk also coordinated and oversaw the development of the sculptural reliefs and other artistic embellishment of the building, much of which was executed in Italy and shipped to South Africa. The friezes depict the Great Trek as a violent and highly racialized struggle with overt Biblical overtones. The Native African people who appear on the frieze are portrayed as primitive, violent, and greedy while the Boers are shown as the morally righteous, chosen people (particular emphasis is placed on the innocence and sanctity of women and children). The choice of the neoclassical reliefs against the rusticated granite construction (which uses geometric, Art Deco inspired motifs) further naturalizes this constructed narrative. The opening of the monument was attended by around 250,000 people, and was led by then National Party President D.F. Malan.
Information: Historic plaques at monument site
Photographer: Sarah Rovang
Sarah Rovang, 2018
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