Castle Of Good Hope: Turning History Into Our Story

12th April 2018.

 

Constructed in the mid-17th century out of rock hewn from Signal Hill and slate gathered from Robben Island, the Castle of Good Hope is the oldest surviving colonial building in South Africa and one of the best-preserved examples of Dutch East India architecture. Originally perched on the coastline of Table Bay after land reclamation, the erstwhile fort is now a sprawling landmark on the corner of Darling and Castle Streets on the way to Cape Town’s bustling Foreshore.

 

 

We discovered the Cape Doctor certainly lives up to its name as we cross the moat and enter the Castle’s precincts to meet Doreen Hendricks, the Castle’s powerhouse Tourism & Marketing Manager. The interview becomes a fascinating journey about the possibilities of transformation and how the colonial past can be transformed into a reimagining of our future.

“The Castle was exclusive for many years, whether to a particular racial group or individuals on a particular career path. It was specifically designed and built to keep people out, but as a tourism heritage site we want to invite people in. We can’t change the structure of the building, but we can change the perceptions of people.

“Everything in the Cape started here at the Castle. Our slogan is, ‘The beginning of everything’. We also position ourselves as the centre for shared heritage in South Africa. Here you have the culmination of so many things and so many people. We are all connected in some way, and the Castle played a major role in that.

“We aim to bring people together and not only recognise differences, but also commonalities and move forward from there. That’s what we started doing in 2016 during our 350-year commemoration and what we are continuing to do going forward.

 

 

“How do we do that? A lot of people talk about deconolising history, but in the words of our good friend Professor Denis Goldberg, we do deconolisation of history. We give people a platform to have a voice, to tell their stories and to be recognised. We want them to remember, heal and learn through this process; whether it be via an exhibition, a debate, a community forum or a traditional ceremony.

“The Castle of Good Hope is a self-sufficient public entity. We generate income via our commercial tourism and event activities, which in turn help us fund community heritage initiatives. We rely heavily on partnerships to do development work and appeal to corporate South Africa to support us in order for us to grow our heritage, culture and education department. The fact that our Department of Defence is looking after the maintenance of the Castle, is a huge bonus.

Recently we launch a 350-legacy project, focusing on the passing of the history onto the youth of today. Even though the 350-commemoration was concluded in 2016, the story has actually just begun.We have created a timeline of the inclusive history of the Castle – from when it was first built up until 2016. The timeline, as seen above, includes untold stories of the past as well as the recognition of unsung heroes and warriors. These timelines have been rolled out in 72 schools nationwide with the aim of getting them rolled out into 400 more throughout the country. We want our kids to feel included and become excited about their heritage.

 

 

“We also know that the youth nowadays learn through technology, so we have developed an interactive website, virtual tour and video which would speak to them in a language that they understand. We are in the process of developing an app that they would be able to download onto their phones and tablets, which makes history available to them immediately and in a fun way.

“We are positioning ourselves as an exciting, forward-thinking heritage site. People – whether they are locals or tourists – want an experience. They don’t want to stand at a glass window looking in; they’re looking for interaction – touching, feeling, talking, engaging. We are therefore working hard to ensure our product is interactive.

“Over and above all the exhibitions, we also host a variety of events…. from flower shows to lifestyle markets, from music festivals to conferences and weddings.

“We want to open our doors to not only tourists, but to locals, to Capetonians. People whose lives have links here – and who may not even know it.”

 

 

SA Tourism Services Association
Frequently Asked Questions For Tourists Travelling To SA [PDF 2MB]
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CEO’S Spring Message: Heritage & Tourism Month

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On 22/23 September, the Southern Hemisphere officially heralds Spring. In geographical terms, Spring is the time of equinox which means the day and night is of the same length!  In the Cape, it is the season of magic and wonder!

Well, as South Africans, we make the most of the most beautiful season of the year. September is Tourism and Heritage Month, and South Africans also celebrate a host of other nature- and societal days during this time of rejuvenation, revival, growth, and hope.

The theme for this year’s World Tourism Day is “Tourism and jobs – a better future for all” whilst heritage month’s is: “Celebrating South Africa’s literary classics in the year of indigenous languages”.  What better place to celebrate both months at South Africa’s oldest surviving building – the 352-year old Castle of Good Hope.  Access to the Castle if free on the 24th of September 2019.  Come with your family, friends and picnic baskets – and remember the flat shoes!

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The Gardens to the left of the main entrance of the Castle.

Ode To The Most Beautiful Season

There is something so sublime about an African Spring that it is simply not possible to capture it graphically. But let me give it a try to describe what we experience at the Castle these days:

Spring seems to put a spring in every creature’s step; the Castle of Good Hope and surrounding a case in point. In the Castle moat, which is fed from the Camissa River in Table Mountain, the flock of black cormorants give the fish a hard time. Their feeding frenzy seems like a strategy to make up for the long, hard winter behind them. The wily old Night Heron with his long neck is trying hard to out-fish them but fails to match their angling skills. The coots glide over the fallen leaves from the papyrus plants on the dam; scooping up the abundant insects and other tiny morsels and preparing for the new chicklets’ arrival.

The happy chirps of the mating weavers, sparrows and starling are only drowned out by the shrill screams of the assertive hadedas and peckish gulls.  The awakening of every bloom and leaf the perfect canvas for these unfolding theatrics.

But it is the majestic Egyptian goose that rules the Castle. We are eagerly anticipating their colonisation of our lawns with their large batches of tweeting goslings! And not even the lone Castle barn-owl or stray cat would dare to come close to their brood.

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Bees in the Aloe flowers,
Restitution Garden,
top of Leerdam.
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Night Heron relaxing on one
of the steel cages protecting
young fish in the Moat.

Season Highlights: Major Events

Now back to Heritage and Tourism Months.  Besides the complimentary tours, firing of a real cannon, four museums, exhibitions, expect a bevy of events, festivities, gathering and celebrations for the rest of Spring.  For our tourists, we have just re-instituted the Ghost Tours, sleep-outs and much more.

These are some of the cultural, lifestyle and heritage events we are proudly hosting over the next couple of weeks:

  • Integrated Conservation Management Plan Stakeholder Meeting, 1 October 2019
  • Justice for Imam Haron outdoor exhibition, October/November 2019
  • Big League 3rd Anniversary Concert, 5 October 2019
  • Ceramics SA Exhibition, 7 – 10 October 2019
  • Open Design Africa, 18 – 22 October 2019
  • Unathi Msengana’s Picnic Concert, 19 October 2019
  • Kings of the Castle Boxing Tournament, 26 October 2019
  • Secret Sunset Event, 31 October 2019
  • Doek on Fleek Outdoor Picnic, 2 November 2019
  • Infecting the City, 23-24 November 2019
  • Harley Davidson Lifestyle Centre, 30 November to 1 December 2019

Disclaimer: Information is correct as on 23 September 2019. Patrons are kindly requested to verify events details and changes on our website or from the organisers.

Best Regards


There is currently an open RFQ for the Castle Control Board.

Click HERE to view the SCM page.


 

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Latest Events

To see the latest upcoming events at the Castle of Good Hope, click on a day or the month title to display the event(s).

November 2019
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Key Ceremony

TIMES
10:00|12:00 

This showcases the unlocking of the Van der Stel entrance of the Castle of Good Hope by the ceremonial guards of the castle. It is a past practice that is still practised today.

Canon Firing

TIMES
10:00|11:00|12:00 

The firing of the signal cannon was used to indicate that a ship had been sighted at sea and to relay the message to people inside the fort. You can view the firing of an old cannon, performed by the Cannon Association of South Africa.

Guided Tours

TIMES
11:00|12:00|14:00|15:00|16:00 

Unearth the hidden history of the Castle with a guided tour led by an experienced guide. Tours operate seven days a week.

 

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