COME March the new Camissa Museum is set to welcome South Africans to take a journey through a decolonised history of Cape identities.
The museum intends to teach and showcase the the cultural diversity of the coloured people of South Africa. The idea for the museum was sparked by late veteran liberation movement leader Reggie September.
Historian and researcher and author of the book The Lie of 1652, Patric Tariq Mellet, said September was the first motivator for a museum and a place of memory and learning at the Castle dedicated to the history and heritage of those Africans classified by the British colonial authorities and the apartheid regime, as coloured.
“The history and ancestral heritage of the peopling of Cape Town has been distorted by revisionist, colonial and apartheid narratives. Nowhere is this as pronounced as in the history of those people classified ‘coloured’. The museum seeks to address this ongoing, damaging legacy,” Mellet said.
“Reg wanted to promote African consciousness among those so classified, so that we claim our birthright and recognition of our struggles rather than being an ‘appendage’ as Smuts once referred to us or as Marike de Klerk once called us – the ‘leftovers’,” Mellet added.
The museum aims to offer a rich history of the diversity of the genealogy of Cape identities in order to fight the negative stereotypes of the coloured identity.
“Our youth find themselves in no man’s land when it comes to having a sense of belonging and knowing their roots. This engenders hopelessness and often a search for belonging,” Mellet said.
The museum will be housed at the Castle of Good Hope, which holds some gruesome memories of slavery.
Chief executive of the Castle Calvyn Gilfellan said: “Since 2013, the castle embarked on an arduous journey to transform and reimagine this erstwhile symbol and space of armed colonial conquest, apartheid and exclusion into one that is inclusive, healing and promoting nation-building.”
Camissa Museum design consultant Linnemore Nefdt said: “It is clear to me as a Camissa African living in the diaspora in the Netherlands that the story told by the Camissa Museum can play an important part in filling in the gaps in the current social discussion on the history of enslavement.”
Curator Angus Leendertz said he was glad to be part of the project. “As a native of Cape Town of mixed heritage, I am very happy to be involved in this groundbreaking initiative which will for the first time tell our story of the establishment of our city of Cape Town and soundly reject the colonial narrative and deeply offensive term coloured. We are Camissa Africans.”