Makana municipality and other participants in the project to reflect on the 200 years since the establishment of Grahamstown will no doubt pick up some flak over the coming months. People will criticise Project 200, as it is informally known, because it could be seen as a way of glorifying the past of this town.
Makana municipality and other participants in the project to reflect on the 200 years since the establishment of Grahamstown will no doubt pick up some flak over the coming months. People will criticise Project 200, as it is informally known, because it could be seen as a way of glorifying the past of this town. Critics will say it is inappropriate to hold events celebrating a period that began with the building of a military outpost used to impose the will of a colonial power on the indigenous population. Grahamstown also has a deeply divided past where people of different races were forced to live separate and very unequal lives.
This type of criticism is not without merit, and it is probably this line of thinking that caused the recent centenary of South Africa to pass by virtually unnoticed. In observing the 200 years of our past we would never wish to glorify colonialism or racial oppression, but we do need to reflect on the past and acknowledge that we have a history. The words chosen to describe Project 200 call for a reflection on our past. At this point it is worth recalling the words of Spanish writer, George Santayana who wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it”.
We need to see where we have come from so that we can make informed choices for a better future.
At the same time it is instructive to learn about the positive aspects of our past. We have had our fair share of heroes and interesting eccentrics – let us learn about them, and in some cases learn from them. Grahamstown has also had its fair share of villains – we need to know about them and not pretend they did not exist. Project 200 will provide fascinating opportunities to find out what really happened in this town of ours.
On 4 February, the Makana Municipality and the National Arts Festival will be launching Project 200 with a parade down High Street and a series of related events on Church Square. There will be live performances, interesting interviews and the opportunity to debate our history.
The story of Grahamstown is your story too – join in the discussion.