Right. Let's get on with this battle before the storm arrives, said Basil Mills, squinting up at the sky above Fort Selwyn next to the Monument on Saturday afternoon.
Right. Let's get on with this battle before the storm arrives, said Basil Mills, squinting up at the sky above Fort Selwyn next to the Monument on Saturday afternoon. It had been a long, hot day that began outside the city hall more than six hours earlier and while the Xhosa warriors and British soldiers took the full battering of the mid-afternoon sun, the audience had dug themselves firmly into the shade provided by the fort's thick stone walls.
After 200 years, there was a lot to remember, commemorate and discuss. The history of Grahamstown is a long one and offers present and future generations a lot to remember, as well as events to learn from.
The Makana Freedom Festival was, in part, a reminder of how violent the city's past was. The festivities began around 9.30am outside the city hall, with the arrival of Queen Noloyiso, of AmaRhararhabe.
She was greeted by members of the First City Regiment and the South African Battle Re-enactment Society (SABRE) assembled on either side of her as she entered the city hall.
From there, the entourage made their way to Egazini, where the battle for Grahamstown took place in 1819. A smaller battlefield was constructed for the day’s events, with original cannons from 1812 and members of SABRE and First City Regiment in hand-made authentic costumes.
The choir of Nathaniel Nyaluza School opened the festival with the national anthem. The mayor, Zamuxolo Peter, spoke about Chief Makana in his address.
“[Makana] was a religious person who loved peace and his nation.”
Peter added jokingly, “I’m told he was a family man with three wives.”
Audiences were treated to a re-enactment of the battle from SABRE and the First City Regiment. Five cannons were fired, while the infantry demonstrated the process of loading and firing the guns used during the battle.
The fire department and an explosives expert were on hand to take care of any accidents.
They and the entire cast and props were then duly relocated to Signal Hill for the afternoon event.
A tent covered in bush camouflage-netting in the grounds of Fort Selwyn was the venue for a display about the involvement of local army units in peace-keeping missions in the DRC and Sudan, while outside the soldiers and warriors downed their rations before readying themselves for the afternoon's action.
Basil Mills provided commentary for the events being played out on Grahamstown's highest hill for a small but enthusiastic audience.
Colonel Roy Gowar, senior staff officer for the reserve office of the Eastern Cape, said these events were significant for reconciliation.
“It’s great that we can do these re-enactments. This is where reconciliation comes from,” Gowar said.
Mills said the 1819 battle had played a significant role in South Africa's history and said part of the point of SABRE was to make sure such aspects of our history were never forgotten. They were intended to demonstrate just how far South Africa had come. The last cannon was fired at 3.24pm on Saturday – echoed by the thunder that accompanied an impressive storm a few hours later.
And that temperature?
According to Grocott's Mail weather-watcher Roger Rowswell, between 28 and 29 degrees.