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Voortrekker Monument Heritage Site, Pretoria

voortrekker monument pretoriaThe Voortrekker Monument is a massive granite structure that was built to commemorate the Great Trek of the Afrikaners that took place between 1835 and 1854 led by Piet Retief. It is located on the top of Monument Hill, which is visible from a number of locations in Pretoria. The majestic Voortrekker Monument is situated in the northern part of South Africa in the Pretoria (Tshwane) region in a nature reserve. It is a unique Monument which commemorates the Pioneer history of Southern Africa and the history of the Afrikaner and is situated in a beautiful setting. Today it is the most visited heritage site of its kind in Gauteng and one of the top ten cultural historical visitor attractions in the country.

The Voortrekker Monument is definitely not the biggest monument in the world however the architect purposefully tried to build a massive, impressive monument.
The idea to build a monument in honour of the Voortrekkers was mooted on 16 December 1888, when Pres. Paul Kruger attended the Day of the Covenant Celebrations at Blood River in Natal. It only gained momentum in 1931 when the "Sentrale Volksmonumentekomitee (SVK)" i.e. the Central National Monuments Committee was formed to create this ideal. The sod turning ceremony took place on Monument Hill on 13 July 1937. Advocate E.G.Jansen, chairman of the SVK turned the first sod. The cornerstone was laid by Mrs. J.C. Muller (granddaughter of Andries Pretorius), Mrs. K.F. Ackerman (great granddaugther of Hendrik
Potgieter), and Mrs. J.C. Preller (great granddaughter of Piet Retief) on 16 December 1938 .Eleven years later the Monument was inaugurated on 16 December 1949. The total cost for the construction of the Monument came to £359,600, of which the state contributed the most.

Additional funds were obtained through donations, special stamp sales, commemorative envelopes, souvenirs and publications. In 1949 a large amphitheatre was also erected to the North East of the Monument, which seats approximately 20,000 people. Visitors enter through a black wrought iron gate with an "assegaai" motif. It symbolises the might of Dingane who blocked access to the country's interior. Once through the gate, the visitor stands inside a big wagon laager that symbolically protects the Monument. The wagon laager consists out of 64 wagons made out of decorative granite. Sixty-four wagons were used during the battle of Blood River to form the laager. Therefore the granite laager serves as symbolic protection for the Monument - by implication it also protects the Afrikaner nation and
its culture against foreign onslaught.

At the foot of the Monument, inside the laager, stands a bronze sculpture of a Voortrekker woman and her two children. The sculptor was Anton van Wouw. The sculpture pays homage to the strength and courage of the Voortrekker women and family who made both the Great Trek and the eventual settlement of the interior possible. Without their contribution the Trek may only have been a scouting expedition, because the Voortrekkers literally "emigrated" with everything they possessed to a new fatherland. On both sides of the sculpture black wildebeest are chiselled in the walls of the Monument - symbolically depicting the dangers of Africa. Their symbolic flight implies that the woman, carrier of Western civilisation, is triumphant. On the Eastern corner, on the same level as the entrance to the Monument, is the foundation stone, which was laid by three of the descendants of the Voortrekker leaders on 16 December 1938.

The gardens surrounding the Monument include many indigenous plants. The gardens also provide a luxurious background for photograph, and are especially popular for of wedding photographs. At the centre of the monument is a red granite Cenotaph. An opening in the dome has been astronomically aligned such that at noon on the 16 December (the Day of the Covenant) the rays of the sun land upon the Cenotaph, lighting up the words, ""Ons vir jou, Suid-Afrika"". In the Hall of Heroes a frieze consisting of 27 marble panels extends for 92m, depicts the major events of Great Trek.

Ox wagon rides are available at the Voortrekker Monument. This will make a wonderful event for school groups, corporate functions, family reunions, or tourism groups.

 


 

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