Salt River heritage festival: knowing the past to shape a better world

On Saturday new giant murals were unveiled in the historic suburb

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An audience of mostly local residents gathered for the Salt River Heritage Society’s unveiling of three new murals during a Heritage Month event. Photos: Matthew Hirsch

The second Salt River Heritage Street Festival was held on Saturday. Organised by the Salt River Heritage Society, a non-profit organisation dedicated to preserving and celebrating the historic suburb, the event saw poetry readings, live music performances, talks by community leaders, and a heritage walk that culminated in the unveiling of three new giant murals.

“During the apartheid days, we were robbed of our culture, dignity and values. We felt it was important to find ways of recapturing who we are as a community,” said Shabodien Roomanay, founder of the society, in his opening remarks on Saturday.

Gertrude Fester, an anti-apartheid activist who had been held in solitary confinement for 100 days, told GroundUp: “First of all, it’s to preserve the community voice and to highlight what happened here. It’s good to create some education and awareness of what the issues are.”

The Salt River Heritage Society received a Cultural Affairs award at a recent ceremony hosted by the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs, recognising the organisation’s contribution to heritage and culture.

Lutfi Omar, chairperson of the society, told GroundUp that the award was “recognition of our relentless dedication to preserving and promoting the rich tapestry of our local history and heritage.”

“This accolade represents a shared triumph for our organisation and the entire community it serves, affirming our belief that the preservation of our past is crucial for shaping our future and making a better world possible.”

There were a number of musical performances on the day. This one was at the “The Black Christ Mural by Ronald Harrison” at the corner of Albert and Cecil Road, unveiled by Reverend Michael Weeder. It commemorates Harrison’s seminal artwork challenging apartheid which is displayed in St Luke’s Church.

Natheer Hoosain, also known as Gogga, grew up in Salt River. He created The Freedom Fighters mural on the corner of Pope and Kingsley Road. It depicts four community leaders: Gladys Thomas, Gadija Isaacs, Zuraya Abass and Karima Brown.

Faeza Rossier, owner of the house where “The Dome of the Rock” mural is painted, said she had been waiting for two years for the mural to go up. She told the crowd that she had been living in Salt River for 43 years. “I think they are going to carry me out of Salt River,” she joked.

Reverend Michael Weeder and Dr Imam Rashied Omar attended the event. Weeder said murals are “one way of making history accessible in a fun, authentic and very profound way”. He said the community of Salt River was facing a new battle – “the very rapid and almost vicious gentrification that’s happening here”.

TOPICS:  Heritage

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