Help tell the history of Retreat

Historian and teacher Roy Prinsloo hosts the history society project at Retreat library every week.

A history society group is inviting locals to take part in an oral history project to tell the history of Retreat with an aim to write a book to document the past by sharing stories, pictures and artefacts.

History teacher Roy Prinsloo has over 40 years of experience, a passion for history and has made it a point to tell the history of communities – especially brown communities.

Mr Prinsloo wrote three books including one titled Our community in our classrooms as a guide for teachers to connect pupils to their history and post democracy. He wanted to rewrite the history books to tell the stories of everyday people, their experience and how their communities came to be.

He has started many history societies across Cape Town over the years and wrote another book called My New World to rewrite history because he said the history textbooks didn’t reflect the true nature of the mixed race society.

“History is used as a tool by the oppressor to keep us out of history and many things were left out of these books.”

Mr Prinsloo said the textbooks told of a very oppressive past that was presented in classrooms and decided to rewrite the post apartheid era.

“Now we are on a journey to tell the stories of Retreat because it has such a deep and rich history going back further than many other communities and it can be traced back to the 1700s.”

He has approached several high schools to get young people involved with an aim to educate them to know where they come from. For the past three months pupils from Sibelius, Lavender Hill, Steenberg and Wittebome high schools have met at Retreat library every Wednesday as part of the history society where they have guest speakers who talk about the history of the area.

The group has also had excursions to the District Six Museum and historical site where the Battle of Muizenberg took place in 1795.

“We went to the site of the battle of Muizenberg and showed learners how Retreat got its name and spoke about the separation and ‘whites only beaches’ where brown and black people weren’t allowed during apartheid. It was important to do this to show children exactly what happened and where it happened so they have a better understanding of things and to empower them because you need to know where you come from to know where you’re going.”

Grade 10 Lavender Hill High School pupil, Tamryn Davids decided to join the history society to find out more about her community and how Lavender Hill and the surrounding areas came to be.

“We as young people don’t, for instance, know the reason why our area is even named Retreat, Steenberg or Lavender Hill and this project will help us as young people understand more about the history.”

She said at their weekly meetings they get to speak to elders, play games that were played “back in the day” and visit historical locations.

“I’ve learnt so much through this project so far and I think other young people should join because it is very interesting. It is so much fun learning about our past and I think it’s important to learn about how we got to the communities we have today.”

Mr Prinsloo’s vision for the project is to interview as many past residents of the greater Retreat area to document and eventually publish their stories.

“This has an ideological function because as a historian I feel that our community has been alienated from themselves and our identity was taken from us because of colonialism and Apartheid and some don’t see the value in looking into their history. We want to change that and give brown people an opportunity to develop their culture, to embrace and be proud of their culture.”

The group meets at the Retreat Library every Wednesday at 3pm. To find out more about the history society or to take part, or tell your stories, contact Mr Prinsloo on 063 410 0805.