‘Knight’ explores heritage

Left: André Martinaglia showing the official certificate that goes with receiving the Order of the Star of Italy which he received in 2007 by the former Italian Consulate General of Cape Town, Dr Alberto Vecchi.

The Italian community has deep roots in South Africa and for Kenilworth’s André Martinaglia, 68, it’s important celebrating this heritage.

While many associate good food, wine and music with Italian culture, André says there are many other interesting facets to the South African-Italian connection. And one of them involves the Martinaglia family.

It was Guglielmo Martinaglia, Andre’s grandfather, who helped discover the Sterkfontein Caves, in the Cradle of Humankind, in 1896.

The caves, about an hour’s drive from Johannesburg, are a World Heritage Site and famous for their fossil discoveries.

André wrote an article on the Heritage Portal about his family’s role in the discovery of the site. He has also written several articles in the press about the many other links between South African and Italian history.

One of his articles told the story of Teresa Viglione who heroically tried to warn Voortrekkers ahead of the Bloukrans massacre in 1838.

Another article looked at the South African links to families like Malan; Jourdan, which is Jordaan in South Africa; Joubert; Faure; Mesnard, which is Minnaar in South Africa; and Malerbe, which is Malherbe in South Africa.

He also wrote about the Italians who went to Gouna Forest in Knysna in the early 1890s.

“All these articles were my own work, where I did personal interviews with the people concerned or researched the information published,” said André.

In March 2007, André was awarded the Order of the Star of Italy, for his research and writing, and he was given the title of “Cavalier”, an Italian knighthood, by the then Italian consulate general in Cape Town, Dr Alberto Vecchi.

“I was also presented with the official certificate that went with the order from the Interior Ministry in Rome, Italy. I was very surprised and felt very proud of myself,” said Andr233.

These days, he connects with members of the Italian community on Facebook through his page, Italian History in South Africa Group, which has 277 members and is growing.

This group is not only for South Africans with Italian heritage but also for South Africans wanting to find out more about the Italian community.