Project seeks to document living heritage

Recording Living Heritage

Long-time residents of Salt River and Nyanga as well as people who were forced out of Constantia under apartheid are being asked to tell their stories as part of a heritage project.

Recording Living Heritage: (Y)ourstory is a joint venture by the National Research Fund and UCT’s spatial justice programme, led by the university’s School of Architecture, Planning and Geomatics.

The goal is to document the living heritage of those three areas.

The Salt River Heritage Society (SRHS), the Constantia Heritage Education Project (CHEP) and the Nyanga Tourism Project will help with documenting information.

Dr Naomi Roux, a senior lecturer at UCT’s School of Architecture, Planning and Geomatics, leads the programme.

“We want to build up an inventory of memories of people who lived in those areas,” she said.

Heritage was not only about buildings, monuments and statues but about how people contributed to the personality of an area, she said.

She hopes to build an archival record of people who are part of the history of Salt River, Nyanga and Constantia.

SRHS, CHEP and the Nyanga Tourism Project have been on a training programme since June to prepare.

The programme was developed and run by Deirdre Prins-Solani, an intangible cultural heritage expert, who is accredited by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).

“Understanding and documenting living heritage is a part of understanding who we are as individuals, communities and society,” Ms Prins-Solani said.

Living heritage was often sustained and passed on, in spite of changing circumstances and challenges, because of values important to the specific communities, she said.

“These values are what makes the glue in personhood and society at large.”

The course was held over Zoom because of Covid-19, and the three organisations met people from Jamaica and Morocco who were doing similar work.

Shabodien Roomaney, the founder of SRHS, said documenting history could give people back their heritage.

“We must be able to tell the heritage through our own eyes and experience and not allow people from the outside to tell our stories,” he said.

CHEP represents people removed from Constantia under apartheid.

It’s founder, Claire Lester, said: “We want to re-ignite a conversation with the present and past residents about the forced removals in the 1960s.”

Residents and former residents of the three communities who would like to share their stories are asked to reach out to the three organisations by Wednesday October 21.

“If any residents with living knowledge of Salt River or Nyanga and ex-residents of Constantia are not sure of the process, the three organisations will fill you in as to the steps to be followed, and all information will be protected,” Dr Roux said.

Salt River residents can contact Lutfi Omar from SRHS at lutfiomar@gmail.com or 079 814 9492.

Former Constantia residents can contact Claire Lester from CHEP at info@constantiaheritage.org.za or 078 198 1156.

Nyanga residents can contact Mlandeli Mbiko from Nyanga Tourism-Project at ndf1mbiko@gmail.com or call 061 496 5308.

Because of Covid-19, interviews will be done by WhatsApp video. There is the option of completing a questionnaire for collection or doing it online.

One-on-one interviews following Covid-19 protocols will also be used.