BAKGATLA-BA-KGAFELA OVERVIEW


THE CULTURAL PRECINCT AT MORULENG IN THE PILANESBERG 

 

Totem Media is developing a cultural precinct for the Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela, a dynamic, forward-looking community in the Pilanesberg. Phase One will open on Heritage Day in September 2014.

The development of the cultural precinct will entail the renovation of an old school to become a library and archive, the installation of a permanent exhibition in the Mphebatho Museum, the restoration of the old Dutch Reformed Mission Church, and the building of a new lekgotla. The precinct will give visitors an understanding of the rich history and culture of the people of the area, and is designed to inspire conversations on culture, knowledge systems, identity, development, the environment and the future. 

Project summary

The establishment of the Moruleng Cultural Precinct is now in the implementation phase with construction officially having started in February 2014. This includes the restoration of the Mphebatho Museum building and the conservation of the old Dutch Reformed Church, which is celebrating 150 years in 2014. The Moruleng Cultural Precinct will include the creation of an iron age settlement pattern, a lekgotla that can seat up to 200 people, and way-finding and external information panels at selected places of interest. Totem Media is developing an interactive museum experience in both the Mphebatho Museum and the old Dutch Reformed Church that is intended to change perceptions of rural communities, and inspire and inform both locals and visitors through the presentation and delivery of vibrant Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela stories and histories.

Some of the driving considerations of the project were the preservation and celebration of heritage, the promotion of education, community development, the promotion of careers in the heritage sector, job creation through the empowerment of local entrepreneurs, artists, crafters, tourism, and nation building. In light of this, Totem Media developed a Heritage Workers programme specific to the needs of the Moruleng Cultural Precinct. Totem Media has also developed a digital archive that will be managed by the Mphebatho Museum and ultimately housed in the New Library and Archive. Construction of the Library and Archive will begin upon completion of this current phase of the Moruleng Cultural Precinct.

Totem Media has been working with the Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela since 2010. It has been a fascinating journey of discovery and we feel confident that the Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela are embarking on a heritage project that will not only benefit their own community but will offer a set of best practices for other southern African communities to follow. It is very rare indeed that rural communities have the resources and the political will to embark on projects like this. The Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela archive, museums and cultural precinct have the potential to lead the way for other communities, governments and policy makers.  

 

The two Cultural Precincts 

The Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela is one community split across the border between South Africa and Botswana. It is a community divided by history and by an international border but connected in every other way.

A difficult relationship between the Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela and the Boers culminated in the public flogging of Kgosi Kgamanyane by Paul Kruger in 1870, when Kgosi Kgamanyane refused to provide free labour (essentially slave labour) for the Boers. Kgosi Kgamanyane then left the Transvaal and eventually took refuge in Botswana at Mochudi. However, he sent representatives from all the clans back to Moruleng in the Transvaal to look after their interests there.
 

Aerial of Molokwane -
a 17th century city
alongside the Pilanesberg.

Professor Christian John Makgala

Our relationship with Totem Media

“As members of the Board of Phuthadikobo Museum in Mochudi we met on several occasions with experts from Totem Media. The Totem Media group was led by Francis Gerard. Totem Media has also met with officials from Mphebatho Museum in Moruleng, a sister Museum to Phuthadikobo Museum in Mochudi. The two meseums belong to the Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela community which has one section in Moruleng (Northwest Province of South Africa) and Kgatleng District in Botswana. However, the two sections are under the leadership of Kgosi Kgolo Kgafela II who is based in Mochudi in Botswana.


“Totem Media plays the role of consultants who assist the two museums to modernize and be efficient in the use of available space and resources/artifects. In January 2010 delegates from Phuthadikobo and Mphebatho Museums met with Francis and his team at their base, The Origins Centre, in Johannesburg. We were shown around the ultra-modern and state of and art facility of which we would like our two museums to emulate. This was a very helpful experience in terms of knowledge on how artifacts are cared for and displayed in the most efficient and eye catching manner.


“We subsequently met with Francis’ team on a couple of occasions at Phuthadikobo Museum. The first meeting involved a tour of the village’s historical and cultural landmarks of significance. These form part of the planned ‘cultural/heritage hub’ the Museum is intending to establish in Mochudi. The second meeting was largely about update on some of the tasks that Totem Media has suggested as a way forward. There was a very helpful presentation by Bathusi Lesolobe on his UNESCO sponsored project on aspects of culture in Botswana, with Kgatleng be used as a pilot project. Challenges faced by the community, such as the on-going court case involving Kgosi Kgolo Kgafela II were also touched on. Generally our interaction with Totem Media has been as spiritually uplifting as it is educational, and we appreciate it greatly.”

 

Both communities have community-owned museums that have been developed in old community-owned school buildings that were originally built by their initiation regiments. The Mphebatho Museum is in Moruleng and the Phuthadikobo Museum is in Mochudi. With the financial resources that have been made possible through platinum, there has been a recent commitment to reinvigorate these two museums and get them to talk to each other, telling the story of the Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela united in tradition despite their physical and historical separation.

 

Part of the temporary exhibition at the Mphebatho Museum in Moruleng.
 

One of many photographs taken in the 1930s in Mochudi, Botswana by Isaac Schapera.

In the national democracies of both South Africa and Botswana there are communities like the Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela that are trying to rediscover and assert their identities. Totem has worked with the Bafokeng on a similar project and is committed to contributing to the discourse on preserving the heritage of rural communities. Such projects face numerous and fascinating challenges:
  • the lack of material culture to use in exhibitions;
  • the need to repatriate images and artifacts;
  • the differences between traditional value systems and that of the national democracy;
  • the conflict between the information communicated in oral histories and the evidence uncovered by archaeologists and historians;
  • working within the hierarchies and protocols of traditional communities.   

Two panels in the exhibition at the Mphebatho Museum that deal with
the use of pots and ceramics in the traditional community.  
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