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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The 1952 Jan Van Riebeeck Tercentenary Festival: Constructing and Contesting Public National History in South Africa
Authors:Rassool, Ciraj
Witz, Leslie
Periodical:The Journal of African History
Geographic term:South Africa
Politics and Government
Ethnic and Race Relations
History and Exploration
Abstract:Up until the 1950s, Jan Van Riebeeck appeared only in passing in school history texts in South Africa, and the day of his landing at the Cape in 1652 was barely commemorated. From the 1950s, however, Van Riebeeck acquired centre stage in South Africa's public history. This was not the result of an Afrikaner Nationalist conspiracy but arose out of an attempt to create a settler nationalist ideology. The means to achieve this was a massive celebration throughout the country of the 300th anniversary of Van Riebeeck's landing. Here was an attempt to display the growing power of the apartheid State and to assert its confidence. Just as the Van Riebeeck tercentenary afforded the white ruling bloc an opportunity to construct an ideological hegemony, it was grasped by the Non-European Unity Movement and the ANC to launch political campaigns. Through the public mediums of the resistance press and the mass meeting these organizations presented a counter-history of South Africa. In the conflict which played itself out in 1952 there was a remarkable consensus about the meaning of Van Riebeeck's landing. The narrative constructed represented Van Riebeeck as the spirit of apartheid and the originator of white domination. The ideological frenzy in the centre of Cape Town in 1952 resurrected Van Riebeeck from obscurity and historical amnesia to become the lead actor on South Africa's public history stage. Notes, ref., sum.