Pretoria - The Javett Art Centre at the University of Pretoria yesterday hosted guests for a contested dialogue on the Mapungubwe heritage and an exhibition of its gold to commemorate the Day of Reconciliation.
The museum brought together an array of speakers and perspectives including academics, spiritual leaders and representatives of the Mapungubwe heritage site to discuss the meaning and importance of the national treasures.
This gold – carved into different artefacts – and the famous Golden Rhinoceros were lost over a 1 000 years ago in a Mapungubwe royal grave. They represent a largely untold history of sophisticated Southern African civilisations.
Chief executive of the heritage site Lekgetho Makola said as part of introducing their mission and vision, it was paramount to focus on the legacies of Mapungubwe and its relevance to the current context of the country.
“This is a country that is still trying to find itself, a country that is going through turbulence. We have seen events in the recent past; some people called it an uprising and some people called it looting, but it is a symptom of an unsettled country where dignity has been eroded in people of this region.
“The Mapungubwe collection represents what was missing during the apartheid era, where the stories of the people were never told authentically, obviously for political reasons of the government back then.
“Currently, what we have here are very critical and significant stories of the culture and heritage of the people of this country, that we believe form part of trying to reconcile the people and their histories. And it is that which builds confidence and integrity in the people, to begin to define their own destiny.”
Guests took their time to view the collection recovered in the 1930s by a team of academic and amateur archaeologists from the University of Pretoria, including the gold that was excavated from the graveyard on Mapungubwe Hill.
These artefacts, which were kept hidden for many years, represent evidence of a wealthy, developed, and civilised African kingdom that already existed in the 1200s.
This was a kingdom of traders who conducted international trading business.
Professor Mathole Motshekga, a former chief whip of the ANC, said this evidence challenged the colonial and apartheid ideologies that supposedly justified European settlement and white rule.
He said the Mapungubwe pre-colonial civilisation demonstrated that black South Africans had occupied the region for a least 1 000 years before the arrival of Europeans.