If Cape Town's attraction for Europeans is its resemblance to their motherlands, then the historic event of April 18, 2013, underscored their African location when the tranquil scenic beach of Blouberg was invaded by "real Africa". Waking up to a morning sea breeze for their usual jog on a normally quiet beach, Blouberg residents were confronted with unusual scenes of amaqgirha- traditional doctors- dancing to the beat of an African drum. The African imagery was occasioned by the 19th century historic figure, Makhanda kaNxele.
The amaqgirha had come so that his spirit could “return home”. Nxele drowned near Blouberg in 1820 as he escaped, with 30 other inmates, from Robben Island prison. He had been arrested for leading an attack against Grahamstown’s British settlers in 1819. The attack turned out to be the fourth of 10 frontier wars the natives waged against the invading British. A military general and igqira – traditional doctor – to Chief Ndlambe, Nxele’s attack was
thwarted only by the superiority of the British firepower. The warriors’ spears were no match for the cannon. They were slaughtered and their blood turned the Kowie River red. Today that battleground is called eGazini – a place of blood – and a memorial has been erected as a reminder of the gallant efforts of African warriors in defence of their freedom. The cannon has also been memorialised by settlers in places like King William’s Town to celebrate their conquest.
*Originally published in the Sunday Independent.
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