The month of September was packed with exciting events and developments that made it a memorable celebration of our heritage at Fountains Valley in the City of Tshwane. The excitement around Spring day on the 1st and the new Instagram frames were an instant hit among visitors signalling the increasing popularity of the Long March To Freedom as one of the leading tourist and heritage destinations in the country.
Heritage Day, held every year on the 24th September, was definitely the main highlight of the month. Tumo, one of the Long March tour guides, was on site on the day and said of his experience with the many visitors,
On Heritage Day South Africans proved they were not Heritage Refugees by flooding in their numbers to the Long March to Freedom wearing different cultural regalia … It was so spectacular that I wished dressing in our traditional clothing would be an everyday thing. (Tumo Bopape. Long March to Freedom site guide)
Many visitors found the Long March to Freedom so inspiring they had to resort to song and dance to honour their heroes. For example, during heritage weekend the baPedi could be seen dressed in their traditional garb, dancing around King Sekhukhune. Tumo said people were decked out in different traditional attires that would complement the type of fashion displayed by some of the Long March figures who themselves are depicted in traditional dress, most notably Chiefs Faku, Tshwane, Pilane and Dalisile.
The National Heritage Monument was extremely excited to welcome King Haile Selassie as the newest addition to the Long March To Freedom during this festive month. He is one of the most colourful and greatly anticipated sculptures to date and a most valued addition to the almost 100 heroes on site. Other ‘newcomers’ to the site included King Cetshwayo and Chiefs Langalibalele, Doman and Sekhukhune, four of our sculptures that had been on loan to the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town for the 350-year celebrations. They were now safely returned to their rightful place at Fountains Valley. King Cetshwayo became the centre of attention as he came new and improved from the foundry at Sculpture Casting Services. He now had a more colourful blanket which site guide Momo thought made him the best sculpture among all the statues and her all out favourite so far.
The Mamelodi Sundowns Junior Academy also graced us with their presence towards the end of the month. The visit, according to Alfred Mahapa was in remembrance of former Robben Island inmates and the role of football in their lives in prison. The youngsters had a lot of passion and willingness to learn and celebrated the heroes in song. It was inspiring to watch them sing around the statue of Chris Hani as they honoured him.
We also commemorated the deaths and births of some of our most prominent icons. We celebrated Yusuf Dadoo’s birthday on the 5th of September and commemorated the 40th anniversary of Steve Biko’s death on the 12th of September, an important event to celebrate as many visitors remember his contribution to the struggle through his ideologies. Interestingly, Ray Alexander, a heroine of trade unionism, another bronze figure in our procession, also passed away on the 12th of September. An eventful month for the Long March to Freedom, where we consider every day, Heritage Day.