The Fountains Valley Resort was filled with excitement, singing and dancing on 25 July 2017 as the Department of Arts & Culture brought their Young Patriots Induction Programme to the Long March to Freedom in Fountains Valley and made it the first stop on their tour of Gauteng’s top heritage sites.
The Young Patriots Induction Programme is a new and inspirational initiative run by the Department of Arts & Culture. This programme welcomes youth from all provinces to work together to learn more about the country’s heritage by visiting various heritage sites in each province. And what better way to start this initiative than to visit one of the country’s newest and most exciting heritage sites?
As it was the first event of this programme the Department of Arts & Culture brought a group of three hundred people to visit two influential sites situated in Tshwane. They were the Long March to Freedom procession and Freedom Park, both within a few kilometres of one another. The procession currently hosts 100 bronze life-size figures representing generations of freedom fighters who were significant in South Africa’s struggle for democracy. Our passionate tour guides on site took visitors on a whirlwind tour of this fascinating and troubled history, beginning in the mid-1650s with the first chiefs and ending in 1994 at the dawn of democracy with Nelson Mandela, Oliver and Adelaide Tambo and Walter and Albertina Sisulu.
The young patriots were first welcomed to the Long March to Freedom by the National Heritage Monument (NHM) site guides Phuthego Shivambo, Tumo Bopape, Mario Costa Joao, Alfred Mahapa and Momo Tsatsi. These guides divided the crowd into four groups and gave them a tour of each sculpture. Although there are 100 figures it was evident which ones stood out for the visitors. NHM site manager Aya Gidi noticed how the young patriots were drawn to iconic figures such as Solomon Mahlangu, Chris Hani as well as Adelaide and Oliver Tambo. These figures were usually surrounded by vibrant songs and dancing youths who wanted to pay tribute to these powerful freedom fighters.
Although the tour only lasted two hours, the visit to the site was deemed a success as visitors were inspired to engage with South Africa’s history in a completely different and novel way. The visitors were not afraid to share their opinion and asked the site guides various questions about the history of South African politics and the liberation struggle. Others were deeply affected by the procession as it brought back memories and allowed them to share their stories and views of the liberation struggle.
The visit to The Long March to Freedom procession was a joyous event for The Young Patriots Induction Programme as well as the site guides. It was here that the guides were able to inform and inspire the youth to learn more about their heritage. Although it was the first stop in their heritage site visits, the Long March to Freedom tour was definitely an exciting experience for the youth as it encouraged them to appreciate heritage sites and also to honour those who risked their lives for a free and fair South Africa.