SAVE THE DATE: Watercourse History Festival 

Published: November 16th, 2021

Crossing Borders – The 3rd Watercourse History Festival in Plettenberg Bay

23-26 FEBRUARY 2022

The Third Watercourse History Festival in Plettenberg Bay, which takes place at the Piesang Valley Hall and Wittedrift High School, is sponsored by the Bitou Municipality, WESGRO, The Cradle of Human Culture, and Plett Tourism.

This fascinating festival has been designed for those with a passion for history and storytelling. The main theme for the upcoming festival is Crossing Borders and presentations will cover mainly South African history from the 17th through to the 21st century.  Top speakers include Professor D.J. Culpin on the French traveler Le Vaillant, Ghorinhaqua activist Ron Martin on Khoekhoen resistance, and Nick Mallett on transformation in South African rugby. The programme below outlines the historical journey that visitors can take when attending the festival, along with a range of fun-filled Plett activities to round off the weekend.

Watercourse History Festival
Watercourse History Festival

On Wednesday, 23rd February, the opening presentation will be hosted by veteran TV personality David Hall-Green on the topic of of ‘Kitchener’s Revenge: The Battle of Omdurman in the Sudan, 1898’. This will be followed by Professor Mike de Jongh’s discussion of “Truly South African – Rebellious, but Religious, Desperado, but Devoted – the saga and enigma of Coenraad de Buys (1761-1821)”. Professor D.J. Culpin will be both presenting “Le Vaillant’s Travels into the Interior of Africa – adapting an African travel narrative to the literary tastes of 18th century France” – and launching his latest English translation, published by the Historical Publications of Southern Africa (HiPSA), at the festival.

On Thursday, 24th February, journalist, and editor Chiara Carter will discuss “Alternative Media in the Apartheid Era”, followed by Professor Howard Philips on the Spanish Flu of 1918.  They say a picture paints a thousand words; history buffs and art lovers alike can look forward to a presentation by Andrew Lamprecht, curator of Iziko/SANG, on historical artworks and their contemporary relevance for modern museums.

On Friday, 25th February, Dr Dan Sleigh will discuss “The Return Fleets of the Dutch East India Company: 1602-1795”. Dr Sleigh is followed by Vivian Bickford-Smith on “The Significance of Interracial Friendships in the Apartheid Era”.  Former anti-apartheid activist and sociologist Josette Cole, who is now a freelance development consultant, researcher, and writer, delves into “Workshopping community histories.”  The day is rounded off by former Springbok Rugby captain, coach and SuperSport personality, Nick Mallet who will address a gala dinner in support of the local Plett Rugby Club.

Watercourse History Festival 2022

On Saturday, 26th February, debuts the inaugural Watermark Secondary Student Sessions at Wittedrift High School introducing learners to a history far richer and more immersive than a mere textbook could offer. Entertaining Knysna historian and journalist, Martin Hatchuel will discuss the use of historical characters in fiction. Journalist and editor, heritage consultant, Ron Martin, the chairman of the First People’s Museum Foundation and a member of the Gorinhaiqua Indigenous Council, will introduce “Early Khoekhoin Resistance to Dutch Colonization.” And, to round off the presentations, Piers Pigou – one of the interlocutors at the South African Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC) – will speak on the current insurgency in the Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado, a true incident of “Crossing Borders”.

For a well-rounded Plett visit, there are a variety of natural and historical opportunities for sightseeing: Robberg Nature Reserve offers both a look into ancient history and a splendid slice of sun, sand, and sea, while hiking, birding and mountain biking abound. Plettenberg Bay has recently received six international Blue Flag beach awards for 2021/2022 and there are any number of marine activities to enjoy. Our animal sanctuaries are known to be some of the best in the country and, for a sparkling end to the day, pop in at one of Plett’s wine estates.

*Please note dates of presentations correct at time of going to press.

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