Museums showcase SA’s place in history
From ancient Egyptian relics and some of the world’s earliest art to glimpses of the formative activities of southern Africa’s 19th century expansion, the Cape’s platteland museums are a trove of note, writes MICHAEL MORRIS
BASED at the aptly named “Laaiplek” – which he owned, then – Johan Carel Stephan of St Helena Bay ran a fish-forgrain trading enterprise which, with a fleet of cutters plying the Berg River, linked the wheat farmers of the Moorreesburg hinterland with the flour mills and bakers of Cape Town.
The boatmen, manning some 60 cutters, went upriver with dried and salted fish, which they traded for wheat, returning to the coast with the grain, which was transferred to larger boats out in the bay, Rooibaai, and sent on down to Cape Town.
Today, overlooking the setting that once witnessed all this activity, is the SA Fisheries Museum in De Villiers Street, Laaiplek, among whose exhibits on the region’s fishing traditions is an account of the resourceful Stephan’s late 19th century commercial scheme.
It is one of 11 country museums celebrated in a Cape Winelands and West Coast Museum Route brochure produced by the Western Cape’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport to mark International Museum Day last month.
Each museum has its own distinctive character and collections – informed by each town or community’s place in the evolving society and economy of one of
A finely crafted model of a trawler (left) at the SA Fisheries Museum in Velddrif, and (above) the famed Ransome threshing machine, ‘The Pink Lady’, at the Wheat Industry Museum in Moorreesburg, acknowledged as one of only three “wheat museums” in the world.