Voortrekker: My New Favorite Afrikaans Word

Joe and I woke up ridiculously early one Sunday morning. It was a beautiful day. Joe had an idea for an outing but wouldn’t tell me what it was. He ushered me into the car and we headed up the M1 toward Pretoria.

When I saw this granite monolith staring down at us, I realized Joe was taking me to the Voortrekker Monument.

Die Voortrekkermonument. (It’s all one word in Afrikaans.) Voortrekker, which means ‘pioneer’, is pronounced ‘FOUR-trecker’, with a rolled R that I can’t replicate.

Before I came to South Africa, my knowledge of this country’s history went something like this:

South Africa has black people and white people. For a long time, the white minority ruled the black majority under an oppressive regime called apartheid. Then Nelson Mandela came and won freedom for black people. The end.

I think many other foreigners arrive here with similar levels of knowledge. But a visit to the Voortekker Monument, or to the Apartheid Museum (which I’ve visited twice but haven’t written about — too overwhelming), will show you quickly that there’s a lot more to South Africa’s history than that.

Blog-reading attention spans are short (at least mine is), so I try to keep my posts under 1,000 words. Explaining the history of the Voortrekkers and their monument would take five times that. So I’ll show you my pictures and keep the explanations brief. If you want to learn more, Wikipedia has a very informative description.

The Voortrekker Monument sits atop a big hill so you can see it from all over Pretoria. There are beautiful vistas around the monument, including this view of the Pretoria Telkom Tower through a coral tree (a.k.a. lucky bean tree) in full bloom. The monument is surrounded by a nature reserve, filled with indigenous plants and hiking/mountain biking trails.

Me climbing the monument stairs. The monument, which was built between 1937 and 1949, is 40 meters (131 feet) high, and the base is 40 meters by 40 meters. I’m sure there’s some symbolism there, as everything in this building is symbolic of something. (Photo courtesy of Joe.)

There are statues of Voortrekker leaders at each corner of the monument: Piet Retief, Andries Pretorius, Hendrik Potgieter, and one generic statue representing all the other Voortrekker leaders. I think this is the generic statue, which appears to be gazing at a dying aloe flower.

Inside the main atrium of the monument is a jaw-dropping marble frieze, stretching around the four walls, depicting the Voortrekkers’ ‘Great Trek’ from 1835 to 1852. According to Wiki, it’s the largest marble frieze in the world.

The frieze shows the Voortrekkers packing up their belongings in the Cape Colony, along South Africa’s eastern coast (the scene shown above), and moving through the interior of the country to find new land to settle on. The Voortrekkers fought bloody battles with the Zulus, and the frieze’s battle scenes are disturbing. (I took many photos of the battle panels but I’m not happy with any of them.) The frieze story ends with the Voortrekkers signing a treaty with the British at the 1852 Sand River Convention.

Obviously, this frieze depicts the Voortrekkers as heroes and the black Africans as villains. Much the same way that my grammar school history books portrayed the American pioneers as brave adventurers and the Indians as cold-blooded killers. But as we all know (or should know), history is never that simple. As I walked around the atrium and watched history unfold, I thought about the bravery, determination, and evil on both sides of this complicated story.

We climbed several flights of stairs to the top of the monument and looked down on the atrium. This view gives more perspective on the sheer size of the monument and the scale of the frieze. The circle in the middle looks down on the lower level of the monument, which is called Cenotaph Hall. More on the Cenotaph below.

The Cenotaph is an empty tomb on the lower level of the monument, representing the Voortrekker lives lost during the Great Trek. Every year, at exactly noon on 16 December, a ray of light shines through a hole in the dome and hits the center of the Cenotaph, supposedly symbolizing God’s blessing of the Voortrekkers. 16 December 1838 was the date of the Battle of Blood River, when the Voortrekkers defeated the Zulus.

Cenotaph Hall gave me the creeps. The florescent lights cast an artificial glow on the Cenotaph. Many of the flags circling the Cenotaph, which represent the different Voortrekker Republics, have since become symbols of South Africa’s white supremacists.

Creepiness aside, there are several interesting things to see in Cenotaph Hall, including many paintings of the Great Trek, a lantern that has been kept alight since 1938, and a long needlepoint tapestry, sewn by Afrikaans women, which illustrates the role that women played in the Great Trek. There is also a small museum one floor below, with interesting artifacts and funny Afrikaans mannequins sitting in wagons.

I really enjoyed visiting the Voortrekker Monument. I gained a new understanding and respect for the Afrikaans people, who embarked on a perilous journey across South Africa and ultimately built this stunning monument. But the monument also unsettled me. It emanates a “We’re in power here, don’t mess with us” kind of vibe. And the Voortrekker monument still serves as a symbol for right-wing Afrikaans nationalists, who would prefer that South Africa return to its pre-1994 configuration.

It sure is a beautiful place though. Worth checking out on a sunny winter Sunday.

Also, ‘Voortrekker’ has surpassed ‘bakkie’ as my new favorite Afrikaans word.

Previous Post Next Post


  • Reply miadidthis August 10, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    The cenotaph hall has always given me the creeps, as a child and as an adult. And it smells funny. Did you not feel like you were going to fall off the balcony onto the tomb? Or is that just me and my vertigo?

    A visit to the Voortrekker monument is like the 8th graders’ visit to D.C – almost a right of passage. I found various similarities in the general feeling and the messaging during my visit to the Capitol.

    • Reply 2summers August 10, 2011 at 4:15 pm

      There definitely are some similarities to the U.S. Capitol. Hadn’t thought of that before but you’re right!

      Several years ago, Joe actually dropped a HUGE camera lens off the balcony while covering the festivities there on 16 December. It just barely missed hitting a person and smashed on the floor of the atrium. Can you imagine??

  • Reply laurenbarkume August 10, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    Interesting. I was planning on making a trip up to visit this place about a month ago but got sidetracked. Should be interesting to see. And you’ve got some nice photos of it too!

    • Reply 2summers August 10, 2011 at 4:12 pm

      You’ll love it there. Endless interesting photo-ops of both people and things.

  • Reply Kathryn McCullough August 10, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    Fascinating, Heather. I know next to nothing about South Africa, but from living in Haiti, I know how colonialsm can “complicate” the history of a country!
    The view of the atrium from above is amazing!

    • Reply 2summers August 10, 2011 at 4:11 pm

      Thanks Kathy. Seriously, the history of SA is so complicated. You’ve got the Dutch/Afrikaaners (also called Boers, to make things more confusing), the English, and a couple dozen black African kingdoms, all warring with each other for hundreds of years, with multiple changes of power in varying places. Then there are the coloured people (which does not mean the same thing as coloured in the U.S.), the Indians, the Cape Malay, and the unbelievably confusing history of apartheid and how it came to be and its ultimate downfall. Then everything that’s happened since. It’s enough to make your head spin.

  • Reply Derek Smith August 10, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    As a passionate South African born and bred in Pretoria I truly hate that building as my youth and young adulthood was spend in the shadow of its ugliness. It has no grace or redeeming futures – It hulks on the hill with a “don’t fuck with us” attitude as you said in a much nicer way. I call it “The Toaster” as it reminds me of something out of the 50’s you use to toast bread with. I wish someone will paint it pink and use it as a gay convention hall.
    Five of my great grand-parents lost their lives in Boer concentration camps but that doesn’t alter the fact that have no respect for this building and what it represents. The Union Building on Meintjeskop is another story, It floats as it is in perfect balance with its surroundings. I was there the day Mandela gave his inauguration speech. Check it out and compare the architecture to that of the Voortrekker Monument:

    • Reply 2summers August 10, 2011 at 7:43 pm

      Ah, Derek. I can always count on you for an interesting comment. Thanks for expressing your passionate views. I agree that the Union Buildings are beautiful and I need to do a post on them too 🙂

    • Reply 2summers August 10, 2011 at 7:53 pm

      And now that you mention it, you’re right. The monument does look a bit like a toaster.

    • Reply Gideon Roos April 6, 2015 at 5:37 am

      As a proud Boer I take some offense at such comments, but that’s just because I’m from the ethnic group that monument is about.
      To me it represents the history of a proud people. A people who faced both the elements, dangerous foes, and unforgiving wilderness to make a home for themselves and their children. It is a sad thing that so much of our history is now being distorted by the new regime. I’m not denying anything we did, but I’m saying it’s recently being blown up. The people in power use it to scare the normal folk into voting. They use apartheid the same way the apartheid regime use the “swart gevaar”.
      Truly we never had democracy in our country. We went from a fascist regime to a cleptocracy – a rule by thieves.
      South Africa turned from a country of opression into a family business. Until we get people in command that actually have an education, and stop the racist BEE system that’s destroying our economy, and replace it with a system that looks at acadmic and experiencial merit ONLY, we can not be so cocky as to call South Africa a Democracy.

      • Reply 2summers April 7, 2015 at 4:40 pm

        Thanks Gideon. The issues coming up now as a result of the statue debates are waaay to complicated for me to weigh in on, as I still feel like a relative newcomer to South Africa in this regard. But I appreciate your comment and your honesty.

        • Reply Shojiro Katsuragi September 20, 2019 at 8:00 am

          So I’m coming back to this years later, (it’s the same me, just lost my wordpress account), and having recently emigrated to Japan, it’s quite strange to see my old writings.

          People sure change with time, don’t they? And a damned lot has happened in the intervening time. We’ve impeached a president, my family was robbed four times in a year, one robbery nearly seeing my mother killed, and the other my uncle shot and left for dead (and he did die in the end), the currency tanked twice in as many years, and partially a third time just a couple months ago, the list goes on.

          I always knew we had it bad in South Africa, but I never knew quite how bad until I moved to Japan and saw everything just working. For the first time in my life I could truly just relax. For the first time in my life I could walk down the street and not have to double-check every person walking past to make sure they weren’t aiming for my wallet, or something similar, and for the first time I felt safe on the road, both from other drivers and the road itself. It was an amazing experience to travel halfway across the country by train, just relaxing in a comfortable seat and changing trains in seconds between the one stopping and the other taking off, both on time to within the dozen seconds, over and over and over again.

          I do miss South Africa’s dry summar air, though. Summers here are as hot as they are in South Africa, but with a positively criminal level of humidity.

          Getting back to the topic of the blogpost, I find it almost silly that I took offense at the negative comments regarding the old monument. It’s a pointless emotion that does nothing but stroke one’s own ego and sense of righteousness, neither of which is a good thing most of the time. People will always have their opinions, as is their right, and people will always speak without thinking twice (if at all) on the internet. Why sour one’s day over petty things like whether someone likes the aesthetics of a building?

          Granted, I still very much appreciate the symbolism of the Voortrekker monument, now moreso than ever before, actually. But I have grown tired of blowing hot air all over the internet as so many do, and I used to. Then again, few people blow hot air as well as teenagers, that is practically all they do, if they’re not somewhere around a corner fornicating, that is. And the world has enough hot air as it is. And this trait is quite universal, so much so that the Japanese kanji for older brother / teenager (it has both meanings) is a big mouth on human legs.

  • Reply joshi mukard August 11, 2011 at 6:56 am

    Sorry for not reading your posts for the last one month, Heather. The reason is, I shifted my house from one part of the city to another and I haven’t yet got a Internet connection at home. And in my office you blog is blocked because it is listed under ‘relationship’ category. Only today I finally managed to find some time to visit a Internet cafe and comment here.

    Reading your post after a long break….I felt good.

    As ususal superb photos.

    • Reply 2summers August 11, 2011 at 9:00 am

      Haha, I didn’t know I had a ‘relationship’ blog! Funny. Anyway, thanks for coming back, Joshi. Hope your move went well!

  • Reply Jaco August 11, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    The monument is also fashioned on a similar monument that was to be built in Germany during the 1930s. Another interesting tidbit. My dad was at the opening of the Voortrekker Monument in 1949, and he was born in the same year that the foundations were laid. Apart from this anomaly my dad is a really cool person, and I although I often think he gets frustrated with my political views, I know that deep down he is quite proud that I can think for myself! The one redeeming feature for this monument? The rather overt Art Deco influences. Oh, for a nice overview of South African history, start with Allistair Sparks’ books. The first one is called “the mind of South Africa” and in my view one of the most informative books on South African history.

    • Reply 2summers August 11, 2011 at 3:56 pm

      Thanks Jaco, love getting your take on things like this. I’ll check out this book if I ever get caught up on my reading list 🙂

  • Reply Sophia August 11, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    People always build monuments to themselves / their ancestors. What I find interesting is how buildings and their reasons for being are connected. This monument looks fortresslike. It’s not a monument that seems to sit comfortably in the landscape. In many ways it’s a war memorial, but this one, unlike a Trafalgar Square, or Arc D’Triumph, or even Iwo Jima, sort of vibes: “We feel threatened about our place here now, and in the historical record, but we are staying, and this monument explains why.” To me, it’s almost the physical expression an ongoing siege mentality. But a beautiful post, as always!

    • Reply 2summers August 12, 2011 at 8:10 am

      Thanks, Sophia. Your description is really spot-on. And much of the apartheid-era architecture around Joburg conveys the same message. Thanks for reading!

  • Reply tomorrowslices August 13, 2011 at 7:27 am

    I think you should add a sound “byte” of yourself saying the word “Voortrekker” and a few other Afrikaans words that you have learnt!

    • Reply 2summers August 13, 2011 at 12:26 pm

      That is actually a very good idea! I just might do that 🙂

  • Reply Joburg Expat August 17, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    Hi Heather, great post (I’m trying to catch up after a week in Zanzibar). Will put it on my weekend-to-do list (or should I call it torture-the-kids list). You mention that you haven’t tried yet to write about the Apartheid Museum. I did write about it at http://joburgexpat.blogspot.com/2011/04/trip-back-into-south-africas-history.html and also included pictures (up to the point where the security guard informed me that pictures were strictly forbidden), in case you are interested.

  • Reply @injoburg August 21, 2011 at 1:02 am

    Visited it some time ago – it reminds me most of Scrooge Duck’s money vault in Duckburg 🙂 Actually, it’s rather like the Voelkerslachtdenkmal (also one word) in Leipzig, Germany, which is sort of similar: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monument_to_the_Battle_of_the_Nations. Both very heavy monuments.
    Did you notice the wall around it with the trekker carts in defensive circle? Adds to the ‘untouchable’ message it emanates.
    Peering over that balcony I also wondered if a falling object could maim an innocent Afrikaner below; Joe took that thought a step further it seems!

    • Reply 2summers August 21, 2011 at 8:13 am

      Yes, we saw the wagon circle. That balcony is definitely a dangerous temptation for photographers.

  • Reply The Simple Life of a Country Man's Wife September 8, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    Looked like a fun day. Enjoyed your photos.

  • Reply Lakia Gordon September 8, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    I really enjoyed the pictures! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Reply 2summers September 9, 2011 at 11:55 am

      Thank you, Lakia. Much appreciated.

  • Reply Mikalee Byerman September 8, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    That darn rolling “r” … I can’t do it, either!

    Beautiful pictures. Perhaps worth waking up ridiculously early, I’d imagine…


    • Reply 2summers September 9, 2011 at 11:53 am

      Thanks Mikalee. Definitely worth the early wake-up. I’ve been trying to practice the Rs lately but still no improvement.

  • Reply Kathryn McCullough September 8, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    You’ve been Freshly Pressed, Heather! Congratulations, my friend! You deserve this! Hope South Carolina is going welll.

    • Reply 2summers September 8, 2011 at 9:33 pm

      Yeah! I was very surprised to come home and see all these comments. Wow. Anyway, thanks Kathy. Having a great time in SC and will post a blog soon, I hope.

  • Reply howvoicebegan September 8, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    South Africa’s history and current culture/society are too complex to describe to anyone at home, I’ve found. I enjoy it for what it is.
    I’m also writing from South Africa, not far from Pretoria. Come check out my blog about some of my experiences.

    • Reply 2summers September 8, 2011 at 9:37 pm

      Hey, thanks so much for your comment. I’ve just glanced briefly at your blog and it looks very interesting. I’ll go back for a closer look in a bit!

  • Reply Sal Esposito September 8, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    I really enjoyed this post. I have traveled to South Africa many times both during and after Apartheid rule and have very little knowledge of the history of the country. It is almost as if it’s white residents are embarrassed by it, and it’s black residents deny the relevance of it. Perhaps, like the US it will take 100 years for all people to really be able to come to grips with their countries entire history and not just selective segments of it.

    • Reply 2summers September 8, 2011 at 9:39 pm

      Thanks Sal. I do think it’s going to take a long time for SA to come to grips with its history. Apartheid only ended 17 years ago — I think sometimes people forget what a short time that really is. Anyway, thanks for reading!

  • Reply conniewalden September 8, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    For some reason, South Africa is not a place I’m rushing to visit. Thank you for sharing this. Connie

    • Reply 2summers September 8, 2011 at 9:39 pm

      My pleasure! Thanks for reading, Connie.

  • Reply Jbot September 8, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    I never met Afrikaaners until I moved to Korea. I learned a lot in such a short time.

    • Reply 2summers September 8, 2011 at 9:45 pm

      Hi Jbot. Are there lots of Afrikaaners in Korea?

  • Reply PCC Advantage September 8, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    I love this post! I work with a couple of Afrikaaners and they always tell me how beautiful South Africa is, so I love seeing photos of it! I had pretty much the same amount of knowledge on the country’s history as well until I started working with them and found out oh so much more! 🙂 It looks and sounds like an incredible place.

    P.S. I think my favourite Afrikaans word is “braii” (<— I think that's how you spell it…haha.) I looove me so BBQ…haha.

  • Reply Travelling Writer September 8, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    cool pics!!! keep it up… =)


  • Reply Jenny September 8, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    I’m an American who’s written a fair amount about the Second Boer War, 1899-1902. I’ve always found it interesting that the apartheid-era Afrikaners chose to put much more emphasis on the Voortrekkers than on the Boer struggles to maintain their independent republics in the face of British aggression. It is indeed a very complicated history.

    • Reply 2summers September 8, 2011 at 9:47 pm

      Complicated, indeed. Even my boyfriend gets confused when trying to explain it to me, and he is a born and bred South African. I need to learn more about both the Anglo-Boer wars, to be honest.

      Thanks for reading!

  • Reply nlsthzn September 8, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    I think I visited the monument the last time 25 odd years ago… wow… I think it is time I go again 🙂 I am just very glad to hear it is still there and in one piece…

    • Reply 2summers September 8, 2011 at 9:47 pm

      Oh yes, it’s still standing. I don’t think that building is going anywhere anytime soon!

  • Reply tshwanetourist September 8, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    welcome to my world !! go check out my own visit to the Monument !!

  • Reply go5678 September 8, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    I have a singing group and our dream is to sing for Peace in Africa. We are small (only 6 of us) and we sing gospel and traditional African American spirituals. Do you have any suggestions on various charity groups/churches that would give us a venue and home stays? We are also making a documentary (who isn’t, tho!) of it all that we hope will become an example of how to let your gifts blossom.

    • Reply 2summers September 8, 2011 at 9:51 pm

      Hey there, where in Africa are you planning to visit? If you’re coming to Joburg, you might be able to find some good places in Soweto — I think there are lots of home-stay operations there.

  • Reply I Made You A Mixtape September 8, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    What a striking building!

    • Reply 2summers September 9, 2011 at 11:56 am

      Striking is a very good word for it!

  • Reply GraceLynneFleming September 8, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    wow – amazing

  • Reply Eva McCane September 8, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    very cool! i’d love to see in person sometime! thanks for sharing.

  • Reply thirdeyemom September 8, 2011 at 11:16 pm

    Congrats on the FP Heather! Great post but personally I think they all are. I especially enjoyed the one on your grandma!

    • Reply 2summers September 9, 2011 at 12:13 am

      Thanks so much, Nicole!

  • Reply mnr.muller September 8, 2011 at 11:28 pm

    Dankie! (Thank you!) It’s good to view one’s history through a foreigner’s eyes.

    • Reply 2summers September 9, 2011 at 12:15 am

      After more than a year in South Africa, I really should know how to say “you’re welcome” in Afrikaans. But I’m ashamed to say I don’t. Anyway, thanks so much for reading and commenting. I love hearing that South Africans enjoy my posts.

      • Reply mnr.muller September 9, 2011 at 3:30 pm

        Plesier! (My Pleasure/You’re welcome!)

  • Reply Colline September 8, 2011 at 11:46 pm

    The history of the Voortrekkers is something not many people living outside of SA know. Understanding their history goes a long way to understanding why they, as a group, made the decisions that they did.

    • Reply 2summers September 9, 2011 at 12:17 am

      The longer I live in South Africa, the more fascinated I become with the unique heritage with all of the many ethnic and cultural groups in the country. It’s one of the best things about living there. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

  • Reply Nicole September 9, 2011 at 12:22 am

    Fascinating. I’d love to visit some time. Beautiful photos and a great article. I especially like the last photo.

    • Reply 2summers September 9, 2011 at 12:27 am

      Thanks Nicole. I like the last photo too. I was really happy that morning, and it shows 🙂

  • Reply glasshousemarriage September 9, 2011 at 1:24 am

    Thanks for representing Southern Africa. Congrats on being “Freshly Pressed”. I grew up in southern Africa, and miss it intensely. I now have the “normal” American suburban life (but with a dog, no cats). If and when you ever move back to the USA, you’ll have to look up some South African shops…there is one in Columbia, SC and one in Atlanta, GA. Have you had boerwors yet?

    • Reply 2summers September 9, 2011 at 3:41 am

      Haha, sounds like we have reverse lives. Oh yes, I’ve had lots and LOTS of boerewors — I live with a South African man. I like it very much, assuming it’s not overcooked.

      I’d love to visit a South African shop in America! I’m actually back home now for a visit, and happen to be in South Carolina. Too far from Columbia though, alas.

  • Reply ceciliag September 9, 2011 at 2:11 am

    I look at this and, Unusually, read the whole post. Which was really well put together. But i kept thinking all the way through.. WHO paid for that? Whose money paid for this most extraordinary and brilliantly arrogant monument? Such lines and precision.. c

    • Reply 2summers September 9, 2011 at 3:47 am

      Hi Celia, thanks a lot for reading and thanks for your comment. That’s actually a really good question. According to Wikipedia, the monument cost about 360,000 pounds, “most of which was contributed by the South African government”. I guess the SA government had lots of money to spend on monuments in the 1930s and 40s! At any rate, it’s a fascinating place with a fascinating history. I still have a lot more to learn.

  • Reply palmtreelifestyle September 9, 2011 at 4:28 am

    Hi, some really great photos. I live in SA but never been to the monument. These are the first pictures I have seen of it and really well taken. Maybe I will go see it when I return. Kind regrads from http://allansjourney.wordpress.com

    • Reply 2summers September 9, 2011 at 4:30 am

      Thanks Alan! The monument is really worth visiting, for the photography alone. It’s a very unique place.

  • Reply lisa@notesfromafrica September 9, 2011 at 6:15 am

    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed! Great post as always.

  • Reply kvennarad September 9, 2011 at 6:37 am

    Overlooking Pretoria:

    There is a taste of Afrikaans in my mouth,
    the carmine of the lucky bean is a grille;
    I count horizons, find them punctuated
    by steel, concrete, antennae; I crouch here,
    overtaken by history – a new pulse beating.

    Kind regards,
    Marie Marshall

    • Reply 2summers September 9, 2011 at 11:21 am

      Wow. You’ve just given me goosebumps. Beautiful — thanks.

  • Reply Tall Pajama Man September 9, 2011 at 6:51 am

    Awesome post, and love the pics. My knowledge of South Africa was just as you described, even though I have had friends who have been there numerous times. I now have more of an appreciation for, and desire to go to, South Africa than ever before.


    • Reply 2summers September 9, 2011 at 11:24 am

      Thanks so much. South Africa is such a complex place and definitely worth a visit. Glad you enjoyed reading!

  • Reply rakhikankane September 9, 2011 at 7:53 am

    enjoyed reading 🙂 nice blog!

  • Reply sheokhanda September 9, 2011 at 8:10 am

    lovely pics..

  • Reply Engelsman in Afrika September 9, 2011 at 8:35 am

    Hail fellow foreigner living in South Africa! I was looking for another such blog on WordPress, but they are surprisingly hard to come by…..then I saw your article on Freshly pressed. Nice – keep up the good work. I’m married to a South African and also have a blog if you fancy a read of one of my articles….might I recommend the ‘braai’ one….let me know what you think. ‘Swimming with jaws’ is also a favourite.


    • Reply 2summers September 9, 2011 at 11:33 am

      Hey there, thanks for reading and commenting. Your blog looks great and I’ve just subscribed. I LOVE your observations about braaing.

    • Reply Ryan Kilpatrick September 9, 2011 at 5:40 pm

      I guess we (blogging) foreigners are everywhere in SA…

      More importantly, though, congrats on being Freshly Pressed, Heather. I read this post a while back and thought it worthy then. Your posts on Joburg are great, too.



      • Reply 2summers September 10, 2011 at 5:26 am

        Thanks so much, Ryan. That’s a very nice comment to receive. Are you also an expat blogger?

  • Reply amblerangel September 9, 2011 at 10:10 am

    A well deserved Fresh Pressed! GREAT pics.

    • Reply 2summers September 9, 2011 at 11:33 am

      Thanks Emily! Hope you’re doing well.

  • Reply juliacastorp September 9, 2011 at 10:16 am

    nice post

  • Reply Bileam se Donkie September 9, 2011 at 10:51 am

    Thank you so much for the way you have written this post. It is so refreshing after always hearing I am a skunk for being born a white South African. We surely do have a complicated history, we surely did make some bad mistakes. But our history follows the USA history in quite a few respects. Our Ancestors are much the same people, one brother in the 1600’s and 1700’s climbed aboard the ship to America, the other to South Africa. We are about a generation behind the US in certain things- like the end of racial segregation. And we still do have racists, just like the KKK in the USA, And hopefully they are also becoming a smaller and smaller group of our society. I just hope for a day where race is no longer an issue in the judgement of a person’s worth and employment opertunities, like it still remains in South Africa. And may the day soon comes that it is realized that it is not only white racism that is wrong, but any discrimination against a person based on their race…

    • Reply 2summers September 9, 2011 at 11:42 am

      I agree that US history and SA history parallel each other in many ways. I often point that out when people in SA complain that things aren’t changing fast enough, or when they say things like, ‘Apartheid ended 17 years ago, why can’t we just move on?’ The truth is, recovering from something like apartheid, or slavery and segregation in the US, takes many decades, if not centuries. The Civil War ended 150 years ago and America is far from recovered from it, whatever that might mean. But all we can do is keep moving forward. To be honest, I don’t think there will ever be a day, in either country, when ‘race is no longer an issue’. But I hope it someday becomes an issue that we can all deal with in an honest, open way, without anger or bitterness.

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting and I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

  • Reply Lu September 9, 2011 at 11:50 am

    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!
    I often drive past this monument on the way from Harties into Pretoria. I agree with Derek’s comment in that it does look like a toaster!
    I have visited it a couple of times, although not recently. I find it quite haunting.

    • Reply 2summers September 9, 2011 at 11:59 am

      Yep, the toaster description is right on. It is a haunting monument, especially the lower floor with the cenotaph in it. Thanks for reading, Lu, and hope you’re doing well!

  • Reply inidna September 9, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    I’ve always really wanted to visit S. Africa (or just Africa in general really) and seeing your photos on this blog has just made me want to go even more! It must be a pretty amazing experience to live in a place that’s so diverse in people and culture. I think this is going to land beside visiting Pretoria on my bucket list 🙂 Congrats on being Fresh and thanks for sharing this awesome experience with us!

    • Reply 2summers September 9, 2011 at 2:27 pm

      Thanks so much! I hope you fulfill your dream of visiting Africa very soon. I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t loved it. I’m glad you enjoyed my post.

  • Reply leadinglight September 9, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    Your post was very informative. For some interesting fiction that uses facts from history as well, I suggest you read the Power of One and Tandia by Bryce Courtenay. They say a lot about the injustice of apartheid South Africa in a very interesting way.

    • Reply 2summers September 9, 2011 at 3:33 pm

      Thanks! I’ve read the Power of One and it’s one of my favorite books.

  • Reply Dianda September 9, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    Voortrekker sounds very dutch.
    Great photo’s.

    • Reply 2summers September 9, 2011 at 3:32 pm

      Thanks. Voortrekker sounds Dutch because it is! The Afrikaans language is a mix of Dutch, German and Flemish.

  • Reply xandreverkes September 9, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    Hi there!! I live in pretoria, but haven’t been to the voortrekker museum in years…. think I should make a visit there again soon!!! If you’re learning afrikaans words (one of my favourites – – – & I am ‘egte afrikaanse bloed’) … “Belaglik!!!” – – – the direct translation is: Ridiculous. So as you can imagine…. you can use it for almost anything, whether it’s something cool, interesting, breathtaking, crazy, stupid…….. it goes on!!!! Its quite catchy… especially if you break it up!!

    Hahaha…. thank for the share!!! Great to read something homegrown!!! Be- laglik!!!! 😉

    • Reply 2summers September 9, 2011 at 4:06 pm

      That sounds like a very good word. I will use it! Thanks for reading.

  • Reply Sophia Morgan (griffinspen) September 9, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    Wow, this is so fascinating! I love the pictures, especially the one of the atrium. You must have had an amazing time there. I want to visit now! Congrats on being Pressed!

    • Reply 2summers September 9, 2011 at 4:26 pm

      Thanks Sophia! The view looking down at the atrium was amazing — hard to capture in a photo. Glad you enjoyed the post.

  • Reply herschelian September 9, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    As someone who grew up in SA during the 1960s which were the days of ‘hard’ apartheid, I hate that memorial – so triumphalist – and every year so many Afrikaaners dressed up in the clothes worn during the Great Trek and went there for a self-congratulatory fest. Whilst at the same time cruelly oppressing the indigenous population. Don’t get me wrong, I love South Africa with all my heart, and I totally understand the complexities of it’s history, I admire and respect the Boers for their determination and tenacity, but I CANNOT subscribe to their view (or at least the view of some of them) that they were/are God’s chosen people and so could treat others as lesser beings. To admire that Memorial, would -for me- be akin to admiring Hitler’s Reichstag.

    • Reply 2summers September 9, 2011 at 4:28 pm

      Hey there, I totally understand where you’re coming from. I’ve heard the same thing from many South Africans. I enjoyed visiting simply because it’s so interesting, but I’m sure I’d feel differently if I was raised in SA during apartheid.

  • Reply Goldine September 9, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    As an African, this post is offensive to me and should not have been a Freshly pressed! See…http://www1.ocn.ne.jp/~yeboo/sahistory/sahistory003.html

    • Reply 2summers September 10, 2011 at 3:53 am

      Hi Goldine, thank you for your comment. I’m sorry you find the post offensive. I’ve been blogging from South Africa for the last 13 months and I do my best to provide my own impressions of what it’s like to live here, and to describe South African history and culture from different angles. I’ve written about race, poverty, and the injustice of apartheid, including a post on Soweto that includes the 1976 Soweto Uprisings.

      For better or worse, the Voortrekkers played an important role in SA’s history. I visited the monument because I wanted to learn more about that history — it’s something I knew very little about before. On the day I went to the monument, there were many other people (of all races) there, all doing the same thing I was doing.

      The era when the Voortrekker Monument was built might be a time that people wish to forget. But I personally don’t think we should. How else will we learn from the past?

  • Reply Camie McReynolds September 9, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    This is great. I’m hoping to visit South Africa soon; and this just adds to my anticipation!

    • Reply 2summers September 10, 2011 at 3:54 am

      Great! I hope you make it here soon!

  • Reply Krista September 9, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    My mom grew up in South Africa and I got to visit for the first time when I was 22 in 2005. We stopped at the Voortrekker and I remember being shocked at the marble panels and the stories they told. Thanks for sharing this experience!

    • Reply 2summers September 10, 2011 at 5:16 am

      Yes, those friezes are amazing and also quite shocking. I’m kind of glad I didn’t get any good pics of the really violent parts. Thanks for reading!

  • Reply MI September 9, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    Awesome architecture and a good post heather…

  • Reply Damommachef September 9, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    What an interesting place. Have you ever read the book Cry, the Beloved Country? Probably, since you are an author. I love the pictures. This is a place I hope to visit someday.

    • Reply 2summers September 10, 2011 at 5:22 am

      I haven’t read Cry the Beloved Country but I’ve heard of it. I actually haven’t been very good about reading books since moving to SA — I spend too much time reading blogs! Anyway, thanks for the recommendation and thanks for reading.

  • Reply lincolnrestoration September 9, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    Wow, great photos of the V-monument. I lived in SA for two years and gained an appreciation for both sides. Man, it’s a complicated world there.

  • Reply gaycarboys September 10, 2011 at 5:48 am

    Lordie now that IS a monument!

  • Reply 2summers September 10, 2011 at 5:55 am

    Indeed it is.

  • Reply kidkameleon September 11, 2011 at 8:52 am

    That looks beautiful….


  • Reply Narayanaswamy September 13, 2011 at 6:59 pm


    Nevr seen sun so beautiful!

  • Reply Bubu September 18, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    thanks for the info and cool photos. now i wanna visit south africa! 🙂

  • Reply Majuba October 11, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    Always interesting to read a visitors comments on SA. In 1966 I participated in the military parade down Eeufeesweg/Centenary Road on the south side of the monument to celebrate the first 5 years of the Republic. A memorable event below an inspiring building. In later years it reminded me of the trek and much smaller monument of the Mormons I saw outside Salt Lake City in 1980. Like the Mormons for the Voortrekkers (pioneers) “this was the place”. Sad to see fellow English South Africans posters on this blog do the usual put down and criticism of Afrikaner history. Their trek across the veld from south to north was identical to the American pioneers trekking across the prairies from east to west in search of freedom at about the same time. By contrast British South Africans chose to go to war to achieve their objectives. They attacked the Dutch in the Cape twice – 1795 and 1806, the Xhosa (Mandela’s tribe) 7 times between c1820 & c1890; the Voortrekkers in Natal once in 1842, the Zulu (Zuma’s) tribe 3 times c1870; the Boere/Afrikaners twice 1889 and 1899. There were also skirmishes with other tribes. The final result was that all these conquered territories were consolidated into the Union of South Africa in 1910 thus effectively creating an African Yugoslavia. Peculiarly English South Africans do not trumpet their history in a single building like the Voortrekker Monument other than the 1820 Settlers Memorial in Grahamstown. However, if you seek it out you will find it all around the country. The final objective of all this conquest was to gain control of South Africa’s land and mineral wealth – diamonds and gold in particular. To the foreign readers of this blog please do not fall into the trap of believing that the English were the “good guys” and that the Boere/Afrikaners were the “bad guys”. It is not that simple. You will find the first racist legislation in Southern Africa on the statute books of the British Crown Colony of the Cape post 1806. Britain presided over racial discriminatory legislation for a full 155 years until they withdrew from the region with the creation of the Republic of South Africa in 1961. You can follow the whole legislative trail on:
    O’Malley Heart of Hope

    • Reply 2summers October 11, 2011 at 12:52 pm

      Thanks for providing a comment from a different angle. I’m certainly no expert on SA history, but I’ve learned enough to know that there were many different people and groups responsible for the atrocities of apartheid. Thanks for reading!

  • Reply cat@juggling act October 18, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    HI – great to read your about your visit. I left a looong comment at Joburg Expat’s – but interesting enough, the Voortrekker monument was also used as a symbok by the Voëlvry and alternative Afrikaan movement in the 1980’s – go Google it, you might find it interesting.

    • Reply 2summers October 18, 2011 at 12:19 pm

      Hi Cat, thanks so much for reading my blog. I actually read your comment on Joburg Expat this morning and I was hoping you’d come over and read mine! I love the fact that this monument means so many different things to different people. It just goes to show that history really isn’t about fact — it’s about interpretation. Regardless of your perspective, this is definitely a stunning monument that deserves its place in history.

      I haven’t heard of the Voëlvry movement before and will definitely look it up. Thanks again.


    Leave a Reply

    %d bloggers like this: