Thursday, December 1, 2016

Voortrekker Monument - the pioneers

On a hill overlooking Pretoria stands the Vortrekker Monument - a tower to remember the Boer pioneers. As I studied their history, I was shocked at the parallels with my own, Utah Mormon pioneer history.

At about the same time my ancestors were being chased by mobs from Ohio to Missouri to Illinois to Utah (1830s-1860s) the Boer settlers from Cape Town fled what they saw as British oppression to the northeast (such as Pretoria). They saw themselves as religious refugees, God's chosen people. They traveled in covered wagons across the veld to seek Zion where they could worship in peace. Many of the same themes are shared in each group's diaries and speeches. It was deeply moving for me and helped a little Mormon boy from California feel right at home.

Not that there aren't some very important differences. Mormon pioneers got along remarkably well with the natives in the region, particularly in historical context. Vortrekkers left their homes in part (point #3 in their manifesto) because they were angry their African slaves had been freed and they wanted the liberty to "maintain proper relations between master and servant" (point #5). One of the great moments in their history was the Battle of Blood River in Dec 1838. 470 Vortrekkers (led by Pretorius - gee, where did Pretoria get its name?) with muskets defeated 21,000 Zulu warriors armed with spears.

A Vortrekker mother (left) prepares to flee with her children. She is protected on the four corners by leaders like Pretorias and Piet Retief (right) from the dangers of the trails (the famished cattle around here, below).

We took the elevator up (small children), but there are plenty of stairs if you would prefer. The view from the top is impressive.

There are also a few more steps to climb up a dome and then you can look ALL the WAY DOWWW..., um, how about if I don't look down there, k? I'll just stick my camera over the edge - I'm getting dizzy remembering it - and take a shot of the entry hall and the basement below...

Let's go back down, shall we, Superstar? Thanks!

The sub-basement has a collection of memorabilia, including a covered wagon and this view of a night on the veld. Another post will show some of the arts we found. I got really excited about it.

The entry hall has a giant stone mural all around the walls depicting the Vortrekkers' trek. This is one of the videos I took of it. It depicts them leaving Cape Colony in 1835, a Zulu attack in 1836 and another in 1837, Retief is sworn in as their leader, and his negotiations with some Zulu leaders.