Heritage and Culture
The Donald Woods Foundation has and continues to support and facilitates multiple heritage and cultural projects in the Eastern Cape. These include:
The mapping of cultural and heritage sites
Heritage and Cultural sites in the area include: Ngcingwane, capital of the AmaXhosa kingdom at Ngadu Great Place, Nelson Mandela’s birthplace at Mvezo (the nearby Mvezo Great Place is the seat of the Traditional Authority), the Nelson Mandela Museum at Qunu (Qunu was where Mandela spent his childhood), San paintings at Sinqumeni Caves near Dutywa, the graves of AmaXhosa kings Hintsa and Sarhili (Hintsa’s grave is at Mbangcolo, at Gatyana and Sarhili’s is at Tyholora, across the Mbashe River), Fort Bowker near Dutywa, which was built in about 1860 to keep the Gcaleka north of the Mbashe River after the 8th Frontier War.
Tourism and adventure activities include: A spectacular Cape Vulture Breeding Colony at Colleywobbles on Mbashe River, the Dwesa-Cwebe Nature Reserve, Mbanyana Falls and Mbanyana riverine forest (good hiking and birdwatching), whale and dolphin sightings almost all year round but particularly from June-September.
Completion of the J H Soga Library and Archive including curation and cataloguing of contents
Genealogical research into Xhosa Royal Houses and Woods family
DWF has supported various community sporting events in the Mbashe area including the 90-year-old AmaCale’gushe (‘half-a-sheep’) rural cricket initiative. With DWF assistance, one local club raised R75,000 to compete in Masingata, Xesi and Mdantsane.
The DWF was instrumental in the commissioning of and putting up the Nelson Mandela statue in Parliament Square in London. The statue was unveiled by DWF Founder Wendy Woods in 2007 with Madiba and other luminaries in attendance.
Heritage Valley at the Donald Woods Centre in 2016
Thanks to funding from the National Lottery Commission and others the Foundation is building five traditional Xhosa huts (four have been completed) as part of Heritage Valley at the Donald Woods Centre in Hobeni.
Hut 1 will complement a stage area for events in an outside natural amphitheatre.
Hut 2 will become a living museum for and to the people of Bomvanaland. The Foundation will start to develop this small museum with artefacts as they become available complemented with displays and exhibitions depicting the present life and the rich history of this region. This museum could play a significant role in building heritage and culture skills and instilling pride and knowledge in the area’s history and heritage.
For Hut 3, the Foundation has started collecting and obtaining book donations to start a children’s library and homework clubs for local school children. The Hut will be appropriately decorated and furnished, making the space an informal and colourful child-friendly classroom with floor mats for story time and lots of tables and chairs, books and posters on the walls. The Foundation will continue to approach organisations on an ongoing basis in an effort to obtain more books in both isiXhosa and English.
Hut 4 will be used as a DWF break-away training room.
Hut 5 has been designed as a traditional leaders meeting hut with a beautiful round mahogany table, comfortable chairs and seating as an area for local leaders to discuss matters of importance to the community.
Our future plans
The Foundation has submitted an additional proposal to the National Lotteries Commission to start training in product development, production management and marketing of artisanal craft items made by members of the local community. This initiative dovetails perfectly with the Foundation’s mission of creating jobs, catalysing business start-ups and small enterprises – acting as a springboard for local people in an area beset by high unemployment levels.
A key aspect of this planned project will be the construction of eight small craft workshops at the Donald Woods Centre based on other successful craft hubs in other provinces to support local art, craft, training and design.
The Foundation views this project as responding to the need for craft product development in a very isolated and remote area together with training, mentoring and marketing support to local craft practitioners.
Allied to this the Foundation will facilitate and host theatre, literary and musical community events in the amphitheatre of Heritage Valley. The Foundation views the site as an important community asset in an area where a mere eight (8) junior schools and not a single high school serves a community of more than 10,000 people.
Other future heritage and culture initiatives
The DWF plans to develop the Mandela-Biko-Woods-Soga Trail, which allows visitors and tourists to walk, cycle or trail run in the footsteps of some of the region’s most influential figures, including Nelson Mandela, Steve Biko, Donald Woods and the Soga family.
An additional initiative will be to establish the 34 km Qunu-Miller Mission Challenge, a trail which retraces seven-year-old Nelson Mandela’s walk with his mother in 1925 from Qunu to Miller Mission to consult Dr Lex Soga. Not only does the planned trail transverse spectacularly beautiful rural scenery but will highlight the difficulties of health care access in rural areas bisected by steep river valleys.
The DWF is also researching the lives of leading Eastern Cape historical figures such as Tiyo Soga, the father of Dr. William Anderson Soga and John Henderson Soga of nearby Miller Mission, and will be producing a booklet and supporting educational resources for local schools to celebrate the lives and legacies of these under-recognised men and women.