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The Western Cape Sights

Genadendal (Valley of Grace)

  • Religious Building/Site/Shrine

Updated 12/31/1969

Fodor's Review

After Greyton the R406 becomes paved. Drive 5 km (3 mi) to the turnoff to Genadendal, a Moravian mission station founded in 1737 to educate the Khoekhoen and convert them to Christianity. Seeing this impoverished hamlet today, it's difficult to comprehend the major role this mission played in the early history of South Africa. In the late 18th century it was the second-largest settlement after Cape Town, and its Khoekhoen craftspeople produced the finest silver cutlery

and woodwork in the country. Some of the first written works in Afrikaans were printed here, and the coloured community greatly influenced the development of Afrikaans as it is heard today. None of this went down well with the white population. By 1909 new legislation prohibited coloured ownership of land, and in 1926 the Department of Public Education closed the settlement's teachers' training college, arguing that coloureds were better employed on neighboring farms. In 1980 all the buildings on Church Square were declared national monuments (it's considered the country's most authentic church square), but despite a number of community-based projects, Genadendal has endured a long slide into obscurity and remains impoverished. In 1995, then-president Nelson Mandela renamed his official residence Genadendal. You can walk the streets and tour the historic buildings facing Church Square. Ask at the Genadendal Mission Museum for somebody to show you around. With luck you'll meet up with Samuel Baatjes, a fourth-generation Genadendal resident. Phone him at 028/251–8582 if you want a guided tour, which can last from one to three hours; prices vary depending on length, number of participants, and other variables.

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