Slave Monument

The slave monument is a memorial site on Church Square in Cape Town. It recognises those who suffered under Dutch traders.

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About the Slave Monument

The early Dutch traders and subsequent colonists saw nothing morally wrong with owning another person, nor with the fact that children of slave mothers were born into slavery. More than sixty thousand women, children and men were brought to the Cape to be sold into the chatel of slavery during the period 1652 – 1807. Thereafter slavery remained enshrined in law until 1834.

These grim facts are often forgotten.

The memorial laid out on the Church Square, itself a slave site of great significance helps us to rethink the past. The memorial comprises eleven granite blocks, two are placed on a raised plinth on the South West corner of Church Square close to the Iziko Slave Lodge. A further nine are grouped in a tight grid close to the slave tree plaque. Their common “footprint” represents our common humanity, their different heights represent growth and importance we attach to the youth of South Africa. They too need to be able to read the texts engraved on the blocks. The sides of the two large blocks are engraved with the names of the enslaved. In this task we have been guided by the comprehensive research by many historians and activists. Their research has revealed these forgotten names - by engraving them on the sides of these two blocks. We hope to remember them for what they suffered and for what they contributed to the building of the South African Nation.

The nine other blocks are engraved with the words from the slave period in South Africa, 1652 to 1934-8. The words embrace elements of resistance, rebellion, suffering on the slave ships and on the “Middle East” passage. The provenance of slaves, religion, slave life, manumission, punishment and the Slave Lodge. The words are engraved in concentric circles with the Slave Tree Plaque as the centre. The words run up the sides of the blocks, across the tops in shallow arcs and down the other sides, on occasion the words are truncated – almost as if they run under the surface of the paving, thus the memorial is characterized by silence. Silence in the face of the abomination that was slavery . This is evoked by the reflective surface of the stones and their solemn arrangement on Church Square. Their weighty presence elicits the memory of the slaves that were sold, tortured and suffered at Church Square.

Wilma Cruise and Gavin Younge, Artsists Unveiled by Mayor Helen Zille, 24 September 2008