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Grahamstown

1820 Settlers National Monument – A Living Memorial

If you ever visit the charming town of Grahamstown and head in the direction of Rhodes University, you will find that right at the top of the hill on the edge of town, a massive square structure juts out proudly against the sky. This building is the 1820 Settlers National Monument - a living monument which not only honors those brave English settlers who arrived on the continent so many centuries ago, but also contributes to the community which surrounds it. It is truly a memorial with a purpose – a commemorative building which serves as a centre for creative thought and activity.

Though the original 1820 Settlers National Monument, which was opened in 1974, burnt down in the 1994, it was rebuilt with many similarities to the original structure. It also featured a number of improvements such as the Fountain Court Statue – an immense scaffolding which represents the work of the English speaker in South Africa. Built entirely of yellowwood – a main resource for the 1820 Settlers – the design of the scaffolding represents the crosses of the British Flag. It has become the National Monument’s signature symbol and is used on many pamphlets and brochures.

Over the years, the Monument has become a meeting place for South Africans of every social group. The 1820 Settlers National Monument is mainly used for activities which encourage the ideals of freedom of speech and social interaction using English as a contact language. The monument attributes the importance of the English language and culture in South Africa to two main factors, namely: the widespread use of the language across the country; and the tradition of democracy. Both factors continue to play an important role in the country.

The 1820 Settlers National Monument in South Africa was designed to be used mainly as a conference centre in order to encourage free debate and open discussion. Today its use extends past this, especially during the
Grahamstown National Arts Festival
when the venue hosts concerts, theatrical dances and theatrical productions. It also often hosts a fireworks display as the grand finale of the annual festivities. It is used by well over 200,000 people each year and it can easily be said that its contribution to the community extends far past the legacy of the English language and culture – perhaps this is a topic that should be open to debate…