Petition update

The anniversary of the defeat of Admiral d’Almeida in 1510: History of the River Club land

Leslie London
Cape Town, South Africa

Mar 1, 2020 — 

Today is the anniversary of the Battle of d’Almeida. Five hundred and ten years ago today, the indigenous Khoi pastoralists inflicted one of the most remarkable defeats of a colonial power, in the area that is today the Two Rivers Urban Park. The defeat of the Portuguese admiral and first viceroy of Portuguese India, Dom Fransisco D'Almeida has been glossed over in most history books until recent times. However, it is a very significant event in pre-colonial history as it represents the first of many wars of resistance and is a history of a victorious indigenous people, who surprised the Portuguese colonists with the fierceness of their military capacity.

The site on which the exact battle unfolded, in which the Khoi roundly defeated the Portuguese involved land on the TRUP precinct and since they drove the Portuguese back to the sea, the battle would have swept through the land that is currently the River Club. The incident was precipitated by the Portuguese looting the Khoi kraal and stealing their belongings, cattle and even children.  The Khoi, whose numbers were similar to the Portuguese but who were enraged by the intruders’ dishonesty and barbarism “charged the laden soldiers with spears and routed the Portuguese force, killing the Viceroy and 64 others.” It was a humiliation of a great colonial power unparalleled at the time.

It is hard to imagine how such a dynamic event can be memorialised by the insertion of a heritage centre amidst a complex of 150 000 square meters of concrete and buildings rising to 44m. It the landscape that needs memorialising and cannot be inserted into a museum.

Indigneous Khoi groups are going to be celebrating this event at Oude Molen later this month. The celebration reflects the intense history of the area, which should be preserved for present and future generations.

And just to remind us how fragile the ecosystems are, we publish above a photo from a fire that broke out in the reeds alongside the Black River at the back of the South African Astronomical Observatory on Saturday 29th late afternoon. The photo above captures the artwork, Lady of Hope, anchored in the river at the confluence of the Black and Liesbeek Rivers with smoke billowing over her from the flames upstream. The fire was rapidly extinguished but it does remind us that this area is a natural habitat, and intended to remain Open Space. It should not be concreted over for private benefit. We hope we are able to succeed in that goal. With over 14000 supporters having signed this petition, we are well on our way! 

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