The challenge of community based heritage projects in an emergent democracy: a case study

Whelan, Deborah (2014) The challenge of community based heritage projects in an emergent democracy: a case study. In: 4th International Conference on Heritage and Sustainable Development, 22 - 25 July 2014, Guimaraes, Portugal.

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Paper)
Item Status:Live Archive


Mpophomeni is an apartheid-era African ‘township’ situated on an old Dutch immigrant farm outside Howick in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, South Africa. It is laid out in ration-al fashion, with small houses cheek by jowl and an absence of central civic space or se-cure public open space. Central to this contrived urban framework is an old stone farm-house belonging to the period of the white settlers who occupied the original farm between 1840 and 1962. Known as Montrose House, it formed the centre of a viable and operating farm until its expropriation by the Nationalist Government in the early 1960s. After that, it operated as the Township Manager’s house and as a central depot for the Howick Town Council, under whose administration it loosely fell. With the new government after 1994, this property remained in the ownership of the Municipality and remained as an ‘official’ space. However, with the transfer of governance and the realignment of official priorities, as well as the lack of capacity of officials working for the Municipality, the house and the site have been subject to neglect. Furthermore, the discourse of landownership, coloniser and colonised has added to the complexity of the situation, compounded with poverty and crime. This paper will describe the building and its culturally layered history, before intro-ducing the current project: the community-driven restoration and repair to the house in or-der that it can be transformed into an Eco-Museum for the local community and a central space in a proposed civic node. It will then elaborate on the repair decisions to the build-ing and those ancillary structures on the site in the context of their situation and location, as well as the challenges of realistic and judicious repair in the light of lack of funding. It will enumerate the issues that are presented as a community-driven project located be-tween the two necessary bodies being provincial governmental authority and local munici-pal structures. It will conclude by presenting possible reasons, located in current heritage discourse in South Africa, as to why this project is so at risk, despite it being the result of a community-driven imperative and not as a top-down imposed project common during the first few years of democracy in South Africa.

Keywords:heritage, community based projects, Mpophomeni
Subjects:K Architecture, Building and Planning > K190 Architecture not elsewhere classified
L Social studies > L540 Community Work
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Architecture & Design > School of Architecture & Design (Architecture)
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ID Code:29004
Deposited On:20 Nov 2017 12:58

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