Voortrekker Monument
The Voortrekker Monument is a monument in the city of Pretoria, South Africa. The massive granite structure, built to honour the Voortrekkers who left the Cape Colony between 1835 and 1854, was designed by the architect Gerard Moerdijk who had the idea to design a "monument that would stand a thousand years to describe the history and the meaning of the Great Trek to its descendants" . It can be seen from almost any location in the city, as it is seated on a hilltop.

History
The idea to build a monument in honour of the Voortrekkers was first discussed on 16 December 1888, when President Paul Kruger of the South African Republic attended the Day of the Covenant celebrations at Blood River in Natal. However, the movement to actually build such a monument only started in 1931 when the Sentrale Volksmonumentekomitee (SVK) (Central People's Monuments Committee) was formed to bring this idea to fruition. Construction started on 13 July 1937 with a sod turning ceremony performed by chairman of the SVK, Advocate Ernest George Jansen, on what later became known as Monument Hill. On 16 December 1938 the cornerstone was laid by three descendants of some of the Voortrekker leaders: Mrs. J.C. Muller (granddaughter of Andries Pretorius), Mrs. K.F. Ackerman (great-granddaughter of Hendrik Potgieter) and Mrs. J.C. Preller (great-granddaughter of Piet Retief). The Monument was inaugurated on 16 December 1949 by the then-prime minister D. F. Malan. The total construction cost of the Monument was about £ 360,000, most of which was contributed by the South African government. A large amphitheatre, which seats approximately 20,000 people, was erected to the north-east of the Monument in 1949.

Main features
Physically, the Voortrekker Monument is 40 metres high, with a base of 40 metres by 40 metres. The building has strong architectural resemblance to German monuments, in particular the Völkerschlachtdenkmal in Leipzig. The two main points of interest inside the building are the Historical Frieze and the Cenotaph.

Historical Frieze
The main entrance of the building leads into the domed Hall of Heroes. This massive space, flanked by four huge arched windows made from yellow Belgian glass, contains the unique marble Historical Frieze which is an intrinsic part of the design of the monument. It is the biggest marble frieze in the world. The frieze consists of 27 bas-relief panels depicting the history of the Great Trek, but incorporating references to every day life, work methods and religious beliefs of the Voortrekkers. The set of panels illustrate key historical scenes starting from the first voortrekkers of 1835, up to the signing of the Sand River Convention in 1852. In the centre of the floor of the Hall of Heroes is a large circular opening through which the Cenotaph in the Cenotaph Hall can be viewed.

Cenotaph
The Cenotaph, situated in the centre of the Cenotaph Hall, is the central focus of the monument. In addition to being viewable from the Hall of Heroes it can also be seen from the dome at the top of the building, from where much of the interior of the monument can be viewed. Through an opening in this dome a ray of sunlight shines at twelve o'clock on 16 December annually, falling onto the centre of the Cenotaph, striking the words 'Ons vir Jou, Suid-Afrika' ( Afrikaans for 'We for Thee, South Africa'). The ray of light is said to symbolise God's blessing on the lives and endeavours of the Voortrekkers. December 16, 1838 was the date of the Battle of Blood River, commemorated in South Africa before 1994 as the Day of the Vow. The Cenotaph Hall is decorated with the flags of the different Voortrekker Republics and contains wall tapestries depicting the Voortrekkers as well as several display cases with artefacts from the Great Trek. Against the northern wall of the hall is a nave with a lantern in which a flame has been kept burning ever since 1938. It was in that year that the Symbolic Ox Wagon Trek, which started in Cape Town and ended at Monument Hill where the Monument's foundation stone was laid, took place.

Other features
Visitors to the monument enter through a black wrought iron gate with an assegai (spear) motif. After passing through the gate one finds oneself inside a big laager consisting of 64 ox-wagons made out of decorative granite. The same number of wagons were used at the Battle of Blood River to form the laager. At the foot of the Monument stands Anton van Wouw's bronze sculpture of a Voortrekker woman and her two children, paying homage to the strength and courage of the Voortrekker women. On both sides of this sculpture black wildebeest are chiselled into the walls of the Monument. The wildebeest symbolically depicts the dangers of Africa and their symbolic flight implies that the woman, carrier of Western civilisation, is triumphant. On each outside corner of the Monument there is a statue, respectively representing Piet Retief, Andries Pretorius, Hendrik Potgieter and an "unknown" leader (representative of all the other Voortrekker leaders). Each statue weighs approximately 6 tons. At the eastern corner of the monument, on the same level as its entrance, is the foundation stone.

Symbolism
Controversy exists regarding the spatial symbolism of the Voortrekker Monument. Dr Alta Steenkamp, architect and lecturer at the University of Cape Town, refutes claims by writer Denise Woods that the monument taints the Voortrekker Vow with a visual connection to occult symbols. Alta Steenkamp architecturally links the Voortrekker Monument to the German Völkerschlachtdenkmal in Leipzig, Germany. According to Steenkamp the masonic subtext of the Völkerschlachtdenkmal is reflected in the Voortrekker Monument, because Moerdyk had used the geometric order and some spatial proportions of the Völkerschlachtdenkmal. This germanisation of the Voortrekker Monument occurred after Moerdyk's original design had caused a public outcry in the white South African press, due to its resemblance to an Egyptian temple. :128 Initially the exterior of Moerdijk's monument, was based on a causeway consisting of two Egyptian obelisks. :128 During the year 1936, when finalising the design of the Voortrekker Monument, architect Gerard Moerdijk visited Egypt, including the Karnak Temple Complex in Luxor ( Thebes). :105 In Thebes Nefertiti's husband had erected three sun sanctuaries, one of which was called the Hwt-benben ('mansion of the Benben'). Despite the externally revised Voortrekker Monument into a Germanised mansion of the Benben, the interior retained visible links with the civilization of ancient Africa in Egypt as per Moerdyk's original design. The main symbol in the Voortrekker Monument is an annual sun illumination on a central Benben stone at mid-noon. Due to the Art Deco design of the Voortrekker Monument, the natural sun ray on the Day of the Vow forms a 33rd ray, as 32 horisontal sun rays radiate in the floor pattern from the floor opening in the Hall of Heroes. The famous African icon of civilization in Moerdijk's time was queen Nefertiti, who's beautiful bust in Berlin had been on public display in Berlin since 1924, when Moerdijk first visited Germany in order to personally observe Nefertiti's bust. In the years just before WWII, Germany was the upcoming European power, and several Afrikaner nationalists travelled to Germany for academic studies, as well as political and cultural inspiration. During 1934 Chancellor Hitler decided that Germany would not return the bust of Nefertiti to Egypt, and announced his intention to use Nefertiti's bust as the central show piece of the Third Reich, in its revitalised capital to be renamed Germania. Likewise Moerdijk used Nefertiti's god Aten as depicted by a mid noon sun disc, as the central symbol of Afrikaner civilization in his thousand year monument overlooking the South-African capital, Pretoria.

Architectural plan
The Monument consists of three levels: bottom cellar, middle hall and top dome. In the bottom cellar is an empty tomb stone called the Cenotaph, or Sarcophagus according to Moerdijk in his own words. The middle Hall of Heroes harbours the historical wall frieze. The upper dome with Egyptian backlighting :133 simulates the open sky. Once a year at mid-day, a ray of the sun shines through a hole in the dome directly onto the middle of the Cenotaph. A round floor opening in the Hall of Heroes, is situated directly above the Cenotaph. The ray of sun shines right through this opening onto the Cenotaph, projecting a sun disc to illuminate engraved words: "WE FOR YOU SOUTH-AFRICA". These words are oriented towards the sky, and cannot be read by the visitor standing next to the Cenotaph.

Round floor opening
Looking from the sky dome downwards, a chevron pattern on the floor of the Hall of Heroes, radiates outwards like 32 sun rays from the centre opening. In Moerdijk's architecture, the natural sun forms a 33rd ray through the same opening. Moerdijk said the chevron pattern on the floor depicts water, as does the double chevron hieroglyph fom the civilization of old Egypt. Moerdijk stated that all roads on the terrain of building art, lead back to old Egypt. :47 Based on Moerdijk's reference to the watery floor of the Hall of Heroes, as well as his statement about old Egypt, the opening in the water-floor can be identified with the watery abyss, as in the creation theology of ancient African civilization. Rising out of this watery abyss, was the primeval mound, the Benben stone.

Religious sun ray
Moerdijk's 33rd sun ray shining onto the stone in the midst of the abyss, publicly highlights the creation of a new civilization in Africa. A religious person, Moerdijk was chief architect of 80 Protestant churches in South Africa. In his church designs, Moerdijk stuck to Reformed tradition and had his Renaissance trademark, the Greek-cross floorplan, focus on the pulpit and preacher. In Protestant theology, the word of God is the central church theme. :39,122 Moerdijk created a similar focus in the Voortrekker Monument, but in vertical instead of horisontal plane, and in African Atenist instead of European Classical style. Moerdijk's focus point in the Voortrekker Monument are the sky oriented words: "WE FOR YOU SOUTH-AFRICA". This declaration comes from an anthem, Die Stem, in the context of: "We will live, we will die, we for you South-Africa". The anthem ends: "It will be well, God reigns." The sun shining on the Afrikaans inscription "ONS VIR JOU SUID-AFRIKA", symbolises God's blessing on the lives and endeavors of the Voortrekkers. Thus the visible sunlight simulates a connection between the words on the Cenotaph and the heavenly abode above.

Earthly and heavenly vows
Moerdijk did not place a pulpit in the Voortrekker Monument. Without minister or mediator, the written words on the Cenotaph stone cannot be spoken. In Moerdijk's biblical theology though, God can communicate in two ways: through scripture as well as through nature. Moerdijk merges both methods in one revealing moment of space-time. He - the creator God in the trinitarian tradition of the Trekkers - becomes the ONS, within the shining disc illuminating the words on the stone. Via the sun, heaven and earth are simulated to be visibly connected through a ray of light. The historic vow of the Trekkers was commemorated on 16 December as the Day of the Vow. The appearance of a shining sun disc on the Cenotaph stone, transforms the vow in analogy to the Philosophers Stone of the alchemists. The notion of, as above so below, is turned upside down: as below, so above. Instead of man repeating a human vow from before the Battle of Blood River, the sun shifts the focus to the trinitarian god of the Trekkers, as he communicates through Moerdijk's sun architecture, making himself a heavenly vow with the Afrikaans words: ONS - as in GOD - VIR JOU SUID-AFRIKA. The idea that God was for South Africa, originates from the 9 December 1838 vow of Trekker leader Andries Pretorius at Danskraal, who at around the same time made military and political alliances with Christian Zulus like prince Mpande.

African-Egyptian origin
The architects of Egyptian civilization are considered famous for their monuments. Moerdijk himself was an outspoken Afrocentrist architect, with his focus on ancient Egypt. Moerdijk referred ro Africa's greatness as imparted by ancient Egyptian constructions at the inauguration of the Voortrekker Monument. Before his public Voortrekker Monument proposal was accepted, Moerdijk and Anton van Wouw had been working in alliance for many years on their "dream castle" project: a modern African-Egytian Voortrekker Temple in South-Africa. Van Wouw and Frans Soff had earlier employed the Egyptian obelisk, a petrified ray of the African Aten, as central motif for the National Women's Monument in Bloemfontein, South Africa, itself likewise inaugurated on the Day of the Vow, 16 December 1913. Whilst finalising the design of the Voortrekker Monument in 1936, :105 Moerdijk went on a research sojourn to Egypt. There he visited the Karnak Temple Complex at Luxor :106 (ancient Thebes, city of Amen), where an African Renaissance had flourished under Pharaoh Amenhotep IV, the husband of Nefertiti. The open air temples of Amenhotep IV to the Aten incorporated the Heliopolitan tradition of employing sun rays in architecture, including realistic Amarna wall reliefs or friezes. Moerdijk also visited the Cairo Museum, where a copy of the Great Hymn to the Aten is on display, some verses of which remind of Psalm 104. Moerdyk's wife Sylva related that Moerdijk was intimately acqainted with ancient Egyptian architecture, :106 and architecturally strongly influenced by his visit to Egypt. :105

Architectural symbol and purpose
Moerdijk stated that the purpose of a building had to be clearly visible. :133 The monotheistic creator aspect of Ra, symbolised by the blistering sun at mid-noon as felt in Africa, was in Nefertiti's time known as Aten. Aten was written as a sun dot enclosed by a circle in Egyptian hieroglyphics. The African Aten-hieroglyph is depicted in the Voortrekker Monument when the sun shines through an aperture in the top dome. Looking upwards on 16 December at mid noon, this aperture becomes visible as a backlit dot inside the round dome with its own Egyptian style backligting. Likewise, looking from the visitors walkway around the top dome down, the round floor aperture in the Hall of Heroes is again seen to encircle the disc illumination, when the sun's rays strike the cenotaph stone on 16 December at mid noon. Moerdijk's monumental message as implied by the wall frieze: by exodus out of the British Cape Colony, God created a new African civilization inland. In order to give thanks to this new creation of civilization, Moerdijk, recalling Abraham of old, outwardly designed the Voortrekker Monument as an altar. :130

Grounds around the Monument
The Voortrekker Monument is surrounded by a circular wall engraved with wagons"a depiction of the historical Trekker practice of "circling the wagons" during defense under attack. Outside the wagon wall is an elaborate botanical garden. Small streams running through the garden are labeled with signs representing major rivers of South Africa. Also, miniature huts, 1/8 scale, are scattered about the garden, representing tribal villages. The spatial impression thus created is that of the Voortrekker Monument as a cultural construction tapering towards the sun, representing an indigenous civilization of the African Sun with its life giving white light, protected by a chain of wagons keeping it apart from the natural wilderness of continental Africa, represented by beautiful dark green gardens.

Monument complex
In the years following its construction, the monument complex was expanded several times and now includes:
  • An indigenous garden that surrounds the monument.
  • Fort Schanskop, a nearby fort built in 1897 by the government of the South African Republic after the Jameson Raid and now a museum.
  • The Schanskop open-air amphitheatre with seating for 357 people that was officially opened on 30 January 2001.
  • A garden of remembrance.
  • A nature reserve was declared on 3.41 km² around the Monument in 1992. Game found on the reserve include Zebras, Blesbok, Mountain Reedbuck, Springbok and Impala.


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