The soul of a community
‘Identity, gives meaning to people’s existence, it is a way to overcome the poverty of the soul.’
Identity is an intangible quality. We feel it more in its absence. A wounded identity may expresses itself in gangsterism, substance abuse, and violence.
Princess Vlei has a unique story to tell about the identity of our city and its citizens. When taken in its historical context, it is a jester balancing connection and contradiction. It’s a story teller, with a rich mythology and history that speaks of genocide, slavery, dispossession, marginalisation, discrimination, gender violence... but also of community, family, spirit and healing. It holds collective memory and identity, and is one of the few links to our Khoe heritage, which still lives in its name and legend; it is a refuge for wildlife, a water source and a garden.
For most of the people living nearby, it was the one area during the apartheid days where they could gather. It became a repository of layers of memory of families, of growing up and growing old. In the words of one Grassy Park resident:
“I don’t agree with a shopping mall, then there will be no place for us to come... They are taking away our heritage. This is where I was raised, I want to pass it on to my children and grandchildren. This place has been standing for how many years, if they must put up a mall, what will happen to our heritage? We’ve all grown up here and come to love this place. They must leave it for our children.”
As custodians of our city, those in power have a responsibility to safeguard the natural landscapes that hold our heritage and identity. Destroying Princess Vlei would have been a callous act of disrespect, sacrificing an area than can play a unique role in building a common identity and healing the scars of a violent and racist history. We applaud the City for listening to the people and making the right choice, but the City needs also to invest resources in the area, to redress decades of civic neglect. We are committed to finding ways to ensure that the GPVCA is protected now and into the future.
What the Princess means to us....
On Saturday afternoons we would walk down to the Vlei and I would put in a line for each child and they would catch beautiful carp.... My children still remember these days... This Vlei belongs to our people. Mr Edward Johnson (84). Read the poem written by Mrs Cecilia Johnson.
I can remember the days when every evening I walked down here with my dog and we watched the swans in the water... everything was so peaceful... I believe that this land was left to the people by a private land owner in the early fifties so I say this matter must go to the highest court in the land, and I will put part of my pension towards the effort. Mr Sam Khan
Coming here to the Vlei was the one memory that shone through, and you knew if you could focus on that, you could survive, you could make it through....Read the full interview
Local Graffiti artist Mak1
Princess vlei is not just land and water waiting to be destroyed. It’s a place of memories, our heritage and our life.
Kaitlin Spiers, Steenberg Primary
Taking away the Princess will be like taking away a mother from a child, because as mother nature Princess Vlei is a part of that and as she has looked after us we should take it upon ourselves to look after her - Daniel Hector, Lotus High
As a kid, I ran skelmpies to the vlei with my brasse to catch fish. I say skelmpies because we all knew the legend of the Khoisan princess who was raped and lost her love there, and how her spirit would take a boy’s or a man’s life in the vlei every year... (read more).