MEC Anroux Marais on human remains of Michael Balie

Yesterday, 13 September 2021, as we continue to commemorate Heritage Month, Minister Anroux Marais was honoured to symbolically handover the human remains from the Genadendal Mission Museum back to the community for a dignified and respectful burial as consultatively agreed on by relevant stakeholders following an in-depth deliberation process.

At the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport (DCAS) we are committed to realizing our vision of a socially inclusive Western Cape for all who call it home. In line with this vision, we launched our Human Remains Reburial Programme in George in June 2018.

This much needed programme is a series of reburials of human remains that are in museums affiliated to the DCAS. The symbolic handover, yesterday, served to return the human remains of Michael Balie, one of the very first formally trained South African teachers trained at the Genadendal Training College, which now is the Genadendal Mission Museum, to his community and family for a dignified reburial.

During the keynote address, Minister Marais said, “Our departmental Guidelines for the Management and Reinterment of Human Remains and Associated Archaeological Remains emphasizes that museums are not appropriate institutions to hold human remains whether archaeological of historical. Regardless of how these were acquired, where such exists, proactive steps must be undertaken to ensure the deaccessioning where they are in collection and reburial of human remains. Aligned to these guidelines, we are now regulating our museums by handing over the remains to community representatives to be buried with the respect it deserves so to rehumanize our services and restore the dignity of our ancestors and in turn that of their descendants and living community as well”.

The DCAS facilitated the involvement of interested community groups, inclusive of the Board of Trustees of Genadendal Mission Museum together with the Museum Manager, Dr Isaac Balie as claimant, the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA) & community stakeholders and traditional leaders such as the Moravian Church of South Africa and together we commenced this very significant process yesterday.

Minister Marais added, “We fully understand that the sacred burial requires the performance of rituals in museums and that reinternment must be seen as a process, rather than an event. Therefore, phase one requires us to handover the remains to the community of Genadendal with the utmost respect today. Phase 2 included the dignified burial ceremony that also took place on the premises of the Genadendal Mission Museum, conducted by traditional stakeholders and Dr Isaac Balie according to cultural protocols and prescripts. The Genadendal Brass Band delivered a performance as the human remains of the deceased was laid to rest in front of the Herrnhut House”.

These developments will indeed assist the Western Cape Government in building the social inclusivity we continue to strive towards through healing and the recognition of all cultures in the province.

Source: Government of South Africa

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