University Of Cape Town Jameson Hall

University Of Cape Town Jameson Hall

University Of Cape Town Jameson Hall, Cape Town – A proposal to rename the iconic Jameson Hall at the University of Cape Town (UCT) to Sarah Baartman Memorial Hall has been forwarded to the university council.

“In April 2015, the council of the university established a task team to consult with the university community to solicit views on names of buildings and to report back to UCT’s naming of buildings committee,” registrar and secretary to council Royston Pillay said.

In June 2016, the task team made its recommendation to the committee, which recommended that council change the name of the Jameson Memorial Hall.

Council subsequently resolved in 2016 to approve this recommendation. Among the options was naming the building after Sarah or Saartjie Baartman. “Sarah’s story is a victory over colonialism. It is a reminder that she suffered as a black woman, a poor woman and because she was a woman, gender, race, class. The story of Sarah Baartman needs to be told over and over again because there are so many lessons in it. Having a building named after her, especially a university building, can enhance our truth and reconciliation,” the motivation read.

Baartman went to England in 1810, she left with her employer Hendrik Cesars and William Dunlop, an English doctor who worked at the Cape Slave Lodge. Baartman spent four years on stage in England and in Ireland.

She was paraded as a sexual freak, despite not being exhibited nude. Baartman died in December 1815 after living in poverty.

She died in Paris of an inflammatory disease. Parts of her body had been dissected and her remains were displayed at the Museum of Man.

For more than a century visitors could view Baartman’s brain, skeleton and genitalia and plaster casts of her body. Her remains were returned to South Africa in 2002 and she was buried in the Eastern Cape.

The university’s SRC president, Seipati Tshabala, said: “We believe this is the right move because it shows we are decolonising the university and it will be a strong talking point.”

Tshabala said the way the name will be changed shows that it ties in with colour identity.

“We believe everyone of colour is black and the way Baartman was displayed rose (sic) identity conversations.”

The university council said that it hopes to decide on the matter by the end of this year.

 

A quick refresher on the man who has named the famous “Jameson Hall” and “Jammie Shuttle” is a fascinating read.

As Wikipedia reports: “Leander Starr Jameson was educated for the medical profession… After acting as house physician, house surgeon… and showing promise of a successful professional career in London, his health broke down from overwork in 1878, and he went out to South Africa and settled down in practice at Kimberley.

“There he rapidly acquired a great reputation as a medical man, and, besides numbering President Kruger and the Matabele chief Lobengula among his patients, came much into contact with Rhodes.

“Lobengula expressed his delight with Jameson’s successful medical treatment of his gout by honouring him with the rare status of induna. Although Jameson was a white man, he underwent the initiation ceremonies linked with this honour.

“Jameson’s status as an induna gave him advantages, and in 1888 he successfully exerted his influence with Lobengula to induce the chieftain to grant the concessions to the agents of Rhodes which led to the formation of the British South Africa Company.

“Jameson’s character seems to have inspired a degree of devotion from his contemporaries… People attached themselves to Jameson with extraordinary fervour.”

“In 1895, Jameson led about 500 of his countrymen in what became known as the Jameson Raid against the Boers (republics). The Raid was later cited by Winston Churchill as a major factor in bringing about the Boer War of 1899 to 1902.

“The idea was to foment unrest among foreign workers (Uitlanders) in the territory, and use the outbreak of open revolt as an excuse to invade and annex the territory.

“The Jameson Raiders arrived in England at the end of February 1896, to face prosecution. He was found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment as a first-class misdemeanant for 15 months,” Wikipedia reports.

So despite being a great doctor, Jameson was also a war criminal, to some. To add a bitter irony, he was convicted in a country which itself committed vast and unspeakable war crimes against African and Boer women and children in the Boer Wars. So where does that leave us?

Maybe, over a century later, acknowledging we still haven’t reached even vague mutual agreement on how we publicly reflect our history. Jameson Hall is named after a man who to many is no better than a Slobodan Milosevic.

What a chance this presents for an “Accord on the Steps” – perhaps not framed by the “Jammie Steps”, but steps toward a new understanding?

* Murray Williams’ column ’Shooting from the Lip’ appears in the Cape Argus every Monday.