Baviaanskloof or “ravine of baboons”
Prior to becoming a lively hub of social and industrial activity Gendadendal and surrounds was first known as “Baviaanskloof”. In 1737 Moravian missionary George Schmidt established the village and renamed it Genadendal (valley of grace).
During the 19th century Genadendal was one of the most progressive communities in the then Cape Colony. Apart from their religious duties the Moravian missionaries and congregation were pioneers in education, music, printing, vernacular architecture, furniture making and more.
The plight of the Khoi
When he first arrived Scmidt encountered a once proud, self-sufficient people, in dire poverty. Khoi-khoi communities were in disarray and their traditional way of life was disintegrating. Consistently driven off their land by settlers in various parts of the Cape many had become farm workers. Others became absorbed into existing Xhosa clans and families.
First teacher training college in South Africa
Scmidt provided education for all. The Khoi-khoi were taught to read and write and encouraged to pursue skilled trades. Many local farmers were incensed. They depended on cheap or forced labour to work their farms. Schmidt returned to Europe in 1743 but his pioneering and educational legacy remained. South Africa’s first teacher training college was erected in Genadendal in 1838, four years after the Slavery Abolition Bill was passed.
Genadendal Mission Museum
Housed in what was once the country’s first teacher training college the Genadendal Mission Museum is packed with character and history. So much so that it’s contents were collectively declared a national cultural treasure in 1991.
Samuel Baatjes is the proud and insightful curator and he’s always happy to engage and show visitors around. A rare treasure himself, he can trace his own family heritage back to the time when George Schmidt established the village.
Herneuter collector knives
The missionaries or “Heren Hütter” imported steel from Germany and taught the locals how to make knives. With time “Heren Hütter” became Herneuter and the name stuck. The knives produced weren’t elegant by most standards but were made from top quality steel and were strong and durable and became highly sought after. The most popular was a kind of pairing knife. Herneuter knives are still made and sold on site.
Connection to Beyers Naude
Few people are aware that Beyers Naude, South African clergyman and anti-apartheid activist, was married in the historic church in Genadendal. His wife, Ilse Weder, was born and bred in the tiny hamlet. Her parents ran the mission store. In fact, the local Emil Weder High School is named after Beyers Naude’s father-in–law.
Samuel Baatjes, educational officer at Genadendal Museum shares his profound knowledge of:
- Historic buildings
- The mission itself
- What life was like in centuries past
- George Scmidt’s contribution to the Khoi-khoi people
- The first village families
- How he discovered his own historic connection to Genadendal
- How Beyers Naude, South African clergyman and anti-apartheid, came to be married in the Genadendal church