Tracing my heritage among towering monuments

 
 
 

Across our country, towering monuments mark places and events that shaped us. Life-size statues tell the stories of significant people in our past. Among them all, the lesser-known histories of everyday men and women risk being forgotten. It’s one of the reasons Davina Wakefield returns to Franschhoek so often. Her grandfather worked on a farm, sold fruit, and was well known in the town. “Every time I arrive, I feel a connection to those who came before me,” Wakefield says.

Though small, Franschhoek is famed for its wineries and fine dining establishments, all set against spectacular mountainous backdrops. But it’s the simple things that Wakefield takes pleasure in. Meandering through the markets, interacting with the locals, she gets to know the place as intimately as her grandfather did. “I feel a sense of belonging,” Wakefield says. “Knowing where I come from helps me understand where I’m going.” Living just an hour away in the city of Cape Town, Wakefield brings her family with her to share these experiences. “It’s important for me to come here often, to make sure my children know their roots,” she says. By exploring the place, they’re able to pay tribute to their heritage and prevent it from being forgotten.

Traces of culture are found in almost every aspect of the town. Franschhoek draws thousands of tourists every year interested in sampling the locally-produced wine, or attending the annual literary festival that hosts some of South Africa’s biggest names.. The Huguenot Monument, dedicated to the cultural impact of the French settlers, is a popular attraction in the area. While there isn’t anything as grand to honour the influence that locals had in shaping the town, Wakefield is ensuring they aren’t forgotten. “For many of us, places that mark our heritage no longer exist,” she says. With every visit to Franschhoek, Wakefield keeps the memory of her grandfather alive in her heart.