Thursday, March 4, 2021

The Bonnington Project harks back to pre-colonial era

Have you ever wondered what those huge, colourful containers opposite the Grand Palm hotel are?

They are silos which were used in pre-colonial era on the le Cordeur farm prior to Botswana’s independence.

In a bid to reconstruct the pre-colonial Bechuanaland Protectorate, the Department of National Museum and Monuments has embarked on an international quest they call The Bonnington Project. It is aimed at conserving Botswana’s heritage.

“Heritage sites are getting destroyed through natural degradation and sometimes vandalism,” says Gaogakwe Phorano, Director of National Museum and Monuments,

The program was launched in 2008 and this particular project takes Batswana back to approximately 62 years ago.
They have managed to link up with sisters Carolyn Slaughter and Angela Heslop who are the daughters of the District Commissioner in Bechuanaland Protectorate between 1952 and 1958.

The two women are in Botswana for a week at the invitation of The Botswana National Museum to further discuss The Bonnington Project.

“From the moment I decided to be a writer, I returned to the world of my childhood,” explained professional physiotherapist-turned author Slaughter at their press conference.

Slaughter said coming back 60 years later, it was amazing to see how much Gaborone had grown from the dusty village with one street, a railway line, one school, no hospital and one doctor. She believes the peaceful transfer from colonial hands to the people of Batswana is the reason for its success.

Heslop handed over a Compact Disc loaded with pictures she took as a little girl growing up in Bechuanaland portraying colonial life in the village which will further show the infrastructure they are trying to reconstruct.

The novelty as a result will be an open air museum is, The Bonnington Open Air Museum, which will be a 10 hectare project covering the area from Western By Pass to the Grand Palm and from the Molepolole Road to the Northern peripheries.

To keep up with the dynamic changes, museums have not been left behind and through the development of Open Air Museums they are now more interactive and provide more than just housing for ornaments and monuments.

Phorano said they intend to have botanical gardens, tools and equipment used during the pre-colonial time. The museum will serve both educational and recreational purposes.

Phorano explained that the primary reasons for having a museum did not include income generation. Rather, it will have a bearing in improving sectors like tourism which will ultimately generate the income.

He further explained that to develop a museum of this nature, there should be a theme and a story line which in this case is the le Cordeur farm.

They have had the pleasure of being in contact with one Dan le Cordeur, sisters Slaughter and Heslop and intend to bring on board people who worked on the farm to diversify the perspective of the story the museum will tell.

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