By Attiya Karodia
Once a prison, built to house only white criminals and political activists (with the exception being Nelson Mandela himself), Constitutional Hill’s history and heritage isn’t one of joy or triumph, but rather one of tragedy that has marred our national history.
In my Matric year, i.e. my final year of high school, I was honored to be a speaker during Human Rights Day at Con Hill, an apt setting for a day where we are meant to reflect on rights that were consistently denied and mocked during colonisation and apartheid. Lately I’ve been urged to think beyond the past, when I was full of fire from reading Pan Afrikanist literature; I’ve been compelled to move my mind from the times of Biko to what exists today. I can’t say I’m proud of what our monuments have become; but I can say, with complete certainty, that I am embarrassed about what they will be remembered for amongst my peers.
Once a monument revered and remembered with sober clarity, Con Hill has become a venue for millennial disregard- the drinking ground for ‘tumblr girls’ and ‘fuccbois’ and the enclave of a denialist mindset, a stance of thinking which orders us to ‘get over’ apartheid.
I decided to ask my fellow Elle Afrique sisters about their take on the reuse (or, in my opinion, misuse) of heritage monuments as entertainment venues and the reaction was fairly mixed. Some believe that opening these monuments up to the youth for entertainment purposes means that there is also the opportunity to make them aware of the history behind them, while others are of the opinion that “turning up” in places of such historical importance is a recipe for ignorant distasters to come. I have to agree with the latter.
Barely three decades into democracy and Con Hill is better known by the youth for DFRNT then as a part of our heritage -does that mean that this politically sacred site will be redefined as a great party venue? That the history of the great political parties that were formed within its’ walls will be forgotten? We’re being tainted by the turn up; breeding ignorance amongst ourselves through the vices that encompass life as a Born Free and, worst of all, forgetting that where we lay our hungover heads was once ground that our freedom fighters were imprisoned on.