• LOCATION 1 | Museum Audio Guide: Home to South African Wine

    Under the Oaks: Welcome, Traveller

    Under the Oaks: Welcome, Traveller on Cape Town audio tour Museum Audio Guide: Home to South African Wine

    Narrator: Welcome, traveller, to our farm here at the foot of the mountains.

    Was your journey pleasant? I hope so. Two hundred years ago, it took an hour and a half to reach Groot Constantia by horse and carriage. If there’s traffic on the highway, it can take almost as long now.

    Arrivals here haven’t changed much either. They’ve always been an important event at Groot Constantia, and yours today is no different.

    In fact, by visiting the estate you’re adding your name to a long list of explorers who were curious about this vineyard, which might be at the bottom of Africa, but is famous around the world.

    Please, come over to stand under the shade of the oak trees with me.

    Allow me to introduce James Holman, a fellow traveller.

    He arrived here in the summer of 1829, on his way to being the first blind man to circumnavigate the globe…

    James Holman: On returning to the house at Great Constantia, we found a carriage full of strangers had arrived from Cape Town, during our absence, with whom we entered into conversation, and soon discovered that they were passengers on their way from India to England. One of these gentlemen I recently met at a dinner party in London.

    We afterwards met another party…consisting of Russian officers. There are thus constantly parties arriving from Cape Town…for not only every respectable resident at the Cape, but every passing stranger that happens to land from any ship...thinks it quite as necessary to visit Constantia as travellers going to Naples would Pompeii, and no doubt it is desirable for the proprietor to receive them, because many are thereby induced to purchase wine.

    Narrator: But not everybody arrived here by choice.

    This was also a place where political prisoners, indentured labourers, and slaves were sent. The story of Groot Constantia is theirs too. You could even say it belongs to them first, because for long periods, slaves outnumbered everybody else at Constantia. Some even made its wine.

    Then there’s Anna de Koningh, who was born a slave but rose high above her unhappy start – high enough to own this estate and a few others. We’ll meet her later.

    Unfortunately, Anna is a vanishingly rare exception, and we don’t know nearly enough about the individual contributions made by these men and women.

    Thys: That’s the big problem with slave history...They didn’t have a voice. They were absolutely voiceless. History ignored these people.

    Narrator: That’s Thys van der Merwe. Thys is a curator of social history collections at Iziko Museums of South Africa, and he’s been studying the history of Groot Constantia for 30 years.

    Thys: I’m still doing it…just getting more info…and it fits into a jigsaw puzzle. The puzzle is getting bigger and the pieces are getting more, but everything fits. And that to me is…the biggest reward.

    Narrator: Thys will join us again, to help tell Groot Constantia’s story. But for now, let’s get moving.

    Stand so you’re facing the front of the manor house. Then look left.

    Can you see a wall with vineyards rolling down to the sea behind it?

    Go over to stand in front of the wall. Select track 2 from the menu on your screen once you’re there.

Museum Audio Guide: Home to South African Wine