Genadendal means “valley of grace”. The town was built on the site of the oldest Moravian church mission station in Africa and the first teacher’s training college in South Africa. At one stage, Genadendal was the largest settlement in the Cape Colony after Cape Town. This beautifully preserved little town is overflowing with atmosphere and history.
Nelson Mandela renamed the official Cape Town residence of the President of South Africa “Genadendal Residence” after learning of its rich heritage.
“During our term in office as President of the Republic of South Africa, we decided to rename the presidential official residence in Cape Town from ‘Westbrooke’ to ‘Genadendal’, which means ‘Valley of Grace’. We also visited this historic little town on 10 October 1995. The renaming of the official residence was in honour of the oldest mission settlement in South Africa. Over the centuries, it became a place associated with the coming together of people from different racial groups: in addition to being the first permanent Khoi settlement at the Cape, it was also a place of sanctuary for more than a thousand slaves when slavery was abolished in 1838. Genadendal is blessed with a rich tangible and intangible heritage. It boasts of vernacular architecture, musical traditions and language, and a long tradition of humanitarian efforts and political struggle. It is with pleasure that we learnt about the completion of the restoration project due to the assistance of the Dutch Government. The improvements that were effected provided the inhabitants with infrastructure to improve the quality of their lives. May the history of Genadendal continue to inspire, especially during the 270th year of its existence. The Challenge of Genadendal presents the results of this important project.” – Nelson Mandela (former President of South Africa).
THINGS TO DO:
- Discover an old artefact at the double-storey Genadendal Mission Museum. The building houses South Africa’s oldest fire engine, among others. Also pop in at the cottage museum next door, with a model of a Khoi camp and information on a thousand freed slaves who settled in Genadendal when slavery was abolished in 1838.
- Visit the original Moravian Mission Church to experience a lively brass band performance.
- Get an up-close look at the Genadendal National Monument in the historic village for a dose of the rich culture.
- See the oldest pipe organ in South Africa at the church, and look out for the old bell in front of the building.
- Pay your respects to the early missionaries by the cemetery in the beautiful memorial gardens, and sit under the 200-year-old pear tree where the first missionary, George Schmidt, taught the resident Khoi to read and write.
- Photograph original, beautifully preserved 18th century cottages.
- Explore the 25km circular hike (two days), which begins and ends in the town.
- Have lunch at the Moravian Restaurant.
- Buy bread freshly baked in outdoor ovens.
- Browse a beautifully crafted selection of hand-woven products.