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Sarah Bartmann Centre of Remembrance
South Africa
After a lengthy political process, Sarah Bartmann’s remains were returned to South Africa in 2002, having suffered a lifetime of racial exploitation and humiliation, in South Africa and Europe. The burial site of Bartmann, in Hankey, Eastern Cape, was set aside as a sacred place, providing a set of restrictions as well as the guiding focus for the design. A project can easily tempt the interpretation of Khoi and San culture imagery, such as seducing rock paintings, flattering drawings and concentric settlement layouts. Therefore the approach called for deliberate intention of buildings and structures not to try and imitate any form of shelter, rock paintings or cultural activities used by the Khoi and San too directly. Buildings are designed to be a series of understated, “quiet” and neutral expressions that does not compete with the subjects, namely Sarah Bartmann, the Khoi and San and their culture. Subtle references to the culture are expressed by limited use of their materials in an abstract manner, sensory experiences by the visitor in terms of being in touch with different textures and the surroundings. A Defining circular route or procession starts at the central arrival space at the reception. This procession, from informal to sacred, via Memory (language pond, genocide wall and steps, and museums), Healing (healing pond, grave site and the symbolic and productive garden garden) and Celebration (the great place of celebration and celebration wall) is interrupted by threshold spaces, a series of events and sensory experiences. The interior of these spaces is neutral and emphasis is placed on the subjects of the exhibition by natural light washing onto selected walls and focal points. It is an approach where nature is respected and the impact on it minimum. Construction technology is intentionally uncomplicated, easy to execute and easy to maintain. Although these buildings are permanent, they are designed to blend in and almost form part of nature. This is mainly achieved by using the topography as guidance in placing of buildings, obtaining clues from the context and integrating vegetation and trees. Indigenous trees are used extensively due to their canopy-like shape and their ability to define spaces. Landscaped courtyards and trees will contribute in creating a pleasant space that will encourage outdoor activity.
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