History Display

Our Struggle Exhibition:

Idabi is a powerful, local history installation, representing a benchmark in struggle exhibitions. This is achieved by displaying cutting-edge research material and never-before-seen artefacts with the use of exhibition technology.

The exhibition gives context to the struggle dating back to the days of independent chiefdoms. The region played a pioneering role in the origins of black politics in South Africa. The first Native Congress, a forerunner of the ANC, was established in town in December 1891. Indeed, one of their first meetings was held in the town’s old library which now forms part of this Museum. We also investigate how race informed the creation of all the settlements in and around town including forced removals such as Old Town. We further look at recorded incidences of early protest, including the Poqo (PAC) attack on the local police station and resistance to a local visit from Dr HF Verwoerd. Homemade petrol bomb used in the Poqo attack, 1960

Idabi then contrasts the Ciskei independence celebrations with the funeral of the slain human rights lawyer, Griffiths Mxenge. Ciskei objects on display include a champagne glass used during the inaugural flight of Ciskei International Airways and president-for-life LLW Sebe’s very own yellowwood ‘throne’ . The formation of the local branch of the UDF as well as personal accounts of the Bhisho Massacre and the Golf club attack is displayed with the use of QR codes.

Ciskei president L.L.W. Sebe was not a born chief, but a chieftainship was created for him based on a fake genealogy. This ceremonial chair, clad with leopard skin, normally reserved as a symbol of chieftainship, had pride of place in his presidential office.

The Border Council of Churches played a vital role in the local struggle. A small group of activists worked under trying circumstances, supporting political detainees and their families, promising students, small developmental projects and communities facing forced removals. Idabi also includes school protests at Forbes Grant, Thembalabantu, Nompendulo High and Breidbach Senior Secondary. Non-racial sport played a vital role in forging closer relationships between sport persons of various communities, despite detention, harassment and even banishment.

Lastly, we portray local struggle stalwarts who have sacrificed tremendously for our freedom and equality. With the aid of a recording booth where visitors are encouraged to tell their stories, Idabi presents the opportunity for continued dialogue in terms of on-going research and building a struggle archive.

Wagon Making: The Lost Craft

Qonce was one of the largest and most prominent producers of wagons in Africa from 1870 to 1950. Well-known workshops included Ririe Bros., R. Symons (Buffalo Wagon & Carriage Works), W.G. Glennie (Bon Accord Works), Burgess & Co and Behnke Bros. There was a big demand for well-produced carts, wagons and trolleys, especially during wartime. Chief customers were farmers and transport riders. As an important commercial centre and the capital of British Kaffraria, the town was a vital economic hub, ideally situated for trade with the Transkei trading stations, but still relatively close to the East London harbour to warrant several large trading concerns that depended on transport.

Across the Frontier

The aim of the exhibition is to tell the story of 19th century King William’s Town (now Qonce) in all its facets, including conflict, acculturation, coexistence and cooperation. This is achieved by utilising both the history and anthropology collections. This new, multi-cultural exhibition replaced the old Eurocentric display, which omitted important information and ignored certain aesthetic and museological principles. The new approach has important educational implications, promoting an understanding of local history and culture.

On exhibition: Dress: The Silent Language

Missionary Museum

The Missionary Museum was constructed in 1855 as a Wesleyan Chapel and subsequently served as a Baptist Church until the enforcement of the Group Areas Act led to its closure. The Missionary Museum opened its doors to the public in 1976 and functions as a satellite of the Amathole Museum.

The Museum strives to represent a truly interdenominational scope. From the early nineteenth century, early missionary activity characterised the area. Between 1856-1859, the first complete edition of the Xhosa bible was printed by Rev John Appleyard at Mount Coke, near Qonce. The latter press as well as the reconstructed Ruthven Press used by John Bennie in 1823 to print the first words in Xhosa, are on display in the museum. Well-known mission stations such as Lovedale, Healdtown and St. Matthews are represented in the exhibition. Significant too, is the fact that the German Baptist movement in South Africa has its origins in King William’s Town, whilst the work of the Dominican Order in South Africa is also displayed.

The Missionary Museum is situated about 5 blocks away from the main museum complex (see Museum Map).