In an open international architectural competition, the Department of Arts & Culture required the design of a remembrance centre that would honour and document the life of Sarah Bartmann as well as the heritage of the Khoi-San people.
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.
Comrie + Wilkinson Architects’ Pretoria Branch, directed by Chris Wilkinson, approached the design by defining a circular route or procession, that leads from the informal to the sacred, via Memory, Healing and Celebration spaces. The architecture responds to the landscape, vegetation and climate of the area in a sensitive manner, while subtle references to the Khoi-San people and way of life come across through sensory experiences and textures, rather than through imitation. Reminders of historic events, such as the Genocide Wall, help to educate the visitor on the experiences of the Khoi- San people.