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Yesterday’s post looked at the Huguenot migration to South Africa. The plaque of their family names (pictured above, courtesy of Wikipedia) is located in the Johannesburg Botanical Garden.

The Huguenot Society of South Africa has a page with a list of family names and describes their history in the country.  H C Viljoen, the author of the article, tells us that not all the original names survive today because offspring were daughters.

Viljoen describes the Dutch East India Company’s offer to the persecuted French-speaking Protestants. The Dutch were primarily Calvinist and saw like-minded co-religionists in the Huguenots. That meant their worship and values would be the same. However, the Dutch knew of their expertise in a number of fields which made them attractive candidates to settle in South Africa.

Huguenot families could bring only a minimum of possessions on board. The Dutch East India Company was interested in increasing the number of farms in South Africa. The Company’s plan was to focus initially on wheat and sheep farming. They gave interested Huguenots land, implements, seed and/or livestock free of charge. Any harvest or proceeds from livestock or meat sales would go to the Company as reimbursement. The Company thought that crops and livestock would bring in income more reliably than viticulture (growing grapes for wine and vinegar), which came later.

With regard to wine, the number of vines grew quickly, from 100 in 1655 to 1.5 million by 1700. Successive generations of growers have improved growing and production methods to create a superior product known around the world. A number of the estates still bear their original French names. Viljoen writes:

The De Villiers brothers in particular arrived at the Cape with a reputation for viticulture and oenology. Through the years the De Villiers brothers planted more than 40 000 vines at the Cape.  They moved from the original farm allocated to them (which they named La Rochelle) to finally settle on individual allottments near Franschhoek with the names Bourgogne, Champagne and La Brie.

Franschhoek, incidentally, translates as ‘French Corner’.

Those Huguenots who did not pursue agriculture agreed with the Company to pursue a trade or profession, e.g. medicine, teaching, carpentry, hat-making.

Viljoen makes an important point regarding Huguenot assimilation into Afrikaner society, one which today’s immigrants might do well to keep in mind (emphases mine):

The Huguenots did indeed leave a direct and indirect legacy in South Africa. They did not continue to live as an separate, clearly identifiable subgroup. Already early in the eighteenth century they were assimilated by the rest of the population at the Cape as a result of both political measures and their minority numbers.  But despite their relatively small numbers, they nevertheless left an indelible mark on and made a valuable contribution during the early years of the settlement at the Cape of Good Hope to various areas – economy, education, technology, agriculture, culture, church life, religion, etc. 

HuguenotMemorialMuseum.jpgTo honour their memory, South Africans have erected several monuments. The two most prominent are the Huguenot Memorial Museum and the Huguenot Monument (pictured at right, courtesy of Wikipedia). Both are in Franschhoek.

The Monument’s Wikipedia entry (click this link then on the monument picture for an expanded view) explains the symbolism behind the design:

The monument was designed by J.C. Jongens, completed in 1945 and inaugurated by Dr. A.J van der Merwe on 17 April 1948.

The three high arches symbolize the Holy Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. On top of the arches is the sun of righteousness and above that, the cross of their Christian faith.

The central female figure, created by Coert Steynberg, personifies religious freedom with a bible in her one hand and broken chain in the other. She is casting off her cloak of oppression and her position on top of the globe shows her spiritual freedom. The fleur-de-lis on her robe represents a noble spirit and character.

The southern tip of the globe shows the symbols of their religion (the Bible), art and culture (the harp), the agriculture and viticulture (the sheaf of corn and grape vine) and industry (spinning wheel).

The water pond, reflecting the colonnade behind it, expresses the undisturbed tranquility of mind and spiritual peace the Huguenots experienced after much conflict and strife.

It is a fitting tribute to a deserving people.

We can learn much from the Huguenot example in being responsible, faithful Christians.

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