Student design competition for Rustenburg Slave Memorial

03 September 2014 | Story by Newsroom

Rustenburg Burial Ground, the final resting place for slaves who worked on the farms along the Liesbeeck River in the 17th and 18th centuries, is to become a memorial to those dispossessed of land and freedom in Cape Town's colonial past '“ and UCT students are being invited to submit proposals for the memorial.

In the course of the planning process for the construction of a new set of buildings on UCT middle campus in 2007 and 2008, the university became aware that the site for its proposed buildings had been an old slave burial ground on Rustenburg farm, an area of land that stretched from the present Main Road to the Summer House beneath the M3 freeway. The rediscovery of the Rustenburg Burial Ground provides UCT with an opportunity to remember and commemorate the lives and experiences of those buried on the land '“ and students are being invited to submit their ideas for this memorial.

The historic challenge

The broader context in which UCT has taken on this initiative is the existence of many historic human burial grounds dating from the precolonial period, and the challenge these sites present of speaking respectfully to the past and constructively to the present and future.

The design challenge

The design challenge facing student participants is in how to transform the space as it is now to one that will both commemorate the slave burial ground and connect it to issues in the everyday and contemporary life of the campus.

This competition challenges students to memorialise the lost slave cemetery by addressing three complementary issues: historic narration, spatial transformation and artistic intervention. In addition to capturing the imagination of the university community and lending themselves to easy implementation, submissions must address three elements:

  1. The introduction of a fitted interpretation piece to act as a narrative history of the site in a dedicated space identified in the School of Economics building
  2. The reconfiguration of the adjacent cemetery platform and precinct in order to integrate the indoor-outdoor spatial relationships
  3. The introduction of an complementary artistic installation within the precinct

The site:

The designated site is made up of an outside garden area between All Africa House and the School of Economics, which connects to a dedicated enclosed space on the south side of the School of Economics.

Registration and resources:

Students are encouraged to pre-register with Judith du Toit before 8 September 2014 to access a wealth of resources available '“ including the original briefing documents, a history of the site, and historic and contemporary images. Email


The student competition will officially kick off with a briefing on 11 September, at which Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Crain Soudien will provide an overview of the project, Professor Nigel Penn of the Department of Historical Studies will give historical contextualisation, director of the Michaelis School of Fine Art Associate Professor Fritha Langerman will speak about the challenges of interpretation and representation, spatial historian Sally Titlestad will talk about the heritage considerations of the site, and Professor Iain Low from the School of Architecture, Planning and Geomatics will address the challenges of transforming campus from a spatial point of view.

Students will need to submit their proposals by Monday 21 September, and entries will be exhibited on 24 September, at the university's Heritage Day commemorations.

  • Competition briefing Thursday 11 September from 11h00-12h00
    Lecture Theatre 1 in the School of Economics
    Tea and snacks will be available in the foyer from 10h30

  • Submission deadline Entries '“ which will be anonymous '“ should be delivered to Judith du Toit by hand on Monday 21 September from 11h00-12h30. She will be available at this time in the narrative space in the School of Economics.

  • Exhibition and award ceremony Judging will happen from 22-23-September, by the original briefing panel, together with community representative Kammie Kamedien. All entries will be exhibited at the university's official Heritage Day celebration on 24 September (details to be available shortly), at which the winners and runners up will also be announced.



R10 000 is available for the most compelling student submissions: R5 000 for first prize, R3 000 for second and R1 000 for third, followed by honorary mentions worth R500 each.

Students may work individually or in teams. Questions should be directed to project manager Judith du Toit

Read more:

Student Design Competition: Call for proposals for Rustenburg Burial Ground

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