Contesting names and statues: Battles over the Louis Trichardt/Makhado 'city-text' in Limpopo Province, South Africa


  • Mahunele Thotse Department of Historical and Heritage Studies, University of Pretoria


This article examines recent contestations over the commemoration of King Makhado of the Venda at the town of Louis Trichardt in Limpopo Province, South Africa. It draws on recent literature by historians and historical geographers in South Africa, Europe and the United States to assist in the analysis of the broader issues embodied in competing interpretations of commemoration. These approaches are applied to a specific case study: the recent controversy over the process of renaming the town of Louis Trichardt/Makhado and the subsequent erection of the King Makhado statue in Louis Trichardt along with the removal of the statue of Louis Trichardt. The controversy focused primarily on the scale and impact of the newly adopted name. The article analyses the politics behind this debate over commemoration. It concludes that the commemoration was an intentional, purposeful plan of the provincial government of Limpopo to rewrite not only the history of the town, but of the whole province in an effort to highlight the historical significance and contributions of African warrior kings who they felt had been marginalised over the years. The article also contends that 'city-texts' in Limpopo province represent an emerging social-political agenda that is prioritising towns and cities as places of commemoration, sometimes at the expense of Afrikaner memorials, and reflects on the utility of the concept of 'scale' as a way of understanding the changing politics of commemoration in Louis Trichardt/Makhado.


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