The Great Trek
- 1 The saga of The Great Trek
- 2 The rebellion of Slagtersnek
- 3 Dingane and Piet Retief
- 4 The Day of the Covenant and the Battle of Blood River
- 5 Celebratory events
- 6 Representations of Great Trek personalities, events and history in the performing arts
- 7 Films
The saga of The Great Trek
This refers specifically to the migration by wagon trains of Dutch-speaking settlers from the Cape Colony into the interior of modern South Africa from 1836 onwards. The main impetus was the increasing tensions between rural descendants of the Cape's original European settlers and the rules imposed by the British government in Cape Colony. The families who took part in the Great Trek identified themselves as Voortrekkers, meaning "pioneers", "pathfinders" (literally "fore-trekkers") in Dutch and Afrikaans.
Like the Anglo-Boer War, the (often idealized) saga of The Great Trek would become one of the cornerstones in the construction of an Afrikaner history and identity, and thus a major theme in art, literature and performance. (See the list given below in section ) Of course, research since has not always agreed that all the trekkers (or voortrekkers as they are often known) were as idealistic or innocent as often depicted, for the trek was probably also a good opportunity for those seeking to avaoid the law , to hitch a lift north. Some more recent works have actually sought to redress that matter in various ways.
In many ways this iconization of the event is reminiscent of the similar role played by the great wagon trains heading to the "Wild West" in American history and the psyche of that nation, and as in that case there are also a number of major sub-themes in the broader history of the Trek which have become specific themes of their own in the arts and literature. Some are discussed below.
The rebellion of Slagtersnek
Dingane and Piet Retief
Geloftedag, known in English as The Day of the Covenant or The Day of the Vow , refers to an important event in the history of the Afrikaner people of South Africa, not only celebrated with pageants and performances annually, but the core set of events that surrounding it (such as the rebellion against British rule, the trials and triumphs of the Voortrekkers and The Great Trek, the death of Piet Retief, the covenant itself and the Battle of Blood River (Afrikaans: Slag van Bloedrivier; Zulu: iMpi yaseNcome) ) have been the central theme of numerous historical studies as well as works of art and literature, including many texts written and created for stage, media and film.
Known in Afrikaans as Geloftedag, or The Day of the Vow in English, refers to an important event in the history of the Afrikaner people of South Africa, originating from a oath taken on 16 December 1838 by the Boer leaders of the Great Trek in Natal to honour God in perpetuity if He granted them vistory in the forthcoming Battle of Blood River. As a consequence of the victory, it has been celebrated as a religious public holiday in South Africa from that day onwards.
These celebrations gained a particular political significance in the country after the 1938 symbolic re-enactment of the Great Trek of 1838 and the eventual construction and inauguration of the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria (1949).
In 1994, after the end of Apartheid, the name and the intention was changed, it now being called the Day of Reconciliation, an annual holiday also on 16 December, intended to celebrate the dream of final reconciliation between all people in the country.
Representations of Great Trek personalities, events and history in the performing arts
The particular works are simply listed here, click on the name of the particular text to find details on its origins, publication and/or performances.
Di Voortrekkers (1916)
Die Voortrekkers (1973)
The Fiercest Heart (1961)
Plays, tableaus and historical enactments
Piet Retief (Anon., 1904)
Inauguration of the Voortrekker Monument (Anon, 1949)
Voëlvry (Opperman, 1968)
Go to ESAT Bibliography
Return to PLAYS I: Original SA plays
Return to PLAYS II: Foreign plays
Return to PLAYS III: Collections
Return to South African Festivals and Competitions
Return to The ESAT Entries
Return to Main Page