J U D I T H   W E S T E R V E L D

 

 


The Remnant
Single channel HD video, colour, stereo sound
19' 45''
2016

 

 

 
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A hedge of indigenous Wild Almond trees was planted in 1659 by Jan van Riebeeck, VOC employee and the Dutch Commander of the Cape, South Africa from 1652 to 1662. Together with a 16 km construction of wooden fence and watchtowers it formed the 25 km long eastern boundary of the Dutch colonial settlement that ran from the mouth of the Salt River through Rondebosch to Kirstenbosch in what is now Cape Town. As the historical narrative goes, it served as a defensive barrier that was to prevent the original inhabitants, the Khoikhoi and San tribes, from raiding the colonist's cattle. To this day its surviving remnants grow in Kirstenbosch botanical garden.

In The Remnant the stories of two men, one a botanist and the other a tour guide, are interwoven with fragments from Van Riebeeck's diary (Daghregister, 1652-1662) read aloud by Judith Westerveld voicing the intentions of the colonizer and the resistance of the colonized. The botanist, Adam Harrower, recounts the cycles of growth and deterioration of the Wild Almond tree, bringing the natural form of Van Riebeeck's Hedge to life. The tour guide, Andrew Jacobs, questions the official historical narrative that surrounds Van Riebeeck's Hedge, as well as recounting the influence that the segregation laws of apartheid had on his personal life and on the lives of the people in his community. The interchange between the different voices of these people, as well as the aesthetic visualization of the remnants of the hedge, allows for its botanical form to function as a double metaphor in the film. Its growth emphasizes the rise of segregation and its deterioration the suffering that this caused. Hereby the film, and the interaction of its audio and visual expression, unveils the underlying trauma that remains compartmentalized in the personal memories and societal landscape of South Africa.