In 2015, the City of Cape Town renamed seven footbridges along Nelson Mandela Boulevard and Rhodes Drive after South African public figures ahead of National Heritage Day.
The renamed footbridges are now part of the country’s heritage, and some of those driving or walking along Nelson Mandela Boulevard and Rhodes Drive might recall the venerable histories of the people after whom they’ve been named.
Taliep Petersen Bridge
The Taliep Petersen Bridge on Nelson Mandela Boulevard was named after a talented South African musician, composer, director and producer.
Petersen was born in 1950 in Cape Town and began his music career in the 1970s with the band ‘Abdullah Ibrahim and Ekaya.’
Petersen is best known for his contributions to the Cape Malay music genre, which combines traditional Malay music with jazz, pop and classical music. He wrote and produced many albums, stage shows and movies, including his 1997 musical ‘Kat and the Kings,’ for which he won Olivier and Tony awards.
Petersen was involved in social and political activism in addition to his music and theatre work. He was an outspoken opponent of apartheid and used his music to advocate for social justice and racial equality.
Petersen was tragically murdered in December 2006 at his home in Athlone, Cape Town. He is remembered as a Cape Malay music pioneer and a beloved cultural icon in South Africa.
Also read: How the mountains in the Mother City got their names
Ingrid Jonker Bridge
The Ingrid Jonker Bridge, also located on Nelson Mandela Boulevard, honours the late South African poet and writer.
Ingrid Jonker was born in Douglas, in South Africa’s Northern Cape province, and grew up in Cape Town. Her parents divorced when she was young, and her relationship with her father, apartheid government member Abraham Jonker, was strained.
Jonker began writing poetry at a young age, and her first collection, ‘Ontvlugting’ (Escape), was published in 1956. Her poetry frequently dealt with themes of love, loss and social injustice, and she became known for her powerful writing style.
Jonker was also a member of the South African Congress of Writers and an anti-apartheid activist. She had a turbulent personal life and suffered from depression, which was exacerbated by South Africa’s political and social climate at the time.
Jonker’s second poetry collection, ‘Rook en Oker’ (Smoke and Ashes), was published to critical acclaim in 1963. Her life, however, was tragically cut short when she drowned at the age of 31 in the sea near Three Anchor Bay in Cape Town in 1965.
Jonker’s poetry gained widespread recognition after her death, and she rose to prominence in South African literature. Her work has been translated into many languages and praised for its honesty, beauty and social commentary.
Father John Oliver Bridge
Father John Oliver (1923–2007) was a South African Anglican priest and activist for social justice. He was born in Cape Town and became a priest in 1952.
Oliver was a leading figure in the anti-apartheid movement and a member of the Anglican Church’s Social Responsibility Commission.
Oliver was well-known for his work in District Six, a predominantly black neighbourhood of Cape Town that was forcibly removed and demolished by the apartheid government in the 1960s. He assisted District Six residents and advocated for their right to remain in their homes and preserve their cultural heritage.
In the 1970s, Oliver became involved in the Black Consciousness movement and collaborated closely with anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko. For his activism, he was arrested and detained several times by the apartheid government.
Oliver continued to work for social justice and reconciliation in South Africa after apartheid ended. In recognition of his contributions to the anti-apartheid struggle and community service, he was awarded the Order of the Baobab in gold, one of South Africa’s highest honours. He died in 2007 at the age of 84.
Dawid Kruiper Bridge
Dawid Kruiper (1949–2012), also known as Dawid Kruiper Ui-Karas, was a San (Bushmen) leader, spiritual healer and activist from South Africa. He was born in the Kalahari Desert of South Africa’s Northern Cape province as a member of the ‡Khomani San community.
Kruiper was a prominent figure in South Africa’s struggle for the rights of the San people. In 1999, he played a key role in the land claim settlement between the Kohmani San and the South African government, which resulted in the restoration of land to the San people in the Kalahari.
Kruiper was also a strong supporter of the San people’s cultural heritage and knowledge. He established the !Khwa ttu San Culture and Education Centre in the Western Cape, which is dedicated to promoting the San people’s history, culture and language.
Kruiper was a talented musician and performer in addition to his activism. He used his music to share his culture and promote the rights of the San people, performing in many concerts and festivals around the world with the traditional bow.
Kruiper died in 2012, but his legacy lives on as a symbol of resilience, cultural pride and social justice for South Africa’s San people.
Father Basil Van Rensburg Bridge
Father Basil Van Rensburg (1932–2010) was a South African Roman Catholic priest and social activist who dedicated his life to serving South Africa’s poor and marginalised communities.
Father Basil was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, and was ordained in 1954. He rose to prominence for his efforts to promote social justice and human rights in the face of apartheid, South Africa’s system of racial segregation and discrimination.
Father Basil was a founding member of the Black Sash, a women’s rights organisation that fought apartheid and for black South Africans’ rights. In South Africa, he also collaborated with the Catholic Institute for International Relations and the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference to promote social justice and human rights.
Father Basil was a founding member of the Detainees’ Parents Support Committee, which provided support and assistance to the families of people detained by the apartheid government. He also collaborated with other anti-apartheid activists to provide legal and material assistance to political detainees and their families.
Father Basil died in 2010, but his legacy as a tireless advocate for South African social justice and human rights lives on. He will be remembered as a champion of the poor and marginalised, as well as a source of hope and inspiration for all who work for a more just and equitable society.
Tuan Guru Bridge
Tuan Guru (1712–1807), also known as Imam Abdullah ibn Qadi Abdus Salam, was an Indonesian scholar and religious leader who was exiled to South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope during the 18th century.
Tuan Guru was born in the Indonesian archipelago and was a descendant of the Aru Kingdom in eastern Indonesia’s ruling family. He was educated in Islamic scholarship and rose through the ranks to become a respected scholar and teacher in his community.
Tuan Guru, along with other political prisoners, was exiled to the Cape of Good Hope by Dutch colonial authorities in 1780. Tuan Guru rose to prominence as a religious leader in the Cape Malay community, which included people of Indonesian, Malaysian and African descent.
Tuan Guru is best known for his role in establishing South Africa’s first Islamic school, which was housed in a mosque he built on Dorp Street in Cape Town. He also wrote several books on Islam and Islamic law, as well as a Malay translation of the Quran.
Tuan Guru is remembered today as a South African Muslim pioneer and a symbol of the Muslim community’s resilience and strength in the face of oppression and exile. The Auwal Mosque, which he built in Cape Town, is the oldest mosque in South Africa and is still in use today.
!Kunta (1820–1870), also known as Ia!Kunta, was a South African San (Bushmen) man who played an important role in the history of the San people. He belonged to the |Xam people, a San group that lived in South Africa’s western and southern regions.
!Kunta was one of the last |Xam San to live a traditional lifestyle, hunting and gathering in the Kalahari Desert’s remote areas. He was also one of the last San people to practise the |Xam religion and speak it fluently.
!Kunta was approached in the 1860s by a German linguist named Wilhelm Bleek, who was interested in studying the |Xam language and culture. Kunta became Bleek’s teacher and collaborator, and the two collaborated on over 12,000 pages of |Xam folklore, history and mythology.
The resulting work, known as the Bleek and Lloyd Collection, is considered one of the most important documentations of San culture and language. It contains both! Kunta’s own stories, songs and poetry, as well as those of other San people from whom he had learned.
Despite his significant contributions to San culture and historic preservation. In 1870, Kunta died in poverty and obscurity. His legacy, however, lives on as a testament to the San people’s resilience, wisdom and creativity.
The history of Simon’s Town lives in these museums