Human interest · Journalism · Western Cape Archives and Records Service

Western Cape Archives and Records Service: A pit of information


(Western Cape Archives and Records Service situated in Roeland Street, Cape Town. Picture: Chantélle Hartebeest)

Have you ever walked past something but never really noticed it? One morning on my way to college I was caught up in my thoughts and felt terribly anxious as I made my way up into Roeland Street, Cape Town. I searched around for something to calm me down. That is when I looked up to the sky, said a little prayer and was greeted by the beautiful Table Mountain covered in a duvet of clouds but something below it caught my attention: the Western Cape Archives and Records Service.

I was intrigued by the high stone walls and palm trees surrounding the building but most of all that which is inside of the building. Then I asked myself: what do those walls know about me that I don’t know about myself? I immediately started to question my family history and where my roots are anchored. Upon further research I found that this national monument gathers and manages informational records of the people and government in South Africa. Based in Roeland street right next to the institution (Cape Peninsula University of Technology) where I study, the Western Cape Archives and Records Service will take you back in time with records dated up until 1651. According to the Western Cape Government website, this archival organization has three core functions which include: “providing access to records and promote their use by the public, ensure proper records management and preserving records.” I envision this place to be a pit of information. Although I did not have the time yet to research my history I am planning to do so in the near future. I already imagined myself inside the building going through the archives. I thought what an adventure it would be as if I am in a thrilling episode of the television show: Survivor. The organization also provides other collections such as photos, drawings and sketches.


(The beautiful stone walls and palm trees will greet you outside. Picture: Chantélle Hartebeest)

I have looked deeper into the symbolic meanings of the stone walls and palm trees surrounding the building of the Western Cape Archives and Records Service. According to the website the stones protruding the wall symbolizes truth. What truth have you been seeking about your family history? With so much records being preserved at this archival organization, you have an opportunity to get access to it. The palm trees on the other hand represent “peace and the opportunity to enrich the soul.” The feeling of being bothered by something but not knowing what it is can be frustrating. Think of it as your ancestors calling upon you wanting you to know more about their lives. What if they want you to know that you descend from a noble and royal family and your kingdom needs you? Or maybe your kingdom does not need you but think of the peace you would experience knowing your blue blood roots. This will surely uplift your soul and your spirit as well. You will get to brag about it but don’t go too far trying to film a reality TV series about it, honey. Hollywood has enough already.

Google Maps 2

(The archives are less than an hour away from Cape Town International Airport. Picture: Google Maps)

No matter where you might find yourself, make your way to the Western Cape Archives and Records Service and start to unmask and discover your history. Remember history is worth gold; we cannot do or go without it. Collene Goeda, who has a desire to know more about her family history, gives insight on how she feels about uncovering her ancestry. “A conversation about land redistribution sparked an interest in me wanting to research my ancestry. During this conversation I realized that pretty much everyone that was participating in it was well informed about their family history. It made me realize that I am not as well informed about my family history and that is when I decided to do some family research.”

Goeda further added that she has searched the internet for help and she came across the Western Cape Archives and Records Service. “Firstly, I searched the internet for websites where I could start to conduct my research and the Western Cape Archives and Records Service came up as the first search result. On this website I found loads of information that is going to be helpful for me.”

Looking back to that morning when I walked to college feeling anxious I realised how at peace I felt when my eyes were directed to the building of the Western Cape Archives and Records Services after the prayer I said. Now I ask myself: “Was it my ancestors calling me?”




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