St Cuthbert's Mission Station: Fragments of living heritage, the archive and documentary filmmaking – 'the future of the past'
Missionalia: Southern African Journal of Missiology
This paper offers a reflection on a research project undertaken over a period of nearly five years at the St Cuthbert's Anglican community near Tsolo in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. St Cuthbert' was established by Father Bransby Key, an Anglican missionary in the nineteenth century. On a site visit with art historian professor Anitra Nettleton, we met elders who still remembered the missionaries and could relate to lay-worker Frank Cornner who collected beadwork made by the amaMpondomise
... though the missionaries discouraged these practices. Cornner's collections are housed at the Iziko South African Museum in Cape Town, the British Museum in London and at Pit Rivers in Oxford, in the United Kingdom. The importance of recording testimonies of elders underlines the value of 'living heritage' as an added research tool in attempts to contribute to the existing archive, especially as many of the elders have since passed away. The elders recall their experiences with fondness and it was only at a later stage that the researcher encountered dichotomous reactions to the missionary project in the area. For the researcher / documentary filmmaker this tension presented a dilemma as the value of the testimonies could in no way whatsoever be undermined despite the challenges faced by practitioners at this time in the history of our country. My research does, however, point to the importance of constantly adding to existing archival collections of historical records by recording the lived experiences of relevant individuals.