The Dundee living within History is a multifaceted and ground-breaking heritage project which was launched in 2010 and cleverly incorporates aspects of history, creativity and education.
In 2010 artist Vaughn Sadie and playwright/theatre maker Neil Coppen relocated to the town of Dundee in Northern Kwa-Zulu Natal as part of VANSA (The Visual Arts Network of South Africa) 2010 Reasons to Live in Small Town residency. Their project saw them working in conjunction with the Talana Museum, historians, community groups, re-enactors, tour guides and learners.
With a culture of historical re-enactment (the tradition of replaying the past through performance) already existing in the town, the artists worked towards staging a series of unconventional re-enactments in public-spaces around Dundee.
The artists returned in 2013 to the town to begin work on the second phase of the project which focused on documenting, recording and collaboratively reimagining aspects of the township Sibongile’s (located 2km outside of Dundee) history. Sibongile was formed through the implementation of the land act in 1913 and while the Talana museum archives housed extensive documentation pertaining to the town’s colonial history scarce records existed on the forming of and founding of the neighbouring township of Sibongile.
After a series of oral history workshops held at the Sibongile Public library, teams of fifteen learners were sent out to record Sibongile relatives and residents’ stories. Their questioning centring on how the township had come into existence. After this research period, each of the groups were asked to reflect on their finding via a series of collage workshops which incorporated photographs and visual-materials which had been collected from residents over the duration of the workshops. During this period the Talana Museum found a full set of original documents of the Dundee Native Admiration Board pre-dating its inception to its final closure in 1974, when Native matters were handled by the Nationalist Government.
The project was funded by the Visual Arts Network of South Africa and the National Arts Council of South Africa. Further support in kind was offered by the Talana Museum and the Endumeni Local Municipality.