The thriving Oude Molen community garden

If you are fortunate enough you may catch a glimpse of a dear elderly man enjoying a steaming cup of coffee with book in hand and in the company of his loyal canine companions whilst enjoying the weak winter rays in Oude Molen Village. Many of you may have heard of Jono Kennedy, a human being admired and respected amongst the teachers and children of Gaia.

For Gaia Waldorf School the first gardening and Oude Molen community building experience was initiated a long time ago in 2005 when the first class began their gardening main lesson in class 3. Here the class were able to secure a small plot of land to begin tilling, sowing and caring for their tiny seeds waiting and watching for the emerging growth to from deep within the soil all the while under the gentle instruction of dear Jono. Since then many classes have visited and been the ‘custodians’ of this community garden learning about the many wonders and benefits of caring for a food garden.

Hovering around the walls of the Oude Molen Eco Village, Sun Development have initiated a number of stakeholder engagements since October 2015 regarding the tender of the urban planning, landscape architecture, engineering, environmental and heritage studies for the Two Rivers Urban Park Project. A number of public participation meetings have occurred to assist in the design of a sustainable TRU-PARK. Various stakeholders, Oude Molen Eco Village being one of the stakeholders have been invited to be part of the process of generating ideas toward the design of the TRU-Park and ideally inform the future plans.

Attending a few of these presentations one witnesses the complexity of such a process of planning the development of the area; needing to be sustainable for future generations and respectful of the wishes of various cultural groups whose ancestors have walked the land in the past and others more recently who have settled, making a living with future aspirations too. With the project still in process to date one can’t help but contemplate the question; who then is to be the custodians of the river, land and wildlife?

Returning to the thriving Oude Molen community garden, a small part of this vast tract of land under scrutiny, Jono together with his helper’s, the children at Gaia and Garden Village continue their efforts in being the ‘custodians’ of the garden and hopefully more gardens further afield.
Thank you Jono!

Do your feet know where they walk?
Do you hear the songs on the wind?
Can you hear the stories that rumble beneath the land, begging your ears to listen?

Right here, at our beloved Gaia, the richness of our history is to be found. It is a story of wild abundance, of dispossession and war, of farming and windmills, of madness and healing. This land that stretches the banks of the Black River, on the eastern rise of the Liesbeek Valley has stood before the time of roads and railways, before the time of bricks and mortar, before the time of guns.

The San and the KhoiKhoi were the First People of this City. They were the keepers of knowledge – of the uses of plants, of healing and mysticism. They studied the movement and nature of animals; they knew the sea its tides and studied the stars. They traded with explorers from other lands from as early as 1421. They believed that it was impossible that one person could own land, and that it belonged to the entire community.
This place, this land we stand on today was the kraal of the KhoiKhoi clan called Goringhaiqua. It was a favourite place to raise their animals and a strategic point to see approaching friends and foes. The place where two rivers meet is considered mystical, magical and here is where The Black River and Liesbeek River used to meet, flowing to the ocean as the Salt River.

This place of confluence was used in many Khoi ceremonies and rituals. The Liesbeek Valley teemed with animals – hippo, buffalo, elephant, antelope and zebra and even the black-maned lion, that became extinct in 1860.
If you stood in the car park at Gaia looking out towards the mountain, this is what you would have seen. And so it was for hundreds of years. Unlike the San, the KhoiKhoi had chiefs, important men who led their clans. And here, on this very land, where our beloved Gaia stands, was the kraal of a great and proud KhoiKhoi leader called Gogosoa of the Goringhaiqua people. He sometimes lived here with his wives, sons and daughters and members of his clan as they moved their cattle across the Cape peninsula. He was wealthy and fat, and it is said he lived to over 100 years. And like all that is, time passed and things changed. New people came and brought with them new ways.

These ways of the first people of the Cape changed drastically, changed violently, changed forever when a big and powerful company in Holland was formed, called the Dutch East India Company, or VOC. The VOC wanted to control the spice trade between Europe and the East. In order to do that, they needed to control the Cape. The VOC sent thousands of Dutch people to the Cape, to start a new colony and a refueling station for passing ships that would ensure their control of the spice route. The KhoiKhoi were enraged to see these Dutch settlers take the land as their own, dividing it into dairy, fruit and wheat farms where their animals had roamed for hundreds of years. Khokhoi pasture lands got smaller and their movements more and more restricted.

The Goringhaiqua joined with other Khoi clans and decided to attack the Dutch for what had been taken from them. In 1659, just seven years after the Settlers started arriving the first local war broke out. When Chief Gogosoa and his peers came to the Castle a year later to secure the peace, the Dutch made solid gains in land and the conditions of its use. The negotiation was a great loss to the KhoiKhoi. As farms in the Liesbeek Valley expanded and became more established, the Dutch built the first (water) mill on the land of the former Goringhaiqua kraal. The farm was called Molenvliet. In the 1720’s the first windmill in South Africa was built and was called Oude Molen, meaning ‘the Old Mill’. It is believed the windmill toppled in a vicious Southeaster.

After the rule of the Dutch, came the English. They captured the Zulu Chief Cetswayo and brought him to Oude Molen as a prisoner in 1885. The land was then later turned into an army barracks for the English until the 1920’s. After it was sold off to the state, it became the East Wing of Valkenberg hospital, the designated psychiatric facility for people of colour. After that wing of Valkenberg closed, the buildings stood abandoned until some of the present tenants moved in. Gaia among them.

So now we know some more of where our feet walk
Of the songs on the wind
And the rumble of stories beneath the land, begging our ears to listen.

Nina Callaghan
Class 4 Parent