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Across the Frontier

The aim of the exhibition is to tell the story of 19th century King William's Town in all its facets, including conflict, acculturation, coexistence and cooperation. This is achieved by utilizing both the history and anthropology collections. The old Eurocentric displays, which omitted important information and ignored certain aesthetic and museological principles, were replaced with a new multi-cultural exhibition. The new approach has important educational implications, promoting an understanding of local history and culture.

* The Introduction Panel concentrates on the events that led to the establishment of King William's Town as well as the centre's early growth. By focussing on the role of, for example, Rev John Brownlee, Col. Harry Smith and Hintsa, it attempts to dispel popular inaccuracies regarding the town's history.

* History/Prehistory exhibits artefacts dating from the Early Stone Age to 19th century historical debris. The display includes a Xhosa myth of origin, an evolution chart and information on specific archaeological sites in the Border area, such as Canasta Place, an early Iron Age site, situated near East London.


* Ilizwe lifile / The land is dead focuses on military endeavours, for example the town's Military Reserve, the history of local regiments such as the Cape Mounted Riflemen (CMR), the Katberg Rebellion and biographical details on personalities such as Captain Veldtman Bikitsha. A particular favourite part of the display would hopefully be a humorous short poem regarding the Qakamba, a Xhosa word for the bullet-headed appearance of the forage cap worn by the CMR.


* Pastimes and Pleasures concentrates on what Kingites did to amuse themselves in the 19th century. This display includes fascinating illustrations from the museum's photograph collection as well as a water pipe, illustration and a quote regarding the smoking of hemp.


* Dress: The Silent Language focuses on what late 19th century dress reveals about the local inhabitants. The display looks at Acculturation, Victorian underwear and the story behind German print (amajamani/isishweshwe/iblowu). A Government Notice, dated 1858, forcing the Xhosa to be 'properly dressed' when entering town, is also on display.


* Divine Worship includes information on the Khoi Lord's Prayer, traditional slaughtering, Ntsikana, the Milkwood tree(Emqwasheni) near Peddie and the role of the missionaries. The Soga family's christening robes and a statue of St. Patrick from the local Roman Catholic Church is also exhibited.


* Health & Healing concentrates on, for example, the role of Grey Hospital and Dr John Fitzgerald (Medical Superintendent at Grey), the use of plant extracts for medicinal purposes, dentistry and 'The Great African Remedy', a locally produced miracle potion. A posed photograph of a patient's teeth being extracted on Market Square would hopefully proof to be popular.


* The Dead Will Arise focuses on the Cattle Killing Movement of 1856-57. The display attempts to answer questions such as What was the Cattle Killing?, Who were Nongqawuse and Mhlakaza?, What was the prophesy?, Believers vs. Unbelievers and the Consequences of the Cattle Killing. Chief Sarhili's role in the Cattle Killing and the overwhelming results of the movement is a feature of the display.


* Making Ends Meet (Colonial Economics). The town served as the main supply centre for the large Xhosa population. The demand for European manufactured goods, tied the Xhosa to the Colonial economy and led to the development of a large two-way trade whereby imported goods were sold and local products purchases and exported. The town's position as the 'emporium of Kaffraria' was overtaken by East London, due to the development of the harbour, by 1900.