year in review 2018 Paperturn - Page 69



2018: A YEAR IN REVIEW | SOCIAL RESPONSIVENESS
KHOISAN
SKELETONS
RETURN
HOME
The university was shocked to discover
that its Human Skeletal Collection
in the Faculty of Health Sciences
included 11 skeletons obtained
unethically in the 1920s.
Dr Victoria Gibbon, who manages
the collection, analysed the records
following a discussion on the ethical
procurement of human remains at a
national symposium in 2017. The very
limited documentation indicates that
the skeletons are of people who died
in the 19th century. At least nine of
them were probably Khoisan slaves on
a farm in Sutherland.
When the documentation on the nine
Sutherland skeletons – believed to be
related to the Stuurman and Abraham
families – was discovered, the university
began investigating how it could return
them to their place of origin.
Alfred Stuurman described his relief
and elation when he heard the news
about the remains. “We now know
where we come from.”
Stuurman’s niece, Sensa Mietas, said,
“It was a big shock at first, but I am
very relieved. I was also very happy
to realise that there are people who
care.”
A team from the university, led by
Deputy Vice-Chancellor Loretta Feris,
visited Sutherland to meet the families
and members of the community,
including traditional and religious leaders.
“We now have the opportunity to ...
see that justice is done … not just to
those who were removed from their
graves, but also to the descendants,”
said Feris.
In a move to remedy the
injustices of the past,
UCT is working with the
community of Sutherland
in the Northern Cape
to return the skeletal
remains of nine people.
67

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