Share family stories to preserve memories

Asa and Zanap Matthews in front of their sink huisie - a heritage structure, in First Avenue, Grassy Park.

If you’re interested in sharing your local history, heritage, culture and traditions, the Grassy Park Community-Heritage Council (GPCHC) are waiting to hear from you.

Robin Oakes, chairperson of the GPCHC, which was established in 2017, said they wanted to create a digital storehouse of local history with all its influences, adaptations and manifestations.

Mr Oakes said they established the community-based council to preserve the spaces, structures and most importantly the collective stories of the immediate communities.

“We record and track our diverse storylines, back through our historical experiences to our lost heritage,” he said.

“Our current lack of cultural identity is, largely, linked to the dispossession of our people – ancient and modern.

“Locally this is reflected in the San artefacts in Rondevlei, legend and slave history in Princess Vlei, Cape Dutch farmhouse influence and intermingling, wood and iron Cape Cottage fortitude, township and squatter camp forced legacy, protected nature reserves, vast commons and more which bears a portion of the story of the consciousness of our people and the forging of community.”

Mr Oakes said the heritage resource will be preserved online and in a building in Grassy Park.

“A site has been earmarked and discussions are under way,” he said.

The GPCHC covers areas including Grassy Park, Lotus River, Zeekoevlei, Goolhurst Estate, Parkwood, Montagues Gift, Fairways, Eagle Park, Pelican Park, Schaapkraal and portions of Ottery.

“I know many of the families in these areas personally after doing research. Communities from areas such as Constantia moved to Grassy Park after the forced removals of the Group Areas Act.”

He said there are four generations of families living in Grassy Park.

Mr Oakes said he would like to invite all those who had lived in the area to come forward and share their history.

He said they can bring old photographs of their family members who used to live in the area.

“We will record their stories to the archives,” said Mr Oakes.

He said they have identified a few Cape cottages made from wood and iron in Grassy Park.

He introduced Southern Mail to a family living in one of these homes in First Avenue.

Seventy-seven-year old twin sisters, Zainap Matthews and Asa Moltie (nee Matthews), their brother Yusuf Matthews and Asa’s daughter Shamiela Moltie are occupying the house their father built during the 1940s.

The Matthews family were forced to move out of Spaanschemat River Road, in Constantia. Asa remembers settling in Grassy Park with their parents Dawood and Asa, 60 years ago.

They were one of the few people at the time to have built “sink huisies” made from iron and wood.

Asa said she moved with her children to Retreat 48 years ago but when her father died last year they moved back.

She said they live on one of four plots where they used to have farm animals. Asa said they used to have a fence around their properties, but vandals destroyed all of it.

“They also used to break in a lot at our place due to a family member working on many cars in the backyard.” Eventually they never replaced the fence and their house stayed exposed to the traffic in the road.

Asa and her family said they will probably stay in their “sink huisie” forever. If you want to share your heritage information contact Mr Oakes on 021 705 5 705 or email