Authors: Piet Vosloo

Keyword: cultural heritage, South Africa


The article investigates the cultural and industrial history of the Tswaing salt works which were established and operated for a period of 50 years at the Tswaing (seTswana for ‘place of salt’) meteorite crater 40km north of the Pretoria CBD. After the 1960s the industrial activities ceased and the site was abandoned, leading to decay and vandalism of the remaining buildings. Whereas the meteorite crater as a natural phenomenon remains a tourist attraction, the socio-cultural heritage of the industrial ruins has been neglected and the question is put whether these industrial ruins warrant commemoration in some way or another. The argument is made that to commemorate the Tswaing crater, commemorating the Tswaing salt works’ industrial ruined remains becomes a necessary complementary approach. Various memorialisation options are explored and illustrated with case studies; ranging from demolishing any remains of the industrial ruins and perhaps allowing only a palimpsest, to leaving the ruin to further decay, to a range of conservation interventions and to a restoration, alteration and re-use option. The potential value of partly restored, conserved or reused industrial ruins is discussed, i.e. ruins as nature reserves, heterotopias, tourist destinations, museums or places of recreation. The commemoration of these ruins however remains a disputed issue, with opinions ranging from removing all traces of industrial activities from the site of this natural phenomenon to recognising the importance of the socio-cultural influences on the natural environment and to allocating new values and uses to the now abandoned human activities, thus allowing the complete narrative.