Farieda Khan holds a Doctor of Philosophy degree, obtained at the University of Cape Town. Her thesis examined South African conservation history during the twentieth century with a focus on the role and environmental perceptions of Blacks. She has experience as a consultant in social impact assessment and as an environmental researcher, as well as a freelance journalist covering a range of topics including cultural heritage and environmental politics. Currently she is an independent researcher with interests in two main areas, viz. Race and politics in South African sport history; and the Impact of forced removals on the environmental perceptions of Black communities in Cape Town.
The Politics of Mountaineering in the Western Cape, South Africa – Race, Class and the Mountain Club of South Africa: The First Forty Years, 1891 – 1931
The Table Mountain Chain (stretching from Signal Hill in Cape Town, South Africa to Cape Point) has attracted climbers right from the early years of European exploration, as records dating back to the sixteenth century show. In particular, the ascent of Table Mountain via Platteklip Gorge, offered weary sailors on their way to the Dutch East Indies, a means of healthy exercise, while reaching the summit (no mean feat then), offered stunning views as well as boasting rights. By the eighteenth century, the mountain chain had developed into a place of leisure for the colonial elite: a place of sumptuous picnics and wildflower picking; while for the underclasses (the slaves, the servants and the labouring poor), it was a place of backbreaking toil, to which they went only to chop wood, fetch fresh water or act as mountain guides and porters for pleasure-seekers, naturalists and other scientists. By the mid-nineteenth century, mountain climbing as a formal leisure pursuit, and as a nascent sport for the professional and governing elite, was becoming established in Cape Town. This paper will explore the development of the Mountain Club of South Africa during the years 1891 – 1931, a period when social segregation based on class and race, then increasingly on race alone, was becoming entrenched. The club’s interaction with Black mountain guides and porters in Cape Town and further afield in the Western Cape, as well as its response to the formation of the Cape Province Mountain Club, an independent organisation established by Coloured mountaineers in District Six in 1931, will be analysed as a manifestation of the increasing levels of racial discrimination and segregation in society during that period.