“The idea of beautifying the surroundings” : Bloemfontein’s (Mangaung) Batho location a “garden location”? (ca. 1918-1939)
Du Bruyn, Derek
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In 1918, the Municipality of Bloemfontein saw the establishment of Batho as the new location for the town’s black and coloured people as an opportunity to not only establish a so called model location but also a garden location. Batho’s founding must be viewed within the historical context of Britishstyle town and urban planning, as well as the racist and segregationist policies implemented by the Union Government. The model location ideology not only encompassed proper layout and improved amenities but also meant striving towards aesthetic ideals. Such ideals implied the beautification of Batho by means of laying out domestic and public gardens, as well as the mass planting of trees. In order to turn Batho into a garden location, the Town Council implemented certain initiatives which included efforts to secure a reliable water supply and to introduce special water tariffs; the allocation of allotment gardens; the provision of a fresh-produce market for location residents; the distribution of trees free of charge, and other tree-planting initiatives; and, finally, the provision of a public “park” for Batho. While some of the motivations behind these initiatives were, indeed, driven by aesthetic ideals, others were deeply rooted in segregationist thinking and ideology. The municipality’s efforts and initiatives, as well as the Batho residents’ reactions to these, were key factors in the quest to turn Batho into a garden location. These efforts, initiatives, and reactions are investigated and critically assessed in order to determine whether the municipality’s attempts to create a garden location were “successful”. This article focuses on the period considered to be Batho’s “golden age”, that is, 1918-1939.