This year marks the 21st Anniversary of the establishment of La Route du Prince Impérial, Louis Napoléon (The Route of the Prince Impérial, Louis Napoleon), a tourism initiative that follows the scenic pilgrimage route through KwaZulu-Natal, taken by a mother in mourning as she followed the footsteps of her son to where he was killed during the Anglo-Zulu War in 1879.
The Prince Impérial, Louis Napoléon was killed in an ambush at uQweqwe, near Nqutu, on 1 June 1879. The following year on the anniversary of his death, his mother, the Empress Eugenie, spent the night in vigil at the very spot, which is now marked as a monument to him.
Who would have thought that 138 years later, the monument would play an important role driving a small, but vital tourism injection into the community at uQweqwe.
This year, the Alliance Francaise Pietermaritzburg and the French Presence in KwaZulu-Natal cultural tourism research development project, present a programme of engaging activities with a number of partners during the month of May – Africa month. Both associations play a valuable networking function in connecting France, Reunion Island and other Francophone countries with South Africa.
Events include The Midlands Amble, a Sunday gathering at Albert Falls commemorates the first night’s “camp” of the Empress Eugénie, when she came on her sorrowful pilgrimage.
Then, on Monday May 28, there will be a guided visit to the Msunduzi Museum for a programme of school activities which includes a history presentation on the Anglo-Zulu war as well as readings and worksheets on related topics.
The Empress Eugénie and The Prince Imperial wines produced by Domaine des Dieux of the Himmel-en-Aarde Valley in Hermanus are celebrated during this week, and on Africa Day, Wednesday, May 31 at 1pm, the annual Prince Imperial lunchtime concert takes place at The Old Prison/Project Gateway in Pietermaritzburg.
The concert features the Sobantu School Choir, the Sobantu acapella group, the dance performers from Chistlehurst Arts & Academics, as well as the Impisi Emnyama Zulu dancers, and Exquiniqué Fashion that will present its own unique brand!
That night a Franco-Italian pizza evening at Pizzology further celebrates the historical genealogy of the Bonapartes and the present day entente cordiale that exists in our country.
Dr Andrew-John Bethke will be giving a special anniversary organ recital at 7pm in the Lutheran Church, Hayfields on Thursday evening, June 1 – the commemoration day of the Prince’s death and the anniversary day of the Route.
And, on Friday, June 2, The Embassy of France, the French Institute, the Alliance and the Napoleon Foundation, Paris present a concert at the Tatham Art Gallery to celebrate local talent and welcome His Excellency the Ambassador of France, Christophe Farnaud and other international guests.
The evening starts with the launch of the publication by Otterley Press of The French Prince: Tragedy to Transformation by Glenn Flanagan followed by the award ceremony of Les Palmes Académiques to Heather Peel, Head of French at Hilton College for her contribution to the teaching of French.
A concert follows featuring Sandile Mabaso, a celebrated opera singer from KwaZulu Natal, the Sobantu Secondary School isiscathamiya performers, the Impisi Emnyama Zulu Dancers and the Chistlehurst Academics and Arts Dance group, who promise a finale with great French flair.
A memorial mass will be celebrated on June 3 at 9.30am at the Allard House Chapel, KZN’s first Roman Catholic Church (built in 1852) performed in association with the memorial mass in the Imperial Chapel in Biarritz, France. Well-known choral leader Michael Lambert, will be directing the Scola Musicae Sanctae choir.
Following this mass the dignitaries will depart for Dundee along the Prince Imperial Route pausing for tea with the French Augustinian Sisters in Pomeroy, culminating in a French soirée at Elisabeth Durham’s Chez Nous B ‘n B in Dundee. A
t the soirée the convener and project leader of La Route du Prince Impérial, Louis Napoléon, Glenn Flanagan will present a visual résumé of highlights of the past 21 years of Route development.
The next day the delegation will visit the Jojosini Primary School in the community where the monument is situated, to inspect the sponsorship of rain tanks and library donated by Panteix /Antalis and local donors.
The ceremony to commemorate the 138th anniversary of the death of the Prince begins at 10.15am.
The Ambassador will lay a wreath on the Prince Imperial memorial; inkosi Mdlalose and Induna Mbatha will lay wreathes on the tombs of Trooper Abel and Trooper Rogers and Gugu Buthelezi (voluntary site guide) will lay a wreathe for the nameless Zulu guide killed in the same ambush on 1 June 1879.
After the ceremonies, sporting events organised by Nathi Sibisi of the uQweqwe community will take place.
“We have an exciting line-up of Franco-Zulu related activities in Pietermaritzburg, in Dundee and the uQweqwe community during May and the first weekend in June,’ says Glenn Flanagan.
“We welcome Francophiles and everyone who enjoys a slice of history, as well as those who are keen to experience the value of creating and developing fascinating historical and cultural links between different cultures and how this can benefit our communities – both rural and urban.”
For the full programme go to the Facebook Page: French Presence in KZN: La Route du Prince Impérial, Louis Napoléon.
DID YOU KNOW?
La Route du Prince Impérial, Louis Napoléon was launched on 01 June 1996, by the, then, Chairperson of the Battlefields’ Route Association, Ray Heron, and Mme Jenny Bustin, President of the French Teachers’ Association of KwaZulu-Natal.
The uQweqwe community that lives next to the Prince Imperial monument, has benefited substantially from this cultural tourism research development project since April 1995. A detailed account is available from the project leader. F
rom 2011 this community outreach programme was extended to the eMaphayipini community, next to the Prince’s monument, to the Zamimpilo Drop In Centre and Crêche, France, to the Eastwood, Sobantu and Grange communities in Pietermaritzburg.