By Anneline Mohammedt ~ In its 37th year, the Montagu Museum Heritage Herb Project has always been one of the attractions on the list of many a tourist. This project which was started to generate funds for the restoration of Joubert House in Long Street, has become an integral part in preserving the herbal remedies left by the first people, the Khoi- that used to pass through the majestic mountains and valleys that surrounds Montagu.
From the endless discussions over a cup of tea at Joubert House, elders from the Montagu community as a whole volunteered information as to the herbs their parents and grandparents used in treating ailments. From there on the layout and implementations of a medicinal herb garden at the back of the house, to acquiring a permit from the local municipality to forage for herbs in our mountains, and popular hiking trails.
Herbs was then hand cut and sun dried, packaged in brown paper envelopes and sold both locally and throughout South Africa, through a postal order system.
This project not only brought in money for the restoration of the oldest building in Montagu, but it provided employment.
It is thus with this rich background, that a small committee decided in April this year to look into the possibility of new packaging and labelling to catapult the project into the now and hopefully the future. It became clear over time that with all the hard work being put into this “something new”, a shop would be ideal to showcase our product, and in so doing creating a space where all 53 herbal mixtures could be on display.
The last 7 months was a time for creative ideas, a time of democratic decisions, a time of working together. The product and space that was created, features the following:
Herb packs now come in 2 sizes – medium and large.
In partnership with the Western Cape government’s Musee Project, 7 local crafters work are now being displayed and sold at the Museum Herb shop.
Montagu memorabilia are stocked with the emphasis being placed on the Old Mission Church and the Montagu Mountains.
To say that I’m overwhelmed at the pace the Montagu Museum staff have worked to help this bird take flight, would be an understatement. The Museum Herb shop is not just an add-on to our heritage project, but a platform for connecting communities to share stories and remedies.
It serves as a tribute to Mrs Blackie Badenhorst, Mrs Jeanne Biesenbach and everyone who volunteered their stories, time, expertise and energy to equip the Museum team 37 years later with a blueprint for the future of this project.