The Arend Dieperink Museum in Mokopane (formerly Potgietersrus) is housed in a 100-year-old stone building that originally served as a town school. The museum is named for local resident Arend Dieperink (born 1909, died 1986) who along with his wife Maria was a great collector of family heirlooms and historical objects and owned many of the items on display at the museum. The museum focuses on the history of Mokopane and its surrounds and includes a wide variety of Voortrekker and Sotho artefacts.
Although this museum has seen better days, it is still worthwhile to visit for an overview of the history of the area, and in particular for the “Caves Through the Ages” exhibition focused on the nearby Makapansgat Caves.
The Makapansgat Caves, a South African Heritage site and World Heritage Site, lie just north of Mokopane and hold great palaeontological and historical significance. The Makapansgat lime works have yielded thousands of hominid fossils, including Australopithecus africanus fossils believed to be more than 2.5 million years old.
Makapansgat was also the site of a month-long conflict between Boer commandos and local Langa and Kekana people in October/November 1854, during which the Voortrekker leader Piet Potgieter was shot and killed by the soldiers of Chief Makapan (Mokopane). Interestingly, Potgietersrus was originally named for Piet Potgieter and the town is now named for Chief Mokopane, the man who ended Potgieter’s life.
The Caves Through the Ages exhibition at the Arend Dieperink Museum covers the history of Makapansgat in great detail, with well-maintained historical placards and archeological artefacts. Tours of the Makapansgat Caves can be arranged from the Arend Dieperink Museum. Be sure to ask for detailed directions as the caves can be difficult to find.
On the other side of the museum is a section covering the lives and habits of 19th-century Voortrekkers and the Anglo-Boer War. Although this section is a bit worse for wear, it is still interesting to see Dieperink’s ancient family bible and a full-scale model of an Afrikaans bosveldhuis, complete with mannequins.
An entire room of the museum is devoted to the history of tobacco in South Africa; Mokopane is one of several tobacco-producing regions in the country. While informative from a historical perspective, the tobacco exhibition is a bit anachronistic in that it does not mention the harmful health outcomes of smoking. (The exhibition was sponsored by the Potgietersrus Tobacco Co-operative Limited.)
The museum has an extensive outdoor collection of tractors (from very old tractors to quite modern ones), hand-held ploughs, farm implements, and even an ox wagon. This outdoor section of the museum could keep energetic children busy for at least half an hour or so while their parents explore the inside of the museum.
The Arend Dieperink Museum is at 97 Thabo Mbeki Drive, Mokopane. Admission is R20 for adults and R5 for children and pensioners. Call 015-491-9735 for more information. Learn more here: https://www.southafrica.com/blog/visit-the-arend-dieperink-museum-in-mok....