Genandendal-meubels as materiele manifestasie van die Morawiese pietisme
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Genadendal furniture was made in the small Moravian mission settlement of Genadendal (situated in the Overberg area of the Western Cape) during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Genadendal furniture not only illustrates the impact that the immigration of Europeans had on the development of a unique Old Cape furniture tradition, it also emphasises the influence that a specific world view or philosophy of life had on the design and manufacture of furniture. The origins of the old Unitas Fratrum can be traced back to the late 14th century in ancient Moravia and Bohemia (today part of the Czech Republic). This mission society came to South Africa due to the missionary zeal of the Renewed Moravian Church, which was renewed mostly through the efforts of the German Earl Nicolaus von Zinzindorf. As exponent of Radical Pietism this society accepted the task of worldwide missionary work. By the end of the 18th century there were already more than 18 Moravian mission stations scattered all over the world. One of the most prominent characteristics of the Moravian church was the importance attached to the fellowship of the faithful, and the social organisation resulting from it. Everything in the Moravian community was done to signify the equality of all people before God, expressed by standardised dress, traditions and social organisation. They functioned as independent, self-sufficient communities. Various trades and workshops were established in these communities to further the ideal of self-sufficiency. The missionaries from Europe were all qualified artisans, and they trained members of their communities in the various trades. The pervading spirit of independence equipped these artisan missionaries extremely well to transplant the Moravian furniture styles and traditions to South Africa. Genadendal furniture bears silent witness to the Moravian obsession with simplicity and quality. This furniture style with its simple, straight lines formed part of the Neo-Classical style popular at the Cape at the time.