The Children’s Memorial at the War Museum of the Boer Republics in Bloemfontein has been conceived as a contemplative space that commemorates the
approximately 30 000 children who died in the concentration camps and on the fields during the South African War (1899 – 1902). The memorial forms part of a larger complex of memorial spaces and exhibitions.
The architecture of the memorial consists of a circular enclosure of low brick walls with seating. The enclosure contains a brick labyrinth with flowering, indigenous succulents; the design of the labyrinth itself is patterned on the world-renowned medieval labyrinth in Chartres Cathedral in France and comprises of circuits. The labyrinth is a mediating device that invites the visitor to not only actively reflect on the tragedy of the war, but also to meditate on the suffering of children in contemporary South African society.
A steel cut-out of a boy and girl guards the mouth of the labyrinth, and at the centre there is an indigenous tree. The circular face-brick walls are rendered black on the inside with quotes about children taken from contemporary war diaries and writings, and laid out with hand-made glazed tiles that resemble children’s playing blocks.
As part of a larger experience, the materials, textures, colours and landscaping have been chosen to heighten the tension between despair and playfulness, to foster understanding and reconciliation, and ultimately suggesting a sense of closure, and the healing power of hope.