Exhibition – Wine of Exile

wine cooler

What does a Wine Exhibition in Groot Constantia, Cape Town have to do with St Helena?

These are the questions I seek to answer in my quest for discovery, come journey with me, from my experiences at the airport, to full coverage of the wine exhibition in Cape Town.

My expedition would not have been possible without the following agencies and in particular I mention SA Airlink and St Helena tourism working in partnership with independent media, I would also make mention of The French Consul, ‘Michel Dancoisne-Martineau’ whose vision continues to inspire me.

Every journey has a beginning and an end, mine will begin on 19th February and end on the 26th February, included in the journey is Governor Lisa Honan who will along with the director of tourism, Helena Bennett will be representing St Helena at the exhibition. The exhibition is called Wine of Exile – The wine of Napoléon on St Helena and takes place from the 21st February to the 21st June 2019 at the Groot Constantia, Manor House, Groot Constantia Wine Estate.

I have no pre-conceived ideas, like you, I am intrigued and curious about the outcome, the significance for St Helena and in doing so I hope to bring the exhibition closer to home and let you decide it’s importance.

As a member of the Bicentenary vision group one of our important tasks is community engagement, Councillor Lawson Henry who is the Chairman of the group recognises that the exhibition presents a remarkable opportunity to join the dots, ”Napoleon’s legacy forms an important part of the island’s history and is very significant for St Helena as we seek to internationally promote the branding, the wine exhibition is an excellent example of raising awareness of the island’s tourism potential  and from this we would hope that local businesses and organisations also feel empowered in their creations to showcase the island and everything it has to offer , with newly gained knowledge and sharing of skills and ideas we hope to create a lasting impact”

The French Consul, Michel Martineau who is already in Cape Town and with other agencies working in preparation for the event said “For the last centuries most of the wines drunk on the island have come from Cape Town, there are historical, human, economical, sociological and political bounds existing between Cape Town and St. Helena. We hope to promote the close relationship which always existed between these two countries and therefore to encourage South Africa to visit the island and vice-versa. In addition, we aspire to promote the Napoleonic heritage through emblematic and relevant items: the wine-cooler from Plantation House and some glassware from Longwood house used by Napoleon on the island and then finally to show how St. Helena cares for its heritage”

Wine of Exile
Wine of Exile

Among the invited guests at the opening of the exhibition will be His Excellency Mr Christophe Farnaud, Ambassador of France to South Africa, Mr Jean Naudé, Chief Executive Officer of the Groot Constantia Wine Estate and Ms Rooksana Omar, Chief Executive Officer of the Iziko Museums of South Africa,  

 It is understood historically that from 1815 to 1821 while Napoleon was exiled to St Helena, he would order a wine called ‘Vin de Constance’ from Constantia in Cape Town but what is even more amazing is that this wine estate continues to produce the same wine that Napoleon used to drink often referred to as “Wine of Napoleon”. In addition, this year there is a double celebration of the 250-birth anniversary of Napoleon on the 15th August.

Readers may recall a session of EXCO where the Governor informed Members of the forthcoming exhibition at which she “sought approval from Members to loan to the exhibition the wine cooler which was part of Longwood New House furniture now displayed in the dining room at Plantation House and to permit the St. Helena Napoleonic Heritage Ltd to export for the time of the exhibition a few items presently at Longwood House”

The other exhibits, which belonged to Napoléon or that he used during his stay on this island, are issued of the collections of Iziko, the Napoleon Foundation, the Government of St Helena, Groot Constantia and the National Domains.

There is to me a lot I can learn from this trip, how does South Africa perceive St Helena and what useful relationships if any can be forged? The man/woman on the street will ultimately have his/her opinion. My senses tell me and I have written a great deal about this, in as much as we would like to feel that we can always rely on others, this is not always the case and this fact should not take us by surprise, both Charles Clover of the Blue Marine Foundation and Michael Binyon of the Times said last week that Brexit is taking up most of the UK government’s attention, the fact that we are not featuring very highly on their priority list is not our fault however though we find ourselves in mourning I believe that energies are best expended on actually trying to make things a little better.

From the outside looking in, it looks like nothing much is happening but if you’re on the inside you may observe a great deal of effort is being made to promote the island and gain recognition, the wine exhibition is just one way of getting the world to sit up and take notice of us. Much more needs to be done, there is no illusion, the road ahead will be laden with difficulties, take a deep breath, we’re not done yet.

It is my intention to create a series of articles and interviews for audiences both on St Helena and abroad, I hope you will share the journey.

Contributed by Tammy Williams.

About Tammy – Tammy who was born and bought in Jamestown St Helena is the Station Manager of Saint FM Community Radio Station, Tammy also owns her own highly rated local Guesthouse  business (Harkate Guest House) which welcome come visiting tourist and business clients when visiting St Helena.  

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