BY MIA VAN DER MERWE
University residences have been around for almost as long as the university itself. There are a total of 31 residences at Stellenbosch University as of this year.
The first and oldest residence to date is Wilgenhof Men’s Residence, established in 1903. Residence events and socials date back to the early-to-mid 1900s, around the time when more residences were established. For example, Huis Visser’s first house dance was in March 1949.
Over the years, residence traditions and social interactions have changed as society changed. Die Matie sat down with the Prims of Harmonie, Metanoia, Huis Visser and Eendrag to find out how their residences have changed over the years.
Harmonie is among some of the very first and oldest residences. Harmonie was established in 1905 and celebrated its 115th birthday this year.
The residence is rich in culture and tradition. The House Committee (HC) aims to create a warm and welcoming “home away from home”. They aspire to include all forms of “Harmonites”, according to Milena Schultheiss, Harmonie’s Prim for 2020/2021.
The residents of Harmonie celebrate their residence’s heritage through traditions that have been carried on for years. The Harmonites do a dance called “the cookery dance” to the song Girls just wanna have fun, and proudly chant “1905 Harmonie is still alive.” The residence has a warm feeling to it, and while traditions are still in place, their messages are impactful, according to Schultheiss.
Harmonie’s practices around welcoming week have changed for the better. The HC’s focus has shifted solely to the idea of making the residence a home. They aim to emphasise this focus throughout the year, and not only during welcoming week.
Huis Marais Men’s Residence was founded in 1947. Huis Marais has been in some hot water over old orientation practices. In the early months 2000, the newcomers of Huis Marais reported mistreatment and assault by the seniors of the residence during welcoming week.
Albert van Zyl, the Prim for 2020/2021, explained that Huis Marais has changed their orientation and welcoming week practices. According to Van Zyl, the majority of newcomers reported welcoming week to be their favourite time of the year. Van Zyl “sees this as a huge success in changing and adapting for the better as a residence”.
The HC has carefully reviewed the residence’s past mistakes. They believe that they handle their influential role in the Stellenbosch community with more caution and care.
Van Zyl raised concern to Die Matie about the lack of social interactions since the COVID-19 pandemic. “There is a certain importance and value for communities to socially interact and learn from one another,” he said.
Metanoia is a new kid on the block in comparison to other historic residences. Metanoia was established in 2006, and is one of the university’s few co-ed residence’s.
According to Divan Godfrey, the residence’s Prim for 2020/2021, the residence is an all-inclusive space for all sexualities, genders, races and different marginalised groups. Metanoia is also constantly at work to make the Stellenbosch community more inclusive.
Since the Anti-Gender Based Violence Movement gained momentum in 2019, the HC has been working hard to establish a strict and structural approach to dealing with demeaning practices, according to Godfrey.
The debunking of “toxic traditions” such as “Ladies Sleepover” and “Mannekamp” has been a priority. – According to Godfrey the HC is dedicated to reformation for inclusivity.
Metanoia is known on campus for their Gees (spirit) sessions during welcoming week, which Godfrey explained is an uplifting tradition that unifies the residence. According to Godfrey, the biggest struggle facing the house is showing students that the co-ed residence is safe and that personal space and privacy will not be invaded.
Eendrag Men’s Residence was founded in 1961. In 2019, Eendrag voted for their new constitution, which advocates for a value-driven system. This means that the residence focuses less on rules and regulations, and more on values and the practises, according to Daniël Hugo, the Prim for 2020/2021.
According to Hugo, it is a challenge to get all the students together within the residence to network and build friendships, since the “Eendragters” usually leave the residence to socialise elsewhere. However, this is where house traditions come in.
“Traditions are important within the spirit of the community. A tradition should create a shared experience and uplift others,” said Hugo.
One of the great traditions of the residence is “Room Reunion” – Eendragters who are in the residence visit the room that they stayed in during their first year. This creates a space where stories can be told and friendships can be forged, according to Hugo.
Eendrag’s culture has shifted massively over the years. “The environment is no longer run from a patriarchal and heteronormative place, but has switched focus to friendships and network building,” stated Hugo.