The founding of the Wesfort Leprosy Asylum was done in a period that was a turning point for the history of South Africa. The Zuid Afrikaanse Republiek was breaking free from its colonial ties and was forming its own modern nation. In order to achieve these high goals in this young nation help was still needed from the old world. Highly trained staff was still scarce in the young Transvaal republic. Skilled staff that was not yet available within the republic was especially needed for the ambitious new government building department, the Department of Public Works (Departement Publieke Werken). In the late 19th century relations with England where at an all-time low after the first Anglo Boer War (1880-1881), the eye was cast on the founding colonial power of South Africa, the Netherlands. The Netherlands had significant ties with the Transvaal republic, the most important of which was its language. Both countries spoke Dutch although the South African variety had gone through many changes from the original Dutch. This new developing African language would later form a new language closely related to Dutch, Afrikaans.


When Sietze Wopkes Wierda designed the Wesfort Leprosy Asylum he was building on his own and the collective Dutch building experience regarding Closed institutions. The influence of the Reformed Church Mental hospitals of the Christian Organization for the Care of Nervous and Mental Patients and their system of building village like closed institutions seems profound. There are also many similarities between Wesfort and Leper asylums built in the Dutch colony of Surinam.

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Prof. dr. Marieke Kuipers, Nicholas Clarke




The Dutch influenced context of Wesfort


Weskopies hospital Pretoria