'The Dying Slave' forms a poignant monument to the history of slave labour on the Cape wine farms during the 17th and 19th Centuries.
The establishment of a Dutch settlement at the Cape of Good Hope brought with it the institution of slavery and soon this spread to the winelands. Since the VOC (The Dutch East India Company) forbade the enslavement of the indigenous population, the slaves had to be imported from elsewhere. The Dutch West India Company had the monopoly of Dutch slaving along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, so the VOC acquired its slaves from diverse societies in the Indian Ocean world. Between 1652 and 1807 (when the slave trade was abolished) some 60 000 slaves were brought to the Cape. Approximately one third of these came from Mozambique or the East African hinterland; one third from Madagascar and the remaining third from India and the East Indies.
Long hours of work were marked by the tolling of the farm's slave bell and men and women were condemned to constant supervision and the psychologically damaging condition of perpetual inferiority. There was no equality before the law and slaves formed the lower layer of a highly stratified society. Visitors are encouraged to listen to 'Gables' – an audio tour of the Spier farmstead. It forms a fictionalised account of the world of a Stellenbosch wine farm around 200 years ago. It was researched and written by acclaimed playwright, Brett Bailey. The narrator is Sannie de Goede, a slave woman on the Spier Estate in 1836, on the eve of her freedom. "Brett Bailey's vivid imagination and skill as a storyteller enables the listener to experience what it must have been like to live on a wine farm in the 19th Century," says Annebelle Schreuders, Spier Marketing Director. "Aside from offering interesting social commentary, the story is hugely entertaining." The story is made up of 12 chapters. Guests follow the map and signposts around the farm to numbered stations where they listen to the relevant chapter.