The Apartheid Museum
Travelling to the tip of the most intrepid continent in the world can be the experience of a lifetime, and Johannesburg is South Africa’s gateway to it all. But to really get to know the country, visitors need to understand its history, at the heart of which lies the Apartheid story. Johannesburg’s Apartheid Museum is a must-see destination for local and foreign tourists alike that offers an enlightening glimpse into this turbulent chapter of South African history.
A brief history
From 1948 to 1991, the nationalist government of South Africa enforced a political system of racial segregation in the form of Apartheid (‘the status of being apart’ in Afrikaans,) which affected every aspect of life for its people. As a result of the oppression, a resistance surfaced, and the anti-apartheid movement was born. The state responded with increased violence and the forced imprisonment of organization leaders, but the movement only gained momentum, and in 1990 president FW de Klerk began negotiations to end Apartheid.
About the Museum
The Apartheid Museum opened in Johannesburg in 2001 with the mission to educate visitors about the inhumanity of Apartheid and to increase awareness about the heroic movement that ended it. The result is not only an informative and moving must-see, but an architecturally interesting museum complex that cost approximately 80 million Rand to build.
Accessing the museum’s front entrance through its courtyard, visitors are overshadowed by literal pillars of South Africa’s new constitution: democracy, equality, reconciliation, diversity, responsibility, respect and freedom. Further exemplifying the museum’s status as one of the most evocative in the world, visitors are thereafter handed a card stating their race and are required to enter the building through their designated gate.
Through its 22 permanent multimedia exhibitions visitors are taken on an emotional journey through South Africa’s political progress, presented in an unbiased, informative and ultimately enlightening manner. For example, the Journeys exhibit uses photos and reading material to illustrate the mass migration to Johannesburg that took place during the city’s gold mining glory days. The architecture of apartheid was created to quell the kind of racial mixing that took place in the years that followed the migrations.
One of the most chilling exhibitions is Political Executions, where visitors enter a room hung with 131 nooses, representing government opponents who were killed under the state’s terrorism laws. It’s because of graphic exhibits like these that the museum is not considered to be suitable for children under the age of 11.
The Apartheid Museum also has temporary exhibitions, and one of the best reasons to visit now is to catch the photographic Mandela Exhibition. As one of the most central figures in the anti-apartheid struggle, Nelson Mandela served 27 years as a political prisoner on Robben Island in Cape Town. Following his release in February 1990, Mandela became globally recognized as a revolutionary idol and was elected South Africa’s first black president in 1994. In partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Nelson Mandela Museum in Mthatha, the Apartheid Museum is honoring Mandela’s legacy with the fascinating photographs, videos and artifacts shown at Mandela Exhibition, an extensive collection over a year in the making.
As South Africa’s ‘beating heart’ Johannesburg is perhaps the best place to learn about its significant history, and the Apartheid Museum is the country’s premier attraction that tells the story. Local and foreign tourists alike leave feeling humbled and honored to have been able to personally connect with South Africa in a way impossible elsewhere.
Opening hours: Open from 9am-5pm, the Museum is closed Mondays, Good Friday and Christmas Day
Cost: Adults: R60.00; Pensioners, Students, Children: R45.00; For guided tours, an additional R5.00 per person - must be booked in advance
Contact details: +27 11 309 4700, firstname.lastname@example.org
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