It so happens that the easiest way to reach the Apartheid Museum is by hop-on hop-off bus (apart from a taxi) and while I never imagined to use them, I now make a tour of Johannesburg before arriving at the museum. My mind goes back a couple of decades, when I decided to visit South Africa from Zimbabwe during the apartheid years, and arrived in Johannesburg in the late evening on a truck with a black driver. South Africa was kind of an international pariah back then, and I had decided I would try to deal only with black Africans, my small way to say no to the apartheid system. Johannesburg is a different city now, just like South Africa is a different country. Or is it? Politically different, yes, but there is still too much poverty.
After buying my ticket, there is a quote from Mandela: "To be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others". I walk past the seven pillars of the current constitution of South Africa: Equality, Democracy, Reconciliation, Diversity, Responsibility, Respect, and Freedom, before entering history. My ticket tells me I am non-white, and I therefore take the separate entrance for non-whites. From the very start, the museum manages to make you experience the feel of the apartheid system. Signs saying where whites can sit, where blacks can enter and where they cannot. Signs expressing the view of the white rulers of the time: whites will rule South Africa until the end of times. Outside again, there is a sloping ramp on which people on mirrors are depicted walking up. On the sides, explanatory notes about the history of mankind in general, and South Africa in particular. From the roof of the building, the skyline of Johannesburg can be seen, and then, I go down into the building itself. An introductory movie explains the history of the country, the arrival of whites, and the start of segregation; the museum takes over from there.
The people shown outside on mirrors reappear and their history and ties to South Africa are explained as a starting point. Then, the museum shows how segregation was introduced, which developed into apartheid, which led to opposition and violence against a fundamentally unjust system through explanatory panels, photographs, and videos. Even though the general history is well known, it is confronting to relive those brutal moments in which students were killed, people fighting for a better future for their own country disappeared, were tortured, and murdered, but also the realities of everyday life under apartheid. Then, the chain of events in the late 1980s and early 1990s that led to the release of Mandela, his rise to become the father president of a new nation, and inspirer of so many people around the world with his determination and capacity to forgive. The first elections of 1994 which marked the beginning of the new South Africa. But also: the shaky first years after apartheid, with recurrent eruptions of violence from different sides. The apartheid years are forever behind South Africa, and it is something I could not have imagined during my first visit to the country in 1989.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Apartheid Museum (South Africa). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Apartheid Museum.
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