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South Africa: Apartheid Museum

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Apartheid Museum | South Africa | Africa

[Visited: November 2015]

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.

Picture of Apartheid Museum (South Africa): Apartheid defined at the beginning of the Apartheid Museum

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.

Picture of Apartheid Museum (South Africa): During the apartheid years, only Europeans were allowed to sit on this bench

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.

Picture of Apartheid Museum (South Africa): People in mirrors seem to be walking up the ramp to the roof of the Apartheid Museum
Picture of Apartheid Museum (South Africa): Four of the 7 pillars representing the basic values of the South African Constitution
Picture of Apartheid Museum (South Africa): A typical apartheid system: entering the museum through two different lanes
Picture of Apartheid Museum (South Africa): Mandela was a key person in ending apartheid and his presence is everywhere in the museum
Picture of Apartheid Museum (South Africa): Political pamphlets from during the apartheid years
Picture of Apartheid Museum (South Africa): Apartheid becomes alive the moment you step into the museum
Picture of Apartheid Museum (South Africa): Calling out for action: examples of worldwide political activism during the apartheid years
Picture of Apartheid Museum (South Africa): Two of the 7 pillars representing the basic values of the South African Constitution
Picture of Apartheid Museum (South Africa): Colour should not matter: all these pencils are the same apart from their colour
Picture of Apartheid Museum (South Africa): Ropes symbolizing the executions of political prisoners during the apartheid years
Picture of Apartheid Museum (South Africa): A Casspir, an armoured vehicle used to quell protests during the violent years of apartheid
Picture of Apartheid Museum (South Africa): Pile of stones in honour of all those who fought against apartheid with the new flag of South Africa
Picture of Apartheid Museum (South Africa): One of the curious texts giving an idea of apartheid

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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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