One of Johannesburg's top tourist attractions, the Apartheid Museum is an all encompassing exhibit on Apartheid.
Opened in 2001, and built by Gold Reef City as a condition for their being granted a casino license, the Apartheid Museum is a powerful, and often disturbing, interactive exhibit that graphically explains the cause, the implementation and the inevitable collapse of apartheid.
The building itself is worthy of a place in a museum!
The exterior has been designed to be part of the landsacape, and the interior space and form, is part of, and adds to, the exhibits.
Leading up to the entrance are the symbolic outside walls of rough steel gabions filled with rock; the grass covered roof, with a backdrop of the Johannesburg skyline at the top of the entrance ramp; and finally the stairway that drops down to the entrance of the museum!
The interior design has differing ceiling heights with few windows, as well as a number of small and cramped display areas.
Similar in design to a number of new museums, this building, like Apartheid, isn't the norm!
Its worth spending a while in the peaceful geometrically landscaped garden, once out of the museum!
You unite with descendents of early Johannesburg residents when walking up the ramp towards
the entrance of the Apartheid Museum
The Apartheid Museum's exhibits - both temporary and permanent, are shown in a timeline that detail the intricacy of race relations and the related events that lead up to the first democratic elections in 1994 - and beyond!
The present temporary exhibition
is of Nelson Mandela.
There's a huge amount of information, which could in itself, be a stand-alone museum.
The permanent exhibitions
all flow from one into the next in a way that explains the happenings in this country in a chronological order.
Again there's a huge amount to read and lots of videos to watch. It took me four hours!
The seven pillars, visible when approaching the Apartheid Museum, each represent what the new South African constitution is based on democracy, reconciliation, equality, diversity, responsibility, freedom and respect.
When buying your ticket, you're classified according to a specific race, and use the entrance gate according to your racial classification - 'white', 'coloured', 'Asian' or 'native'!
Once through the entrance gate, you walk up a ramp with life size photos of some of the residents of Johannesburg, with their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
With a view of Johannesburg's skyline from the top of the ramp, you walk down the stairway with the temporary exhibition on one side and the permanent museum display on your right.
The displays, which explain the intricacies of apartheid, flow one into the other.
Once through the glass doors, you're confronted with the reality of racial Segregation.
This was notably absent prior to 1897 - the date steps were first taken to separate the races, but it was later to become the cornerstone on which apartheid was built.
Large photographic murals depict the forced removals that were the nucleus of Apartheid
, and, despite segregation already being in place, why it was still necessary for politicians to legislate for apartheid.
Some of those political groups that resisted this racial division, are also discussed here.
The Turn to Violence
shows how organised resistance to the country's racial segregation started in 1943, and reached its pinnacle on Monday 21st March 1960 in Sharpeville during a demonstration against the pass laws.
Here police opened fire and killed 69 protesters and injured hundreds.
What became known as the Sharpeville Massacre, signaled the start of armed resistance in South Africa.
The racially segregated entrance gates at the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg
The photographs of Ernest Cole, who is widely recognised as South Africa's first black freelance photographer, depict the harsh conditions of Life Under Apartheid
These photographs are believed to be the first record made of these appalling conditions.
Ernest Cole died in poverty in exile, in New York, in February 1990 - anonymous and homeless.
South Africa at the time had unparalleled economic growth, but the black community suffered more and more under oppressive apartheid laws.
Having divided the country into different ethnic groups, the
The Nationalist Government divided the country along tribal lines, with the intention that each ethnic group would be forcibly removed into their own tribal Homeland
The ten planned homelands, in total, made up only 13% of the area of South Africa.
They would purge white areas of blacks, and purge blacks of their political rights in a white South Africa.
The first to receive its "independence", was the Transkei on 26th October 1976.
The leadership of the ANC had been annihilated during the 1960s, and with most of them behind bars, a social movement of political consciousness, the Black Consciousness Movement
, that rejected the values of whites, and aimed at boosting black self-worth, was started by a number of number of young university students.
Stephen Bantu Biko was chosen as their leader.
They constantly confronted the Government, and this brought them into conflict with the security police.
Key members were banned and Steve Biko, aged 30, was murdered on 12th September 1977, whilst in police custody.
South Africa enforced the death penalty, and had one of the highest execution rates in the world during the fight against apartheid.
resulted in 131 people being executed for various terrorism crimes.
A number of activists were tortured to death whilst in police custody, although the police claimed they committed suicide.
On 16th June 1976
, 20,000 school children protested against apartheid and their second class status, by marching through Soweto.
The unrest spread to the rest of the country, and it became the single biggest challenge to the apartheid system.
The uprising was eventually crushed, but it became a turning point in the liberation of South Africa, and the beginning of the end for apartheid.
Hundreds of civil organizations and anti-apartheid groups that joined forces to form the United Democratic Front, were later joined by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), in their support of the ANC and a democratic South Africa.
Despite this Total Onslaught
, the Government continually enforced apartheid but at the same time started reform.
The Roots of Compromise
took hold in 1987, when a delegation of top businessmen secretly met the exiled ANC in Dakar, and in 1988 when Nelson Mandela, whilst still in prison, invited the Government to discuss the dismantling of apartheid with the ANC.
In August 1989, PW Botha, the staunchly conservative, uncompromising President of South Africa, suffered a stroke and was replaced by F W de Klerk.
Shortly after assuming the party leadership, FW de Klerk called for negotiations for a democratic South Africa and in February 1990, lifted the ban on the African National Congress (ANC) and the Communist Party of South Africa and released all political prisoners the last of whom was Nelson Mandela.
Nelson Mandela was released
from Victor Verster Prison in Paarl on 11th February 1990, after 27 years in prison.
These painted sticks at the Apartheid Museum each represent a different speech by Nelson Mandela
The country teetered On the Brink
of uncertainty after the unbanning of the political organizations and Nelson Mandela's release, with a negotiated way forward between two arch enemies!
The National Peace Accord and Bill of Rights
set out a common purpose to bring an end to political violence and to set out the codes of conduct, procedures and mechanisms to achieve this goal, and the government and the ANC met on a number of occasions to remove obstacles that both parties felt stood in the way of a negotiated settlement.
Members of twenty-seven political organisations, homeland and national government signed the National Peace Accord of 14 September 1991, which opened the way for the negotiations for the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA).
The 27th April 1994 Election
marked the first opportunity for non-whites to cast their vote in a national election.
The results of the peaceful election, saw the ANC win 63% of the vote, the National Party 20% and the IFP 11%.
These parties, according to the CODESA negotiations, formed the Government of National Unity.
The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)
, was set up by the Government of National Unity, and chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, to restore justice to those who were identified as victims of gross human rights violations between 1960 and 1994.
Perpetrators of violence could also give testimony and request amnesty from both civil and criminal prosecution.
Rear view of 'World on its Hind Legs', a fractured sculpture by William Kentridge and Gerhard Marx, in
the gardens of the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg
History was made, when for the first time, power was handed down from a minority to a majority government, without bloodshed or external force.
Using newspaper cuttings and television interviews, The Miracle and Beyond
shows the hopes and fears of South Africans, and allows you to add your own opinion via a recording booth.
The core values of The New Constitution
- the new flag and the National Anthem - "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika", are on display.
By visiting the Apartheid Museum as A Place of Healing
, you not only witness some of mans most evil deeds, but also the resilience of the human spirit to persevere and overcome.
The bushveld garden, once out of the museum, is a place to reflect on both the past, and the future!
Page uploaded : 15th March 2012
Page updated : 4th May 2018