“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” – Nelson Mandela, June 1999
When you’re in South Africa, it only seems fitting to devote a few hours to learning about some important aspects of the country’s history. One way of doing just that is by visiting the Apartheid Museum.
South Africa lived by the laws of Apartheid between 1948 and 1991. This was a system that divided the people into whites and non-whites, i.e. a system of racial segregation and discrimination. White Europeans were considered the elite and therefore given privilege in all areas of life and society while non-whites (blacks, Asian, etc.) were placed at the bottom of society.
When you enter the museum, you’re immediately taken back in time. Tickets are issued as “whites” and “non-whites” and determine how you enter the museum. You’ll learn about Apartheid and get a glimpse of what life was like during these years, especially for the non-whites. The museum uses photographs, videos, personal effects, etc., to tell the story of a country divided.
There’s also a large exhibition on Nelson Mandela and his life, which is rather interesting. In an outdoor courtyard, there’s a model of the prison cell on Robben Island where Mandela spent 18 years of imprisonment.
The museum itself is architecturally very interesting. The large concrete buildings, pillars and walls which are kept in neutral colors that stand in stark contrast to the contents inside – a history that certainly cannot be considered neutral nor one that simply blends in.