Apartheid Museum, Johannesburg

4.5 out of 5 stars 4.5 Stars - 17 Reviews

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    Apartheid Museum: Understand our troubled history

    by CatherineReichardt Updated May 23, 2012

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    Jo'burg is sadly not a city blessed with as many great museums as other large cities worldwide, but the Apartheid Museum is truly world class and a moving testament to South Africa's troubled history. The title is slightly misleading, as the museum provides a comprehensive overview of South Africa's 20th century history - of which apartheid was obviously a major part. The building and exhibits are innovative and modern in their design, and there is also excellent use of audio visual material. A 'highlight' of the experience (in terms of impact) is the hall of nooses commemorating all the people hung for treason.

    It would be easy for this museum to err on the side of political correctness, but it is to the credit of the curators that there has clearly been immense effort to try and keep the commentary fair and balanced (as far as it is possible to do so in the context of such an emotive topic). There is obviously a focus on the enormous personalities that influenced the armed struggle - Mandela, Tutu and Luthuli are obviously prominent. When I visited, there was a tremendous temporary exhibition on Helen Suzman - a hugely influential and extremely brave woman who was a giant(ess) of South African politics and for over a decade was the only opposition Member of Parliament - who will not be as familiar to non South Africans (I hope that this is now a permanent exhibit).

    The subject matter is often grim, but paradoxically the overall experience is uplifting, as it documents the journey of a country - against the odds - from teetering on the brink of the political and moral abyss into a multiracial democracy (albeit with teething problems that still endure). Anyone who is serious about trying to understand where South Africa has come from (and the challenges that it still faces in transition) should definitely visit this museum. Personally I found it much more informative than Robben Island, although they are both such different experiences that it is perhaps unfair to compare (and I would recommend that tourists do both, preferably visiting this museum first).

    My only warning is that there's really too much material to take in during a single visit - maybe take a break halfway through and have lunch and/or wander around Gold Reef City (which is literally next door) or perhaps plan a return visit?

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    The Aparteid Museum

    by queensgirl Updated Apr 4, 2011

    This museum displays the history of Aparteid in South Africa. From the start to the struggles and the end of it. It was very enlightening to me. There is an admission. Everyone should go to this museum it is a huge part of South Africa's history.

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    Apartheid museum

    by littlebush Written Jul 9, 2010
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    100 rand to get in (60 for student) - its worth it - you can do it in 2 hours - it gives u a real feel for the struggle for freedom and have some good video footage of events over the years of apartheid. there is of course a section on mandela and the final fall of the regime
    well worth it
    located at gold reef city

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    Apartheid Museum

    by Greatwalk0 Written Apr 1, 2010
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    Wow! What an experience! When visiting Johannesburg, definitely make a stop at the Apartheid Museum! Much like the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, this museum is more of an experience than anything else.

    Very interactive and full of history of the dark days of South Africa, the Apartheid Museum is an important landmark in the New South Africa. As someone familiar with Apartheid, I found myself learning a tremendous amount about more of the less known fringe groups that emerged in the early 1990s as Apartheid was coming to an end. EVERYONE will learn something new at this museum and, more importantly, will leave with a deeper appreciation for racial equality.

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    Apartheid Museum

    by Moirads Updated Feb 2, 2010

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    The building itself is almost a pictorial representation of apartheid with its fortress- like greyish stone, and concrete in rusting steel frames. As one enters one is arbitrarily assigned a racial classification. There were official classifications back in the bad days of apartheid based on such improbable things as the colour of fingernails, width of nostrils and whether pencils would fall out of kinked hair. The card evokes strange feelings in me. Apartheid classified and divided people.

    Outside the museum a group of school children shriek noisily. Their visit to this museum is a peep inside a world they have never known and probably can’t imagine. Inside one faces a world most South Africans, black and white, who were old enough to have experienced would rather forget. This museum is an exercise in wrestling with the past.

    The exhibits are somewhat on the academic side, and if one is inclined to move quickly through a museum, stopping only for when something particularly grabs one’s attention, then one will probably get through this is somewhat less than the recommended two-and-a-half hours.

    Like most South African museums, the Apartheid Museum nearly always has a beautifully researched temporary exhibition. Until August 2008 the temporary exhibition at the Apartheid Museum focuses on Steve Biko and his place in the history of the country of his birth. The exhibition traces this from the establishment of the African intellectual tradition, through the move to Africanism, Pan Africanism, Black Consciousness, the student movements and official resistance and oppression.
    The exhibition has some very poignant moments. The medical evidence and the findings of the South African Medical and Dental Council which finally struck Dr Tucker off the role are shocking, even to people who remember the newspaper account. The comments of Minister Jimmy Kruger on the death of Biko are horrifying. The tributes to Biko by various public figures in widely diverse spheres are very moving. But it is the fact that South Africa was not alone in its growing awareness of the need to recognise the human rights of black people which impresses me most.

    I move on to the general exhibits. Some touch me profoundly, while others are simply academic. I stop at photographs of all the signs which filled public spaces in apartheid South Africa. The comment says it all. “The infectious spread of Apartheid into the smallest detail of daily living made South Africa a land of signs.”

    The 121 nooses representing those executed for political reasons hangs over my head literally and figuratively and I hurry through that section. The words of Robert Sobukwe haunt me here, even though it was elsewhere that I read them. “We are not anti-white. We do not hate the European because he is white! We hate him because he is an oppressor. And it is plain dishonesty to say I hate the sjambok and not the one who wields it.”

    I feel like kicking the hated military vehicles used by the police and army in the townships. Inside one can see footage taken in the townships. The images of riots, teargas, police bullets and young men, black and white, facing each other in a hideous portrait of a country divided bring tears to my eyes.

    The cages with enlarged pictures of the hated “Pass Books” or “dompas” as they were known symbolise the way the system imprisoned people. At the end of the row of cages, against the wall, a listing of all the Acts of Parliament relating to Apartheid stuns the senses. So much time, effort and money spent on the codifying of the system.

    I am amused at video recordings of Pik Botha and Winnie Mandela both being asked about whether there will ever be “One man, one vote” and a black president in South Africa. “No, definitely not” says Pik Botha. “Certainly” says Winnie Mandela.

    A series of photographs of modern day Johannesburg residents of various origin as they share the memories and personal family histories of people who lived under apartheid, some fighting it, some resigned to it, some working against it, some working within it is a powerful reminder that we all live with the past. George Bizos (Nelson Mandela’s lawyer and friend), Willem Boshoff (artist), Lena Masina (domestic worker), Prospero Bailey (grandson of Randlord) take their place with other residents of Johannesburg, Africa’s most cosmopolitan city. There is no other place in Africa which contains such a varied cultural mix and robust blend of nations, races, cultures and languages that give Johannesburg its unique character.

    It is the picture of Nelson Mandela shaking the hand of captain of the Springboks, Francois Pienaar, at the 1995 Rugby World Cup which touched me most. It is a moment of reconciliation.

    As one leaves the building there is an open space for one to walk and reflect on what one has experienced.

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    Apartheid Museum

    by Airpunk Written Nov 21, 2009

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    If you visit only a single museum in Johannesburg, this would be one of my two choices for it (the other one being the Henry Pieterson Museum in Soweto). This museum gives the visitor an idea of how it must have been during this era of discrimination which was a shame for humankind. The collection shows how discrimination began around the turn of the century and became law in the 1950s. This is also the way you enter the museum, later experiencing all other key moments of this era. Of course, this includes also the two most touching events, the Soweto uprising in 1976 and the dawn of Apartheid with Nelson Mandela being set free. Another point to mention is that you are separated at the beginning: You’ll get a plastic card telling you which race you belong to (of course, that does not depend on your real skin colour). According to this, you’ll see the first part of the exhibition separated from each other.
    Audioguides in several languages are available. Please bring your passport or national ID card as a deposit for it. Apartheid Museum is a must-see in Johannesburg leaving nobody’s emotions untouched.

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    Apartheid Museum that I did not visit

    by Assenczo Updated Nov 14, 2009

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    This establishment is bordering the Gold Reef complex rather invitingly. I thought there was something fishy with its convenient location and "communist" outlook so I decided to postpone my decision on visiting it. After a while I noticed that the only visitors were white tourists herded there with regularity and efficiency that corroborated my doubts in its genuine qualities. Unlike the Robben Island museum with its "universal" acceptance, the Apartheid Museum seems odd and boring dinosaur of the "let's-remember" attitude of black empowerment and nothing else. So despite the crushing boredom at the neighbouring casino (which makes you wonder what the struggle was for)I did not venture inside.

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    See the Apartheid Museum and Know History!

    by jumpingnorman Updated Feb 15, 2009

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    Interesting exhibits at Apartheid Museum, J'burg

    Upon entering the Apartheid Museum, I had to go through the non-white section, a way for visitors to realise how segregation is...and as you walk in, you will see the identification cards of non-white people from the Apartheid Era.

    On this 6, 000 square metres of museum space on a seven-hectare site, you will see lots of exhibits with blown-up photographs from a very different and disturbing time of hatred and fear.

    I remember sitting in a large yellow and blue police armoured vehicle, nicknamed a "casspir", where I watched footage taken from inside the vehicle driving through the townships, and it is like you are being transported into the past...

    A most poignant exhibit shows 121 nooses dangling from the roof representing the political prisoners hanged during apartheid. There is also a small claustrophobic room which is were prisoners were held for months...I think I will have a nervous breakdown in that space in just one day!

    There was also a cage full of weapons used by the security forces to enforce apartheid. And as you walk along the corridors, you see several video footages, including a 1961 BBC interview with Nelson Mandela when he was in hiding from the authorities, a footage of Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd addressing a crowd in English and his disturbing speech explaining how the country could be happily ruled only through racial segregation...

    Definitely, you will learn so much about South Africa's history in this Museum --- and I think it is a must to visit it.

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    The Apartheid Museum

    by jonah1 Written Aug 16, 2006

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    Great contemporary design
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    A visit to The Apartheid Museum (like Robben Island) is a MUST (if possible) to anyone who visits or even lives in South Africa. Being relatively young (well 26 hehehe) I have a few vague memories of what SA was like during the years of Apartheid but even if you do/don't, make the effort to see this place!!!! As a South African I understand the importance of a museum like this for our future generations although i will say that it is an IMPOSSIBLE task for anyone to completely sum up what Apartheid meant and did to this country. This place is bound to touch and make you think at the very least about the lives we live, and the choices we make. I cannot reccomend this museum enough to anyone and if you miss out - you have missed on of the most important beacons of world history....

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    The Apartheid Museum

    by jonah1 Written Aug 16, 2006

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    A visit to The Apartheid Museum (like Robben Island) is a MUST (if possible) to anyone who visits or even lives in South Africa. Being relatively young (well 26 hehehe) I have a few vague memories of what SA was like during the years of Apartheid but even if you do/don't, make the effort to see this place!!!! As a South African I understand the importance of a museum like this for our future generations although i will say that it is an IMPOSSIBLE task for anyone to completely sum up what Apartheid meant and did to this country. This place is bound to touch and make you think at the very least about the lives we live, and the choices we make. I cannot reccomend this museum enough to anyone and if you miss out - you have missed on of the most important beacons of world history....

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    Apartheid Museum

    by dejavu2gb Updated Jan 27, 2006

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    Apartheid Museum

    This is an extraordinary powerful museum, that has become one of Johannesburgs most popular attractions.
    Inside the museum there is stacks and stacks of information about the whole apartheid era with large posters depicting scenes, and all over monitors replying scenes related to apartheid.
    I was amazed how much information it actually had, so if you intending on paying it a visit and you want you experience the whole museum, go for a good few hours as there is lots and lots of information to read and lots of clips to see.

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    The Apartheid Museum

    by MikeAtSea Updated Oct 9, 2005

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    Apartheid Museum

    This museum follows the dark past of South Africa. The Museum, with its large blown-up photographs, metal cages and numerous monitors recording continuous replays of apartheid scenes set in a double volume ceiling, concrete and red brick walls and grey concrete floor, is next to the Gold Reef City Casino, five kilometres south of the city centre.

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    Apartheid Museum

    by jo3201 Updated Mar 3, 2005

    This is a must see for foreigners and for South Africans. It brilliantly chronicles the arrival of different ppl in jhb, the advent of the apartheid regime and it's devastating impact on the lives of South Africans. And, as difficult and emotional as the journey through the museum may be, it still leaves one with feelings of hope and awe.

    The museum is beautifully designed, and the layout very interesting. There is a lot of text to read and at times it can get very HEAVY, but such is the subject matter. There's also an audio tour, but remember to pay for these when u get your tickets at the entrance.

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    Apartheid museum

    by Gard Written Jan 24, 2005

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    Pillars of the Constitution

    When growing up I remember seeing news stories on TV about a South Africa ruled by the apartheid government. In 1990 Nelson Mandela was finally released from Robben Island after 27 years in prison, he won the Nobel Peace Prize together with Frederik Willem de Klerk in 1993 and won the first free elections in 1994. The Apartheid museum is located right next to Gold Reef City. The entrance is pretty clever…it is split in two entrances: one for the ‘whites’ and one for the ‘non-whites’. To start with you get a bit of information about the race classification in the old regime. From there on we went through the museum to look at life (for both sides) under the old regime, about the homelands, about the Soweto uprising etc.

    The museum didn't look that big when we arrived but you need some time to go through the museum. We got there a bit late and before we knew it, it was 5 pm and we got “kicked out” of the place. You probably need 2-3 hours to go through the museum. I think we paid 25 Rand per person to get into the museum. Some of the videos in the museum showed the Soweto uprising and how the police went about to control the situation. I guess when you see how brutal the police were in some situations it is easy to understand that the police still have a bit of a bad reputation in South Africa. And I guess it also shows that it will take some time for the wounds to heal and for the country to move on. The museum web page on www.apartheidmuseum.org contains more information on the exhibitions, the history, other places of interest etc.

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    Apartheid Museum

    by cokes Written Dec 13, 2004

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    Living Under Apartheid

    Incongruously located next to the cheap fun-park thrills of Gold Reef City, the unmissable new Apartheid Museum's only roller coaster is an emotional one. An essential South African experience, it tells the apartheid story with a confronting sensory verve through large, visually stunning displays and excellent audio visual exhibits.

    The Museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 10h00 - 17h00.
    The Museum is closed on Mondays, Good Friday and Christmas Day.

    Admission: Adults: R25 per person
    Children: R12 per person
    Pensioners: R12 per person
    School groups: R6 per pupil

    If you are a disabled person, please ensure
    that you are issued with the correct ticket.

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