May 17th is International Museum Day, so to celebrate we’re looking at some of the best museums in a country which is rich with history and culture, South Africa.
Apartheid almost tore apart South Africa over the 46 years it was in place. As a result of its abolition in 1994, with Nelson Mandela at the helm, South Africa is now one of the youngest democracies in the world, with possibly the most liberal constitution. It has transformed itself into The Rainbow Nation, and while many of us see Apartheid as being very much in the past, it pays to recognise the significance and impact it had (and continues to have) on the country, which is why this museum is so important. It handles the enormous task of presenting 46 years of horrors in an accessible and interesting way extremely well; it’s quite big so allow enough time to see it all.
Opened in September 2017, The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) is the largest contemporary art museum in Africa and has instantly become a Cape Town landmark. It was named in honour of its lead patron, Jochen Zeitz, the former CEO of Puma and has been dubbed “the Tate Modern” of Africa for its immense size, boutique architecture and superior art collection. The nine-storey museum hosts an impressive 9,000 square metres of exhibition space across 80 galleries, a roof-level sculpture garden with glass floor, and an art preservation space amongst many other state-of-the-art features.
8115 Vilakazi Street, Orlando West, Soweto is one of the most famous addresses in South Africa. This was the house Nelson Mandela and his family lived in from 1946 through to the 1990s, and on the 1st September 1997 Mandela donated the house to the Soweto Heritage Trust so it could be turned into a museum. It chronicles the events of his life as well as his family’s during Apartheid, and bullet holes can be seen in the bricks as well as scorch marks from Molotov cocktails. This modest house has seen a lot, and it manages to fit it all inside with a bit of help from the addition of a visitor’s centre. It’s in the middle of vibrant Soweto, so you’d get to see two great places at once.
In 1857 District Six was named the Sixth Municipal District of Cape Town and was established as a diverse community of freed slaves, merchants, artisans, labourers and immigrants. By the beginning of the 20th Century forced removals had begun, displacing black South Africans first until it became and all white area in 1966. People were forced out to the Cape Flats and their homes were flattened. This museum gives an insight into what life was like in the area before the forced removals, during and after; with reconstructions of parts of houses and streets, personal memorabilia, photographs and interactive exhibitions.
The Bo Kaap is perhaps best known for its colourful houses, cobbled streets and the Noon Gun. Formerly known as the Malay Quarter, it is considered the historical centre of Cape Malay culture which is unique to the city. The Malay influence can be seen in the food, architecture and mosques that feature in this area. Also run by Iziko, this museum provides more of an in depth look at the lives of the people who lived there and the socio-political events that shaped the area. It’s also worth just having a walk around the Bo Kaap; it’s a beautiful part of the city and feels very different to the rest of Cape Town.
Are you looking to see the fascinating museums of South Africa in person? Get in touch with us by calling 020 7843 3500 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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