I receive a lot of invitations to events, but since it takes time and effort to attend, I have to be quite selective about which ones I accept. However, when I received an invitation to explore Johannesburg during Heritage Month, I knew that this was one event I wanted to attend. In fact, when I told my children about it, they wanted to skip school and accompany me instead.
Our itinerary included visits to some of Johannesburg’s key attractions, including the Apartheid Museum, Sci-Bono, and the Origins Centre. We would travel from one to the other with another Johannesburg attraction - the City Sightseeing Bus.
We met at the Apartheid Museum next to Gold Reef City. I had last been there about ten years ago. Although one could easily spend half a day there, we had much less time. However our guide, Mduduzi, walked us through some of the key areas of the museum.
Outside the museum are Seven Pillars representing the values of the South African Constitution: democracy, diversity, equality, reconciliation, responsibility, freedom and respect. The entrance for whites and non-whites is separate as it was in the apartheid era, and one enters through the entrance specified on one’s ticket. We saw documentaries about the apartheid era, tributes to those who lost their lives during the struggle, and other interesting exhibits like the Casspir, a four-wheel drive armoured vehicle which was used to transport troops and terrorise protesters during apartheid.
The Apartheid Museum tells the story of how the human spirit triumphed over adversity and oppression. It walks one through the apartheid era and the rise of black consciousness, and culminates with the release of Nelson Mandela. Every South African, and visitor to South Africa, should visit this museum at least once to understand what our nation has been through and why our current achievements mean so much more. Book tours here.
Feeling gloomy after re-living the atrocities of apartheid, we then hopped onto the City Sightseeing Bus where the entertaining commentary on the top of the open-air double decker bus cheered us up again. When the commentary touched on South African-isms like “just now” and “shame”, we all burst out laughing.
Our visit to Sci-Bono had to be cancelled because of a fire in the vicinity. Although I had been there before, the museum was hosting a 17000-year old Rock Art exhibition from Lascaux, France. We were given tickets to go and see the exhibition and went a few days later. Here, we saw depictions of rock paintings in a life-sized replica of France’s world-famous Lascaux cave. They were hidden for 17 000 years before being unearthed in 1940 by four curious teenagers and their pet dog. The exhibition also includes a section on the world's oldest known art, which was found in the Southern Cape coast in South Africa! Go and see it before it's too late.
The bus then took us to our next stop, the Origins Centre at WITS University (my Alma Mater). The centre is home to an extensive collection of palaeo-anthropological and archaeological materials, including rock art and fossils, many of which were found in The Cradle of Humankind. There are many hands-on interactive exhibits and a high school treasure hunt was in progress during our visit. The high-vaulted Tapestry Room, with its exquisitely handcrafted hanging panels depicts the life of the San people in beautiful art and is a must-see. Our tour ended with a light lunch and some networking at the Origins Centre. It was a great way to celebrate Heritage Month in Johannesburg.
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