The museum opened in 2001, and holds the history of the notorious system of apartheid that plagued South Africa in the 20th century from 1948, when the white-minority National Party was voted into power, until 1994, when the country held its first fully democratic elections that saw former late president Nelson Mandela become the country’s leader.
As soon as you enter into the museum, you receive a taste of the era’s racial segregation. When you pay for your ticket to enter the museum, you are notified of the gate you should enter through based on your race. This is done to highlight how public spaces were segregated during apartheid rule.
The museum takes you through the timeline of apartheid rule and the detrimental effect it had on South African society.
Pictures that caught my eye include those from renowned photographer Ernest Cole from his book titled House Of Bondage.
This below picture shows black miners, who were forced to relocate to urban centres, mainly in Johannesburg after their land was taken by the apartheid government, being stripped naked as part of a procedure by mines to inspect their physical fitness for underground mining work.
Men and women alike relocated from homelands, which were areas demarcated for different groups of black people, to urban areas to find work as they couldn’t farm in homelands due to the bad soil, making economic success impossible. The homelands also had poor facilities, exacerbating poor living conditions.
Men working in the mines lived in horrible conditions in hostels (or residences) that were often overcrowded and had poor facilities.
Bantu Education was implemented by the apartheid government in 1953 in order to control the quality of education black students were receiving. It was an inferior quality of education which the state forced black tax payers to pay for as state financing for education was mainly for white South Africans.
The few schools that were available to black students were often overcrowded, and most teachers were under-qualified as educators. Teachers would often teach a class with over 40 children for a set number of hours throughout the day. This is an image that Cole took of a young child in a cramped classroom with no desks, chairs or adequate books.
Townships emerged as a result of the apartheid government’s urban planning to alienate communities and segregate black and white citizens. Black, coloured and Indian people were forcibly removed from their homes in designated “white only” areas under the Group Areas Act, and relocated to areas with often poor housing and overcrowded conditions.
Armoured police vehicles, also known as buffels, would frequently patrol townships to curb any anti-government protests. This buffel located inside the museum still has its strong smell of diesel, as it if it just yesterday that it was used to terrorize black communities.
The Apartheid Museum is a must-visit place of interest if you’re touring Johannesburg. It will give you much insight into the country’s history.
It is open every day from 09:00 to 17:00, and admission is R80 (about $5) for adults and R65 (about $4) for pensioners, students and children. Guided tours are available on request. Visit the site here for more information.