The Apartheid Museum is one of the most vivid recounts of South Africa’s story, illustrating the rise and fall of the apartheid era. Despite the unsettling nature of some of the exhibits, the museum is a highlight of any visit to Johannesburg, offering an irreplaceable look back into South Africa’s darkest days.
Apartheid is the cornerstone of the South African story. The legally enforced system of racial segregation divided the nation for over 40 years, before falling with the election of Nelson Mandela in 1994. To understand modern-day South Africa, it’s crucial to look back into this era and see why the new country was born.
The Apartheid Museum hosts 22 individual exhibitions in a deliberately colourless building. Each exhibition focuses on a different time from South Africa’s history, starting at the mixing of races on goldfields in the late 1800’s, moving on through the violence that accompanied segregation laws and finishing with the fight for equality. The journey ends with a celebration of Nelson Mandela’s election as President and a proud declaration of the values of the new constitution.
There is a huge amount of information to take in - there are written displays, audio, films, photos and interactive presentations. The museum features content direct from the apartheid era providing a chilling reality to your visit, however due to the graphic nature of some of the exhibitions the Apartheid Museum advises it may be unsuitable for children under 11 years old. Many, many days could be spent here, but generally a half-day will give you enough time to interact briefly with each exhibit.
The museum is a short five-minute walk from Crown train station, easily accessible from major transport hubs in Johannesburg. A visit to South Africa’s most evocative museum is a must for anyone visiting Johannesburg.