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Democracy, equality, reconciliation, diversity, responsibility, respect and freedom: these words adorn the awe-inspiring pillars of the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. They are the 7 pillars upon which the new constitution of the Rainbow Nation is based. This constitution put an official end to apartheid in 1996. The museum takes you on a multimedia journey through this poignant period in South African history.
The admission ticket reads either ‘Blankes’ (White) or ‘Nie-Blankes’ (Non-white), which determines which museum entrance you may use, letting you experience what it feels like to be selected based on skin colour. The 22 permanent multimedia exhibitions tell the story of racial segregation (apartheid) in South Africa. Unique pictures show the life of a non-white person during the Apartheid regime. A video about the release of Nelson Mandela is also shown.
After the Gold Reef City Casino received a gambling licence from the government in 1995, the consortium behind the casino promised to finance a museum in order to give back to society. That museum became the Apartheid Museum, which opened its doors in 2001. It is not a museum of facts alone – the museum wants visitors to personally experience the horrible ways in which the racist government policy was carried out. At least 131 political opponents were killed because it was legal to execute them. The nooses hanging from the ceiling in one of the exhibition rooms commemorate these victims. It is a horrifying sight that is not suitable for small children, but it does bring home the facts.
Nelson Mandela is the unparalleled figurehead of the anti-apartheid movement. His essential role is beautifully rendered in an exhibition at the Apartheid Museum. Pictures, quotes, videos and stories tell visitors how Mandela became the most famous prisoner in the world after being banned to Robben Island. From his cell, he led the negotiations that would once again make South Africa a free country and, after 27 years of imprisonment, make him a free man. Naturally, the period in which he was the first black president to lead the new Rainbow Nation also receives plenty of attention.