Nobel Peace Prize winner, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, coined the term “Rainbow Nation” to capture the extraordinary diversity of races, tribes, creeds and landscape that characterizes modern South Africa. Getting to know South Africa’s amazing people may be the most enduring memory of any visit.
South Africa’s varied museums are a good place to get a feel for the history of the country and learn more about what makes the people here so special. Here is just a sampling that highlights a few of the country’s many outstanding museums.
The Apartheid Museum gives visitors insight into the country’s turbulent past and ultimately it illustrates the triumph of the human spirit over adversity. A unique interactive system where you can assume the identity of an individual who lived during the struggle lends an emotional poignancy to a visit.
The District Six Museum in Cape Town is another stirring tribute to the past, a remembrance of the once vibrant mixed-race community of 60,000 people, including many artists and musicians, forced to relocate during apartheid. Live music performances and first-hand narratives add to the affecting atmosphere.
Robben Island, the former prison where Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners were held during apartheid, is easily reached by boat from the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town. It is, however, an emotional voyage to the UNESCO World Heritage site, and one you’ll find yourself remembering long after you return home. Former inmates of the notorious penal colony lead the guided tours and the entire island is a moving symbol of the inhumanity of apartheid and the great sacrifice made for freedom.
The Nelson Mandela Museum is located in Mandela’s birthplace of Umtata. Although the area is one of the poorest in the country, its residents are rich with pride for their native son. You’ll learn about Mandela’s life, from childhood to present, through powerful exhibits that explore his book, “Long Walk to Freedom.” Also on display: a collection of gifts that he received when he was head of state.