The Mandela Museum – A Symbol of “Triumph Over Adversity”

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, affectionately known as Madiba, has become a symbol of freedom and democracy in his home country and beyond its borders. Widely recognized throughout the world as a man of wisdom, compassion and a promoter of human dignity and equality, the history of this well-respected statesman and his contemporaries is of great interest to millions of South Africans, as well as to millions of tourists who visit South Africa each year. It was with this in mind that Nelson Mandela’s former home located at number 8115 Vilakazi Street, Orlando West, Soweto, was given a multimillion Rand facelift and reopened to the public on 19 March 2009.

The house was built in 1945, and Nelson Mandela and his first wife, Evelyn, moved into the house in 1946. His time spent in the house was limited as he was often on the run from security forces until his arrest and subsequent imprisonment in 1962. The house was occupied by the Mandela family until it was turned over to authorities and opened to the public as a heritage site in 1996. The Mandela Museum quickly became a popular tourist attraction and to accommodate the increasing number of tourists visiting the house, it was decided to upgrade the facilities.

The restoration project took great care to preserve the authenticity of the home, and bullet holes can be seen in some of the walls and the façade of the building is scorched as a result of conflicts with the apartheid regime’s authorities. The humble three-roomed house has a new modern visitors’ center and a small memorial garden pays tribute to the history of the Mandela family. Inside the house itself are some of the original furnishings which had been used by the family. By viewing video footage and the family photographs on display, visitors will have the opportunity of gaining insight into the lives of a family who had a profound effect on this period of South African history. One of the walls is covered in certificates and citations awarded to Mandela by universities and cities around the world. Also on display is a selection of memorabilia, including the world championship belt presented to South Africa’s first black president by boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard.

At the opening ceremony, which was presided over by Gauteng’s premier Paul Mshatile, Madiba’s daughter Zindzi read out a statement from her father in which he noted that the Mandela Museum stands a symbol of “the ability of the human spirit to triumph over adversity” and is the heritage of a nation “who refused to bow down to tyranny or succumb to bitterness.”