Oppenheimer Gardens in Soweto is a unique historic park that mixes nature, history, art and African culture.
The gardens bear the name of De Beers mining magnate Ernest Oppenheimer, who made a substantial contribution to the resettlement of black South Africans displaced by the apartheid regime in the 1950s. The Oppenheimer Tower which overlooks the park, was built using bricks from houses demolished during the forced relocations that resulted from the apartheid government’s Group Areas Act.
Filled with trees the Oppenheimer Gardens attracts a large and diverse array of birdlife. The wooded park is also planted with various herbs that are used by traditional healers such as the aloe, wild olive, plumbago and coral tree.
Credo Mutwa Cultural Village
Within the gardens you’ll find the Credo Mutwa Cultural Village an open-air museum celebrating African art, sculpture and folklore. The village was built by South African artist, traditional healer, historian and conservationist Credo Mutwa in the 1970s.
This open-air museum is home to a fascinating collection of sculptures. Visitors will be struck by giant sculptures of African gods and goddesses such as the Nguni goddess Nomkhubulwane, as well as sculptures of beings from African folklore such as tokoloshes. There is also a sculpture said to be of King Shaka Zulu who is depicted sitting next to Chief Ngungunyani of the Tsonga. Though these historical figures never met each other, Mutwa placed them in close proximity in a symbolic representation of African nationalism, which he hoped all Africans would embrace, irrespective of tribe and culture.
Some of Mutwa’s followers believe that one of his statues, from 1979, predicted the coming of HIV to Africa, while one of his paintings from the same year foretold of the planes crashing into the World Trade Center in New York on September 11 2001.
Open daily 06:00-18:00
The park is on the corner of Majoeng and Ntsane streets, near Mputhi Street in central western Jabavu.