Films have been made, books written and stories told about South Africa’s oppressive past, but nothing captures those dark years better than Gauteng's Apartheid Museum, located next to Gold Reef City, in western Johannesburg. The museum exhibits unedited and uncensored audio-visual material and photographs documenting some of the most harrowing episodes in South Africa’s history.
The policy of apartheid was introduced by the National Party in 1948 as a form of domination and control of black people through racial segregation. Black people were subject to inhumane treatment, their movement was curtailed and they needed permission to travel to certain parts of the country.
Film footage, photographs, text panels and artefacts in 22 individual exhibition areas bear witness to oppression. The exhibits include visuals of daily life in South Africa’s townships – under the watchful eye of security police in armoured Casspir vehicles – as well as of forced removals and innocent people being mauled by police dogs.
In other rooms, the sounds of toyi-toying and struggle songs reverberate, and visuals document the almost daily protests by the restless masses. Marches were brutally suppressed – as on June 16, 1976 in Soweto, when police opened fire on defenceless school children protesting the use of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in schools.
A tour of the museum is sure to leave visitors wondering how South Africa has managed to put behind the injustices of the past and build a society based on dignity and equality.