I stood beneath the hangman’s noose.
From the pictures on the wall, two young men looked out at me – unblinking.
One was black. One was white. Both had died. Both had died by hanging.
One, a doctor, was said to have hung himself – after interrogation. One had stood beneath just such a noose that hung over me. It had been placed around his neck – unwilling.
“Life to be sure, is nothing much to lose,
But young men think it is – and we were young.”
[ A. E. Housman]
In the deep silence of awareness, I contemplated the terrible list. The names of people executed under the Apartheid laws. They had died, but
All are affected.
All are changed.
All are scarred.
Within each person something dies – or comes to life.
Life is a journey. But there is no going back.
There is no erasing. There may be – healing.
There can be – Life.
To walk into the building, is to walk through an astonishing portrayal of a short, but tragic, period in South African history. It is to see it through the eyes and lives of others, and the events that took place in and around those lives. There are pictures and sound everywhere, displays, small theatres, and films playing on monitors. It is to go back in time – a time through which so many of us passed – and through which so many died and were traumatised.
Some people are caught up in the blindness, others in the violent reactions. There is harsh brutality, oppression, terrifying politics and unending discriminatory laws. Do you recall the Pass Laws, the Mixed Marriages Act, the Immorality Act, the Treason trials, the “Whites Only” signs, the Bantu Education Laws – and the seemingly endless amendments, to close loopholes and to tighten restrictions?
Others seemed to rise through it, and unceasingly work for change, for freedom, for hope.
There is a very good display on the remarkable life of Nelson Mandela, a large tribute to the unceasing commitment of Helen Suzman, and acknowledgements of those who were a part of the struggle for freedom, justice and dignity, in one way or another.
All this is still a part of the living history of our land. It really should be the calling of every person to go and to walk this walk for themselves. Not to go could be a denial, a refusal to face the truth, and the extent of the truth. For it is not just a story of events. It is a story about people, all people, precious people, who need to be seen and treated as people, and to treat each other as people. It tells us something of why we are as we are – and of the road ahead, the journey through healing to wholeness.
Don’t just look and hear – feel and experience it, allow it to touch you deeply. It helps to understand – which is vital for us and for others.
Please don’t put it off – or see it as just a depressing need. It is, indeed, in parts horrifying, and extremely challenging. But, in a strange way, it is a revelation of truth, of courage, of life – and of hope.
And, for those who have eyes to see, we have lived through a miracle – and the best could still be to come. You may sense as you leave that, in a significant way, you have walked on holy ground – and that, in doing so, you have experienced a new awareness, a new freedom and, a new purpose.
“The Apartheid Museum is a journey- not just a destination.
A journey to understanding, freedom and equality.
It may be the most important lesson you’ll ever learn.”
Hours: 10h00 – 17h00 Tuesday to Sunday
Venue: c/o Northern Parkway and Gold Reef road, Ormonde
Cost: Adults: R30; Children & Pensioners R15; School Groups R10 pp.
For further information follow the links alongside.
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