I’ve been visiting all the heritage sites in Johannesburg over the last few weeks with the intention of reminding people about all the top notch historical landmarks we actually have here in this beautifully diverse city. I’ve seen Gandhi’s house in Orchards and even L Ron Hubbard’s house towering over the city in Observatory but this last week I was invited to come see the museum at Liliesleaf Farm and I have to say that I had no idea that they had developed it to such an extent. It’s actually sad that it’s right there in Sandton (Rivonia) and no one I know has ever visited it.
For those of you that don’t know the history, Liliesleaf Farm is a small holding in Rivonia and was the headquarters of the ANC leading up to the arrest of Nelson Mandela and other struggle heroes. If the Apartheid Museum is dedicated to remembering the travesties of Apartheid then I would call Liliesleaf a museum that focuses purely on the struggle to freedom. Here you will really learn why they call it a struggle. Each step toward freedom is clearly and cleverly mapped out in a way that even a layman like me can get it.
There are boards and plaques from the entrance to the actual shed where Mandela was arrested and throughout the house, let’s just say you won’t be short on reading and audio visual material during your visit but the important thing is that it doesn’t feel overwhelming at all. I found myself excited moving between each exhibition spot as I went around and I have to admit that’s very rare for me.
Many people relate history to boredom and immediately shy away from anything historical but there really is no describing the feeling you get when reading through the timeline of events that took place during the lead up to the first free election. We’ve all heard about the struggle but I think it’s very easy to overlook the amount of hard work and bravery it took. From Sharpville to the woman’s march on parliament, it took bravery, persistence in the face of certain death and a peaceful vision for the future of South that was, at that time almost impossible to imagine. Let that sink in for a minute and then ask yourself whether you would have done it. Tough question isn’t it?
Located in the heart of Sandton you really don’t have any excuse not to visit and catch up on the real story behind the struggle, I thought I knew most of it but was shocked to learn a few things that I had really never heard of. The one thing that really got me was the fact that the CIA actually gave the SA police intelligence which led to the arrest of Nelson Mandela and other struggle heroes that day in Rivonia. This was something that I had heard around the campfire from time to time but I never expected to see it printed there for everyone to read. Shocking!
There’s a lovely restaurant on the property which features all the basics including breakfast options and other light meal options and the prices aren’t too bad considering the location. The restaurant is themed around newspapers of the time with authentic newspaper type menus printed with stories of the period, it’s a great concept for a cafe.
The original house is still perfectly in place and holds many an exhibition, including audio and video displays as well as images from the day of the arrest. I found myself spending hours walking around despite the relatively small property so give yourself some time, you won’t want to stop once you get into it. There are also tours which could be fun if you feel like having it all explained to you as you go.
All in all I would go so far as to say that this makes for a great day out of the house and I can strongly suggest you spare some time for a visit.
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Liliesleaf Farm is a small holding in Rivonia and was the headquarters of the ANC leading up to the arrest of Nelson Mandela and other struggle heroes.