Sunday, August 05, 2007

An Interesting Detour....

By now you are aware that detours and unplanned side-tracks are an integral part of life in the arty-farty household!

This one started out in the usual fashion.... we were mooching around on Saturday morning, feeling lazy and laid back.... Max suggested we take a drive to see the flamingoes which hang around the wetlands to the North of town. He went and took photos recently while I was recovering from the knee op, and promised to take me there when I was more mobile.

It was a bit tricky, they are really shy and the minute they spot you they move to the other side of the water, so we were on telephoto. But the wind was HOWLING, so we were being buffetted around and it was really difficult to hold the camera steady. So the pix aren't great....

Anyway, as you can see, in the background is one of the "black locations" into which our black population were forced to move, in the bad old days. Due to grinding poverty, despite the new freedom to live wherever they like, for many of them the reality is that they will never afford to leave these places. But it is not just that.... you know that old axiom that there is no place like home... no matter how humble that home may be, and strong caring communities have grown here, bonded by the mutual experience of hardship.

So Max and I were chatting about all this as we drove along, and the next thing, we came to a corner I have often seen but never turned.
So we spontaneously decided to go that way, and next thing we came across the sign for the Red Location Museum. Well, the rest, as they say, is history!!

To give you a bit of background, this museum is a place I have been wanting to go to for a while. Red Location has popped up in our ongoing Richmond Hill research, because it was the place that the people who lived in 'The strangers location' in this area were resettled to in 1903. The Museum was conceived as a project to "serve as stimuli for upgrading the destitute living conditions in the Red Location shack settlement, while celebrating those who fought to end apartheid." It does this by attracting foreign tourists on the one hand, and supplying a venue for local communites to interact with educational, art cultural activities. It has won multiple architectural design awards.

So here are some images. It is an incredible place, and these pictures do not even begin to convey the impact that being there has on one.

It is set amongst the shacks and stores, some very old ones are still evident.
Inside, a very high outer shell contains various smaller spaces,
such as an area depicting the history of red location, an art gallery of photos, an auditorium,
and very striking rusted corrogated iron "sheds 5 or 6 m tall, used as individual display areas. These depict various aspects of township life, and also of the struggle against apartheid.
The most striking of these is the room which commemorates the hanging of Vuyislie Mini, a member of MK, the armed wing of the ANC who was hanged in 1964, along with 2 others.
When you enter, the wall facing you has a huge photo of him, and hanging in front of his face, from the centre of the room, are 3 nooses. In the background, you hear him giving testimony at his trial, about refusing to give evidence against his friends in return for amnesty.
The rest of the walls are covered floor to ceiling with boxes, bearing the names of those killed by the government for their anti apartheid activities, in all cases the inquests found that no-one was to blame for their deaths. It is a very moving and powerful display.
Around the outside perimeter of all these inner sheds is a photo essay depicting the "Langa Massacre" which took place in 1985, when a mob was protesting and Police decided to use live ammunition to quell the riot. What makes it really hit home, aside from the huge photos and witness testimonies, is the soft sound of weeping issuing from small speakers positioned all around the wall, so that you really feel you are amidst the mourners at the mass funeral, whew!

It was a sobering, thought-provoking experience. But again, as with the South End Museum, there is also an over-riding sense of dignity and a lack of bitterness, so that it is not an overwealmingly negative experience, but one leaves feeling hopeful.
I think, to be fair, one needs to point out that it is a very one-sided display, because it concentrates on the heroes of the struggle, so it shows some of the evil done by the apartheid regime, without showing any of the atrocities which were perpetrated by the freedom fighters.
However, since that was always the part we got to see in the past, this does bring a balance by telling the other side of the story. I just think it is necessary to see both sides together to get a real picture of what this country has been through.
And it is my fervent hope that everybody would learn enough to realise that the sort of atrocities committed by either side are never acceptable or justifiable.... given the current crime situation, I think there is a long way to go before there is an acceptable level of respect for human life in this country.


Ali Honey said...

Very well put. But I comment only from affar and from my knowledge of life there which comes mainly from the media.
Let's hope progress can still be made and fairness plays a part.

Sheila said...

Like Ali, I only know what I have been told. Mostly sanitised news reports through the years. There are two sides to every story, but no one deserves to treated with less than the dignity and respect that we would want for ourselves.
Your posts are always an inside look at things that we would otherwise not see.
Thanks Sue..

Gillian @ Indigo Blue said...

Wonderful information about the apartheid...I only know bits and bobs about it... now because of you I am going to google it to find out more.
Thanks for that!!!

Sheila said...

Hi Sue, it's been a while since you posted. Hope you are okay..?

Suzi-k said...

hi, glad you found it thought provoking. i'm fine thanks Sheila!