At long last, the team returned home to Pretoria, where we gave Winston a good cleaning – much-needed after a few thousand kilometres of pavement and dirt. Beyond enjoying good food and new friends, we had one final stop to round out the trip: the South African Apartheid Museum.
Sadly, I have no photos (it’s forbidden). Nor do I have any stamp of completion or final thoughts (I only got as far as the 1980s).
But I do have a strong memory of association with similar museums in the United States. The Apartheid Museum is structured quite similar to the maze-like US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and like its American counterpart, the museum takes many hours to journey through.
The ticket of admittance determines the door of entry (White or Non-White). I recall a travelling exhibit on the Titanic that employed a similar ticket concept, assigning entrants the boarding pass of someone who actually sailed the ship. At the end of the exhibit, one reviewed the ships log to learn what happened to that particular passenger. Perhaps a bit morbid, but I visited that exhibit several times and the ID tickets never lost their appeal.
Additionally, I found myself at various times a bit numbed to the text I was reading and the photos lining the walls and displays. So much of the messaging sounded familiar, almost textbook. It was only after an hour or so that I recognised how much the anti-apartheid struggle mirrored the American Civil Rights Movement. I regularly had to remind myself that I was reading about a different country, a different (even more recent) time period, and the distinct African influences were a result of this movement’s location and culture. My realisation of the similarities was jarring, but curious in that I could identify with the displays and grievances which were expressed that much more.
I will be returning to the Apartheid Museum in time; there are several more decades yet to visit, after all.