The day was hot; the sun fierce; the hunger ravenous; and even still I will strongly recommend that tourists to Pretoria bump this beautiful monument to the top of their list.
From below, the park looks fairly uninspiring (unless of course, one knows to look for the dozens of giant metal reeds emerging from the hilltop). Freedom Park was not designed to invoke awe, however, but rather to serve as a place of healing for all those impacted by the many conflicts that have wracked the troubled nation of South Africa throughout its history. Lest it need be said: all South Africans have claim to the freedom fight.
“…the day should not be far off, when we shall have a people’s shrine, a Freedom Park, where we shall honour with all the dignity they deserve, those who endured pain so we should experience the joy of freedom” – Nelson Mandela, 1999
Designed and crafted with Mandela’s famous quote for guidance, Freedom Park was constructed in response to the post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission. President Thabo Mbeki handed over the completed monument in time for South Africa’s Freedom Day (27th April) in 2004 and Freedom Park received its illustrious creator in 2009.
Boardwalk paths wander through indigenous gardens to the top of Salvokop Hill where they open onto a memorial site cum event space. Different sections of the Garden of Remembrance honour different elements of South African history and the common struggle for freedom – a battle fought by all ethnic groups, even when pitted against one another. Thus, each section takes its name from a different linguistic source and all schools of belief can find solace in the park’s pervasive spiritualism. Every detail holds symbolic value.
Not unlike the Lincoln Memorial in DC, Freedom Park is a testament to human rights that may be enjoyed best in solemn silence.
No sun outlasts its sunset, but it will rise again and bring the dawn.
Yes, Mandela’s day is done, yet we, his inheritors, will open the gates wider for reconciliation, and we will respond generously to the cries of Blacks and Whites, Asians, Hispanics, the poor who live piteously on the floor of our planet.
– Maya Angelou on the death of Nelson Mandela, 2013
The children’s garden
[Sadly, the electricity was out the day of my visit, which prevented me from stopping by the //hapo museum. A walk through the children’s garden did mollify me a bit, though.]