Apartheid Museum

The Apartheid Museum is Closed indefinitely due to the Covid-19 Pandemic

Page created : 4th July 2011
Page updated : 1st September 2021

“The Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg is not about history. It’s far more important than that!”

“…..one of the best museums I’ve ever been to”

“As a visitor to Johannesburg, your trip won’t be complete without a visit to the Apartheid Museum – even if you’re not interested in history”

The racially segregated entrance turnstiles to the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg


Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, which is one of the city’s top tourist attractions, gives a comprehensive, albeit confusing, account of apartheid.
The exhibits at the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg – both temporary and permanent, are shown in a timeline that detail the intricacy of race relations and the related events that lead up to the first democratic elections in 1994 – and beyond!
Museums, at large, look at history, so the Apartheid Museum portrays the ideology of institutionalised racism, and isn’t able to animate the heinous oppression that people had to endure under discriminatory laws.

Cameras are NOT allowed in the museum, due to copyright on the exhibited photos

The exhibits can be of a very graphic nature, and parental guidance is suggested.
The museum recommends no children under the age of 11.

July 2020



Tuesday to Sunday : 09h00 – 17h00 (9.00am – 5.00pm)
Closed on Mondays, New Years Day, Good Friday and Christmas Day

Adults: R100.00
Pensioners, University Students and Children: R85.00
School Learners: R45.00
Teachers: R50.00
No foreign currency or travelers cheques accepted

An additional R10.00 per person – must be booked in advance
Guided tours for 15 people or more.

Hire cost : R15 (not always available!)
Formal ID document needs to be handed in as security.

Cnr Northern Parkway and Gold Reef Roads

Telephone : +27 (0)11 309-4700
Fax : +27 (0)11 309-4726
Send an E-Mail

APARTHEID MUSEUM GPS Co-ordinates (hddd.ddddd)
S26.23730 E028.00927


The present temporary exhibition is on the life of Nelson Mandela.
There’s a huge amount of information, which in itself, could, and should, be a stand-alone museum.
Riveting stuff!


Below are the 21 permanent exhibitions which flow from one display into the next. The layout is confusing, and unless you are very familiar with the historical background, the facts can be overwhelming to digest.
There’s a huge amount to read and lots of videos to watch.
I’ve been a number of times, and am still engrossed, but be prepared to spend a few hours at least, trying to understand apartheid!

THE PILLARS OF THE CONSTITUTION : The seven pillars, visible when approaching the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, each represent what the new South African constitution is based on – democracy, reconciliation, equality, diversity, responsibility, freedom and respect.

RACE CLASSIFICATION : When buying your ticket, you’re classified according to a specific race, and use the entrance gate according to your racial classification – ‘white’, ‘coloured’, ‘Asian’ or ‘native’!

JOURNEYS : Once through the entrance gate, you walk up a ramp with life size photos of some of the residents of Johannesburg, with their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
At the top of the ramp, with a view of Johannesburg’s skyline, you walk down the stairway with the “temporary” Nelson Mandela exhibition on your left and the permanent museum display on your right.

"For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others" - one of Nelson Mandela's well know quotes, on a wall at the entrance to the Apartheid Museum

SEGREGATION : Once through the glass doors, you’re confronted with the reality of racial Segregation.
Segregation was notably absent before 1897 – the date when the first steps were taken to separate the races, but later became the cornerstone on which apartheid was built.

APARTHEID : Large photographic murals depict the forced removals that were the nucleus of Apartheid, and why, despite segregation already being in place, it was necessary for politicians to legislate for apartheid.
Some of the political groups that resisted this racial separation, are also discussed here.

TURN TO VIOLENCE : The ‘Turn to Violence’ display shows how organised resistance started in 1943, but finally turned violent, when on Monday 21st March 1960 in Sharpeville (67 kms south of Johannesburg), during a demonstration against the pass laws, 69 protesters were killed and hundreds injured, when police opened fire.
What became known as the Sharpeville Massacre, signaled the start of armed resistance in South Africa.

Once through the entrance turnstiles, you share the ramp leading to the entrance of the Apartheid Museum, with life size photos of some of the residents of Johannesburg, with their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

LIFE UNDER APARTHEID : Photographs by Ernest Cole, who is widely recognised as South Africa’s first black freelance photographer, depict the harsh conditions of ‘Life Under Apartheid’.
Ernest Cole died in poverty, in exile, in New York in February 1990 – anonymous and homeless.
South Africa at the time had unparalleled economic growth, but the black community suffered more and more under oppressive apartheid laws.

HOMELANDS POLICY : South Africa consists of a number of ethnic groups, and the Nationalist Government divided the country along tribal lines, with the intention that each ethnic group would be removed into their own tribal Homeland.
The ten planned homelands, made up only 13% of the total area of South Africa.
Having to move to these “independent states”, would rid the white areas of blacks, and deny these blacks their political rights in a white South Africa.
The first to receive its “independence”, and recognised as a sovereign state (only by South Africa), was the Transkei – on 26th October 1976.

THE BLACK CONSCIOUSNESS MOVEMENT : The leadership of the ANC had been annihilated during the 1960s, and with most of them behind bars, a social movement of political consciousness, ‘the Black Consciousness Movement’, that rejected the values of whites, and aimed at boosting black self-worth, was started by a number of number of young university students.
Stephen Bantu Biko was chosen as their leader.
They constantly confronted the Government, and this brought them into conflict with the security police.
Key members were banned and Steve Biko, aged 30, was murdered on 12th September 1977, whilst in police custody.

POLITICAL EXECUTIONS : South Africa enforced the death penalty, and had one of the highest execution rates in the world during the fight against apartheid.
Political Executions resulted in 131 people being executed for various terrorism crimes, and a number tortured to death – whilst in police custody, although the police claimed they committed suicide.

16th JUNE 1976 : THE SOWETO URRISING : On 16th June 1976, 20,000 school children protested against apartheid and their second class status, by marching through Soweto.
The unrest spread to the rest of the country, and it became the single biggest challenge to the apartheid system.
The uprising was eventually crushed, but it became a turning point in the liberation of South Africa, and the beginning of the end for apartheid.
Hundreds of civil organizations and anti-apartheid groups that joined forces to form the United Democratic Front, were later joined by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), in their support of the ANC and a democratic South Africa.

THE TOTAL ONSLAUGHT : Despite this Total Onslaught, the Government continually enforced apartheid – but at the same time started reform.

ROOTS OF COMPROMISE : The Roots of Compromise took hold in 1987, when a delegation of top businessmen secretly met the exiled ANC in Dakar, and in 1988, when Nelson Mandela, whilst still in prison, invited the Government to discuss the dismantling of apartheid with the ANC.
In August 1989, PW Botha, the staunchly conservative, uncompromising President of South Africa, suffered a stroke and was replaced by F W de Klerk.
Shortly after assuming the party leadership, FW de Klerk called for negotiations for a democratic South Africa and in February 1990, lifted the ban on the African National Congress (ANC) and the Communist Party of South Africa and released all political prisoners – the last of whom was Nelson Mandela.

NELSON MANDELA’S RELEASE : Nelson Mandela was released from Victor Verster Prison in Paarl on 11th February 1990, after 27 years in prison.

The view of the city of Johannesburg, from the top of the ramp, before descending the stairway to the "temporary" Nelson Mandela exhibition on your left and the permanent museum display on your right.

ON THE BRINK : The country teetered ‘On the Brink’ of uncertainty after the unbanning of the political organizations and Nelson Mandela’s release, with a negotiated way forward between two arch enemies!

THE NATIONAL PEACE ACCORD AND THE BILL OF RIGHTS : The ‘National Peace Accord and Bill of Rights’ set out a common purpose to bring an end to political violence and to set out the codes of conduct, procedures and mechanisms to achieve this goal, and the government and the ANC met on a number of occasions to remove obstacles that both parties felt stood in the way of a negotiated settlement.
Members of twenty-seven political organisations, homeland and national government signed the National Peace Accord of 14 September 1991, which opened the way for the negotiations for the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA).

27th APRIL 1994 ELECTIONS : The ’27th April 1994 Election’ marked the first opportunity for non-whites to cast their vote in a national election.
The results of the peaceful election, saw the ANC win 63% of the vote, the National Party 20% and the IFP 11%.
These parties, according to the CODESA negotiations, formed the Government of National Unity.

THE SOUTH AFRICAN TRUTH AND RECONCILLIATION COMMISSION : ‘The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)’, was set up by the Government of National Unity, and chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, to restore justice to those who were identified as victims of gross human rights violations between 1960 and 1994.
Perpetrators of violence could also give testimony and request amnesty from both civil and criminal prosecution.

MIRACLE AND BEYOND : History was made, when for the first time, power was handed down from a minority to a majority government, without bloodshed or external force.
Using newspaper cuttings and television interviews, ‘The Miracle and Beyond’ shows the hopes and fears of South Africans, and allows you to add your own opinion via a recording booth.

THE NEW CONSTITUTION : The core values of ‘The New Constitution’ – the new flag and the National Anthem – “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika”, are on display.

A PLACE OF HEALING : By visiting the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg as ‘A Place of Healing’, you not only witness some of mans most evil deeds, but also the resilience of the human spirit to persevere and overcome.
The bushveld garden, once out of the museum, is a place to reflect on both the past, and the future!

GARDEN : A peaceful, indigenous Bankenveld Highveld garden offers solace, and allows one to reflect on the horrors just witnessed, after leaving the museum building.

RETAIL SHOP AND RESTAURANT : A retail shop, selling a really good selection of books, clothing and tourist memorabilia as well as a restaurant selling light meals, are in the garden just before the exit gate.

Sticks, each colour representing a different speech by Nelson Mandela, chosen by visitors according to which speech they particularly liked

Opened in November 2001, the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg is a world class, but often disturbing, interactive exhibit that explains the cause, the implementation and the inevitable collapse of apartheid via dozens of videos and static displays.

Apartheid was based on a Christian doctrine, and as gambling was considered a sin, casinos were not allowed in South Africa under the Nationalist (Apartheid) Government.
When the ANC came to power in 1994, and religion was separated from the State, casinos were once again allowed to operate, but under strict conditions.
One stipulation in applying for a casino license was that bidders needed to show how they would attract tourists, create jobs and grow the economy.
The consortium that was awarded a license for the Gold Reef City Casino, committed to build The Apartheid Museum.

The exterior has been designed to be part of the landscape, and the interior design is part of, and adds to, the exhibits.

The long ramp which leads to the top of the man-made earth mound, and and on to the entrance of the museum, is flanked by a high symbolic boundary wall of rough steel gabions filled with rock, which is reminiscent of the legacy of gold mining; at the top of the mound, you look over the grass covered roof and onto the backdrop of the Johannesburg skyline, before a cascading staircase drops you down to the entrance of the museum!
The interior design has differing ceiling heights with few windows, as well as a number of small and cramped display areas which become less oppressive as the displays move towards the dismantling of apartheid!

Rear view of 'World on its Hind Legs', a fractured sculpture by William Kentridge and Gerhard Marx, which was previously on display in the gardens of the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. The museum building is in the background
The Apartheid Museum
Cnr. Northern Parkway and Gold Reef Roads,

GPS Co-ordinates (hddd.ddddd)
S26.23730 E028.00927

Apartheid Museum website
Whilst every attempt will be made to keep the information on this website relevant and up to date, we accept no responsibility for consequences arising from errors or omissions.
Return from ‘Apartheid Museum’
to www.whyjoburg.com Home page