Understanding Apartheid - The background to ‘The Golden City’ and the roots of South African racism
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This tour provides an excellent contextual background to TALK Tourism's tour of Soweto. Using the city as a backdrop, the ‘story’ behind apartheid is told in chronological order, helping visitors understand the unfolding – and escalation - of events which led to the development of grand apartheid in the mid 20th century.
While we suggest a one-day tour of Johannesburg before going on the Soweto (see Soweto page) tour, both tours can be taken as individual programmes. We would recommend an early start as there is a lot to see and learn about in Johannesburg.
The first half of the morning covers the background to the existence of Johannesburg and the completely unique set of circumstances which resulted in the throwing together of literally tens of thousands of extremely varied people from all corners of the earth –all in response to the discovery of the world’s largest goldfield. The immensity of this goldrush created the conditions for the future social conflicts underpinning apartheid, and the great tragedy of the Anglo Boer war. The latter is a topic which is rarely discussed on tours – yet no understanding of apartheid is possible without understanding this extraordinary, and extraordinarily savage, conflict. The first part of the tour goes into this background in some detail, showing sites that illustrate the origins of social and class conflict in the city.
The second half of the morning takes passengers to the city’s newest ‘struggle’ museum, the Constitutional Court, in central Johannesburg. This ex-prison is sometimes called ‘Joburg’s Robben Island’ – for it was the maximum security prison where the ‘most dangerous’ political prisoners were kept. The old gaol has a fascinating past and the re-development of the site is very successful in delivering a most atmospheric and moving experience. Of course the Constitutional Court itself is of major symbolic importance for it is here that S.A.’s world famous constitution is tested. Quite a number of cases have already been brought to the court, which is designed with respect for the traditional methods of African justice, and which also has a wonderful art collection.
Lunch may be had in a number of places.
The afternoon of this day is spent in the excellent Apartheid Museum, now a few years old but widely recognized as a highly successful presentation on the many aspects of the vast system of legislated apartheid. There is a particularly remarkable film documenting the rise of popular resistance after 1976, where many activists tell the stories of the 20 years of activism through the violence wracked 1980sand 1990s. We have allowed enough time for this visit, as the topic is complex and emotionally taxing, requiring a lot of concentration especially if passengers lack prior knowledge of the country’s recent history. This museum has received much acclaim, and thus we accord it a suitable amount of time.
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