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The museums and hidden gems in SA you can visit this Heritage Day

Former prisoner Sally Motlana speaks at the memorial service of Professor Fatima Meer held at Women's Jail Atrium at Constitutional Hill, Johannesburg. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko

Former prisoner Sally Motlana speaks at the memorial service of Professor Fatima Meer held at Women's Jail Atrium at Constitutional Hill, Johannesburg. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko

Published Sep 18, 2021


Heritage Day is less than a week away and like most South Africans, there are probably plans for a braai in your backyard.

But if you are not feeling up to the braai get-together, you can try visiting some of our beautiful country’s museums and hidden gems to learn more about our heritage.

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Cape Town

Lwandle Migrant Labour Museum

Lwandle Migrant Labour Museum is a memorial to the system of migrant labour, single sex hostels and the control of black workers through the Dompass (pass book) that controlled the lives and movement of black South Africans under apartheid.

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This museum serves to remind residents and visitors of the horrific living conditions that the migrant labour system imposed.

The Lwandle Museum offers tour guiding, educational programmes, access to archives and information, public programmes, research opportunities, exhibitions and more.

Where: Lwandle Migrant Labour Museum, Old Community Hall on Vulindlela Street, Lwandle

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The Heritage Museum

The Heritage Museum was established in Amlay House (built in 1858), which belonged to the Amlay family of Simon's Town until they were forcibly removed from the town when it was declared a white group area on September 1, 1967 under the Group Areas Act of the Nationalist Government.

The museum was created as a reminder of the rich Muslim culture that existed in the town from the establishment of Simon's Town as the official winter anchorage for the Dutch East India Company in 1743 until the Forced Removal of more than 7 000 "people of colour" under the Group Areas Act, in 1968.

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Where: Amlay House, King George Way, Simon's Town, Cape Town

Slave Lodge

The Slave Lodge is one of Cape Town’s oldest buildings. So old that the building has answered to many names in the last three centuries, namely; Slave Lodge, Government Offices Building, Old Supreme Court, and SA Cultural History Museum. These names reflect the long and rich history of the building.

Its temporary exhibitions are used to address and raise awareness around human rights. The museum focuses on past slavery and showcases older displays, such as ceramics and silverware of Cape, Malaysian, Russian and English origins, as well as Egyptology collections.

Where: Corner Adderley Street and, Wale St, Cape Town

Johannesburg and Pretoria

The Ditsong National Museum of Natural History

The Ditsong National Museum of Natural History was formerly known as the Transvaal Museum and was founded as the Staats Museum of the ZAR on December 1, 1892.

Since then, it acted as custodian and documentation centre of South Africa’s natural heritage.

The Museum contains collections and exhibits of hominid fossils from the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site and associated fauna, including Mrs Ples, fossils, skeletons, skins and mounted specimens of amphibians, fish, invertebrates, reptiles and mammals.

The Ditsong National Museum of Natural History is the only natural history museum in Gauteng and one of the largest in South Africa.

Where: City Hall, 432 Paul Kruger St, Pretoria Central, Pretoria

Constitutional Hill

Constitution Hill is a living museum that tells the story of South Africa’s journey to democracy. The site is a former prison and military fort that bears testament to South Africa’s turbulent past. Today, it is home to the country’s Constitutional Court, which endorses the rights of all citizens.

Within the walls of the Old Fort, the Women's Jail and Number Four, it has held world-renowned men and women who fought for freedom, including Nelson Mandela, Joe Slovo, Albertina Sisulu, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Fatima Meer. The precinct also confined tens of thousands of ordinary people during its 100-year history.

Constitution Hill offers daily tours of the precinct and conduct regular public events.

Where: 11 Kotze St, Braamfontein, Johannesburg

Hector Pieterson Museum

The Hector Pieterson Museum recalls and memorialises the events of June 16, 1976 and the ensuing Soweto Uprising. The museum takes the visitor on a journey from the build up to a youth rebellion to the events of that fateful day and its aftermath.

The Hector Pieterson Museum in Soweto is a short distance from where police opened fire on students during the protest against the introduction of Afrikaans as a language of instruction in township schools.

Where: 8287 Khumalo Rd, Orlando West, Johannesburg


Phansi Museum

The Roberts House, part of the Phansi Museum, is an important example of the middle class British Colonial Style villa built in the late nineteenth century. It is also a National Monument.

The Roberts family’s daughter Esther was born there and grew up to be the first female social anthropologists of the then Colony of Natal. She excelled in her work as a librarian, author of research papers and books dealing with the indigenous population. Esther also stood outside the city hall with her solidarity group called the Black Sash, lamenting injustices endured by the non-white population.

Where: 500 Esther Roberts Road, Glenwood, Durban

Kwa Muhle Museum

The building was initially used for administering and controlling the affairs of the African urban population in Durban. African men came to the building to acquire documents called the “pass book”.

Kwa Muhle Museum has a host of useful information and exhibitions and features various collections of large black and white prints reflecting township life, and an accurate depiction of the history of black political trade union, cultural organisations and groupings.

Where: 130 Bram Fisher (Ordinance) Road, Durban Central

1860 Heritage Centre

The 1860 Heritage Centre seeks to showcase the rich heritage of Indian South Africans, within the diversity that makes up South Africa’s national heritage. It strives to document, preserve and record aspects of the South African Indian Community as part of South Africa’s collective national heritage and identity.

Along with showing the rich history and heritage, the museum also hopes to create a collective pride in a democratic South Africa.

Where: 1 Derby St, Greyville, Berea