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Mandela Family Museum - Johannesburg

mandela family museum johannesburgNelson Mandela's humble little house in Orlando West, Soweto, now called the Mandela Family Museum, is an interesting stopover for those keen to imbibe a slice of authentic history on the world's most famous former prisoner. The museum, a house comprising four inter-leading rooms, contains an assortment of memorabilia, paintings and photographs of the Mandela family, as well as a collection of honorary doctorates bestowed on Mandela by universities and institutions around the world.

There's also a boxing belt from Sugar Ray Leonard, a multi-coloured cloak presented to the former president, and a row of his old boots. The matchbox home, at 8115 Ngakane Street, was Mandela's first house. He moved there with his first wife, Evelyn Ntoko Mase, in 1946. After their divorce in 1957, she moved out.

When Mandela married Winnie Madikizela in 1958, she joined him at the Soweto home. However, during the ensuing years, when his life as a freedom fighter was all-consuming, Mandela seldom stayed there. He was the "Black Pimpernel", living a life on the run, until his arrest and imprisonment in 1962. Madikizela-Mandela continued to live in the tiny house with her two daughters, Zeni and Zindzi, while Mandela was in jail. The house was petrol-bombed and set alight several times during this period.

When he was released, Mandela refused to move to the more opulent home (also in Orlando West) that Madikizela-Mandela had built during his incarceration. He wanted only to return to the house of his memories. However, after his release, he stayed there for a mere 11 days, as he was moved around from one secret location to the next until he settled into his present Houghton residence.

Mandela separated from Madikizela-Mandela in 1992 and the couple were divorced in 1996. But, although her ex-husband handed the house to the Soweto Heritage Trust, Madikizela-Mandela refused to relinquish it. Instead, in 1997, she turned it into the Mandela Family Museum and set up a pub and restaurant across the road. During the inauguration of the museum, where bottles of "Mandela garden soil" were sold, Madikizela-Mandela said: "A lot of history was made here. This is where the 1976 students' uprising began, where the youth leadership met to change the face of South Africa."

Certainly, the area is steeped in struggle history. Just around the corner from the Mandela Family Museum is the Hector Pieterson Memorial and, even closer to Mandela's house, the spot where Pieterson actually fell. Also close by, in Vilakazi Street, is Desmond Tutu's house. Both Mandela and Tutu were Nobel Peace Prize winners.




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