27 April 2014 by South African Tourism

27 articles you should read on Freedom Day weekend

What do Table Mountain, shweshwe fabric, Nelson Mandela and the South African flag have in common? They’re all worth celebrating on the Freedom Day weekend – and beyond.

The South African national flag flew for the first time on 27 April 1994. Image courtesy of Nicholas Raymond

Here are 27 articles we've sourced from our website that relate to South Africa's freedom struggle, our peaceful transition to democracy and our unique South African-ness. Many relate to tourist attractions that commemorate our past – we hope you are inspired to visit as many of them as possible!

1. South Africa's national flag

Did you know that the South African flag is the only national flag to display six colours as part of its primary design, and that Nelson Mandela approved the design by fax? Find out more about the history of our national flag, which first flew on Freedom Day, 27 April 1994.

2. South Africa's freedom struggle

South Africa's freedom struggle against racial oppression and injustice was long and hard-fought, starting when the first European colonisers landed in Cape Town in 1652, and ending on 27 April 1994, with the country's first democratic elections. Read this brief overview of the struggle.

3. Nelson Rolihlala Mandela

Our first democratic president, Nelson Rolihlala Mandela, was inaugurated on 10 May 1994. Read more about the father of the South African nation, who became beloved the world over, in this short biography.

4. Robben Island

During apartheid, Robben Island off Cape Town was a maximum-security prison, where many political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela, Ahmed Kathrada and Robert Sobukwe, were held. Now a World Heritage Site, today Robben Island is a museum.

5. Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Diminutive in height but not stature, Archbishop Desmond Tutu is much loved in South Africa for his humour and straight speaking. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his contribution to fighting apartheid. 

6. Albert Luthuli

Another great South African, Albert Luthuli (1898-1967) was a teacher, humanitarian and political leader who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1960 for his leadership of non-violent protest against apartheid.

The Apartheid Museum: A spotlight on South Africa’s fight for racial equality. Image © Apartheid Museum

7. Sol Plaatje

Sol Plaatje is a leading figure in South Africa's liberation history. He was an extraordinary thinker, writer, musician and politician. He was the first general secretary of the African National Congress when it was founded in 1912 and he was the first person to record what is now South Africa's national anthem, Nkosi Sikelel' Afrika.

8. FNB Stadium (aka Soccer City), Johannesburg

One of our proudest moments as a nation was the successful hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, including the opening and closing ceremonies held at Soccer City, now known as FNB Stadium, in Johannesburg. Many of our stadiums are iconic and every South African has their favourite, but this one, shaped like an African calabash, is our most famous.

9. Constitution Hill, Johannesburg

Once the site of an apartheid prison, Constitution Hill is now home to the Constitutional Court, South Africa's highest court. Visit this site to achieve an amazing sense of just how far South Africa has come since the days of apartheid. 

Nelson Mandela, the father of modern South Africa. Image: Nelson Mandela Foundation

10. Table Mountain

South Africa's best-known landmark, this Cape Town attraction has seen well over 20-million visitors walk on its summit. At approximately 260-million years old, it is more than six times older than the Himalayas. It was declared one of the New7Wonders of Nature in 2012. To Nelson Mandela, it symbolised hope. In 1998, he said: 'During the many years of incarceration on Robben Island, we often looked across Table Bay at the magnificent silhouette of Table Mountain. To us on Robben Island, Table Mountain was a beacon of hope. It represented the mainland to which we knew we would one day return.'

11. Xhosa ShweShwe fabric

Read about the history of this quintessential South African cloth.

12. Apartheid Museum, Johannesburg

The Apartheid Museum offers a moving and interactive experience of South Africa's apartheid history.

13. Soweto

'Soweto' is an acronym for 'South-Western Township', South Africa's largest township, south of Johannesburg, and the historical setting of many events in the resistance to apartheid.

14. The Mandela House, Soweto

One of the many interesting sites you'll want to visit in Soweto is the Mandela House, the family house where Nelson Mandela lived on and off for 14 years. It's in Vilakazi Street, also once home to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and thus the only street in the world that was once home to two Nobel Peace Prize winners.

15. Hector Pietersen Museum, Soweto

Another iconic attraction in Soweto is the Hector Pietersen Museum, which is situated on the site of the 1976 student uprising against apartheid. It's an evocative place that will fill you with a sense of South Africa's troubled history.

16. KwaZulu-Natal Freedom Route

This route takes in many of the historical sites relating to the struggle against apartheid in and around Durban and Pietermaritzburg.

17. Mandela Capture Site, Howick, KwaZulu-Natal

One of the sites in the KwaZulu-Natal Freedom Route that you won't want to miss is the Mandela Capture Site, where you'll find an unusual and powerful statue of Nelson Mandela's face and an excellent, small exhibition. This is where Nelson Mandela was captured in 1962, before being imprisoned for 27 years.

One of our proudest moments as a nation was the successful hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, including the opening and closing ceremonies held at Soccer City.

18. Nobel Square, Cape Town

South Africa has four Nobel Peace Laureates: Albert Luthuli (1960), Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1984), and Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk (1993), who are each commemorated with a statue at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town in a little area known as Nobel Square.

19. Nelson Mandela Museum

The Nelson Mandela Museum comprises three parts in three different places in the Eastern Cape – the Bhunga Building in Mthatha (this is currently being renovated) and smaller museums at Qunu, where Nelson Mandela was buried, and Mvezo, where he was born.

20. Sharpeville Human Rights Precinct, Gauteng

The Sharpeville Human Rights Precinct is a memorial for the 68 people who died in 1960 in the Sharpeville Massacre, an event that shocked the international community and inspired increased efforts against apartheid.

21. Liliesleaf Farm, Johannesburg

Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia was where senior members of the African National Congress planned the overthrow of the apartheid government and were arrested during a police raid in 1963. The Liliesleaf Farm Museum aims to give it its rightful place in South Africa’s history.

Table Mountain is South Africa's best-known landmark. Image: Tara Turkington/Flow Communications

22. Nelson Mandela Square, Sandton

This is one of the most accessible of the sites relating to Nelson Mandela. Visit the square in Sandton, Johannesburg, and have your picture taken beside the giant statue of Madiba.

23. South Africa's World Heritage Sites

South Africa has eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, areas that have been given special international status for their unique qualities. If you are interested in culture and natural history, this article will interest you.

24. Nelson Mandela Voting Line sculpture, Port Elizabeth

The Nelson Mandela Voting Line sculpture at Port Elizabeth's Donkin Reserve captures the excitement and joy of South Africans who voted in the country's first democratic elections on 27 April 1994.

25. Red Location Museum, Port Elizabeth

This is a modern and fascinating museum that covers topics including the struggle for freedom and Nelson Mandela, and is located in the heart of Port Elizabeth's New Brighton township.

26. Kliptown Open Air Museum, Johannesburg

Visit the site in Soweto where the Freedom Charter was signed in 1955.

27. Freedom Park, Pretoria

Freedom Park is a heritage precinct consisting of several memorial sites that commemorate those who gave their lives in the freedom struggle against apartheid.

Category: Attractions, Culture & History

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