10 November 2010 by Chris Marais

‘Wondering’ around Liliesleaf

I have visited the Hector Pieterson Museum and Memorial, the Apartheid Museum (everyone should), Nelson Mandela’s house in Soweto, Robben Island and various other struggle sites and museums around South Africa. Lilieslief told me a fresh story and added a new dimension to my understanding of South Africa’s history.

The museum is suffused with personal narratives. It echoes with whispered conversations and in the shadows, I glimpse the characters of people that helped shape our country.

I think about the chaos of 11 July 1963, when security police raided Liliesleaf and captured 19 members of the underground, charging them with sabotage. I imagine the frustration, the anger, the determination, the chaos, the fear and the hope.

It’s a scorching day. As I walk around the farm, I imagine Nelson Mandela, living here under the assumed name of David Motsamayi, a worker in blue overalls employed by the owner to look after the farm. I pause at the coal bunker where they found his papers. Strange to look at it today and think how it changed the life of one man, and through him, the course of history.

I think about the chaos of 11 July 1963, when security police raided Liliesleaf and captured 19 members of the underground, charging them with sabotage. I imagine the frustration, the anger, the determination, the chaos, the fear and the hope. I wonder what would have happened had things been different. It’s a very human encounter.

The visit leaves me contemplative and a little sunburnt. Thanks for Afripixel for arranging the tour - and to the museum, for engaging me in an authentic way.

Liliesleaf Farm in northern Johannesburg, South Africa was the farm used secretly by African National Congress activists in the 1960s and was the location where many prominent African National Congress leaders were arrested, leading to the Rivonia Trial. This resulted in the imprisonment of many of political icons, among them, Nelson Mandela.

Category: Culture & History

comments powered by Disqus