Did you know?
Documents, letters and previously unseen photographs are on display in the ground floor windows.
The time is the oppressive 1950s during apartheid. The place is Chancellor House, in the heart of Johannesburg’s CBD. The residents are Mandela & Tambo Attorneys who run their legal firm from these premises.
It was a brave decision by owners, the Essa family from Polokwane in Limpopo, to lease their building in a so-called 'Indian area' to two black African men.
Between 1952 and 1956, Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo had a thriving law practice, trying to help others who were accused of crimes against the state and disobeying the draconian laws of the time. Many of their clients needed help in securing passes, obligatory for black citizens to carry at all times.
Ironically, Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo were arrested for a crime for which many of their desperate clients had been accused, an event that ended up as the infamous Treason Trial.
When Chancellor House opened its doors once again to the public in 2010, Amos Masondo, the former Executive Mayor of Johannesburg, said that 'if bricks could talk this building would have been replete with colourful stories about the struggles for national liberation'.
For years, the former law offices had been derelict and crumbling, inhabited by squatters, but today the building has been faithfully restored with the help of old photographs.
A new roof has replaced the dilapidated one, new ground floor windows have been installed, and the three small rooms of the second-floor offices, where Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo once practiced as South Africa's first ever black law firm, have been re-laid with parquet flooring.
Chancellor House is now a dignified freedom struggle museum that resonates with the spirit of the two remarkable men who changed South African history.