Kliptown Open Air Museum, Johannesburg
Did you know?
Nelson Mandela had to watch the proceedings at Kliptown from a nearby rooftop.
The Kliptown Open Air Museum is a heritage site symbolising the right of people to freedom. This Soweto museum tells the story of the Freedom Charter.
Apartheid heaped indignity upon people of colour. This was fertile ground for the ANC Youth League, which appealed in particular to the hundreds of thousands of educated urban black youths. To counter white repression it advocated a passive resistance. As the campaign escalated, so repressive measures intensified.
To give the ANC a clear vision, its Cape leader, Professor ZK Matthews, proposed a national convention of progressive movements from all sectors of South Africa ‘to draw up a Freedom Charter for a democratic South Africa of the future'. The response was thousands of delegates meeting on a dusty field in Kliptown on 25 and 26 June 1955.
Kliptown was chosen because it was a multiracial, freehold area originally intended as a buffer between adjoining Soweto and Johannesburg. Here ‘a people's parliament', the Congress of the People, adopted the Freedom Charter, which is now the cornerstone of the Bill of Rights and the South African Constitution.
By the advent of democracy in April 1994, Kliptown had become derelict. Due to the national significance of the area, an urban regeneration and business tourism project, known as The Greater Kliptown Regeneration Development, was initiated to transform the area.
The showpiece of this is the Kliptown Open Air Museum, also known as the Walter Sisulu Square of Dedication, a historical museum in Soweto that incorporates informal traders, shops, art galleries and a hotel.
There are also convention and conferencing facilities, restaurants and exhibition spaces in the square.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
The Walter Sisulu Square of Dedication
Tel: +27 11 945 2200
How to get here
The Kliptown Open Air Museum is part of Walter Sisulu Square in the heart of Kliptown in Soweto. There are taxis and buses available on this route and the area is easily accessible by car.
Best time to visit
The museum is open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm, and 10am to 4.30pm on Sundays.
Tours to do
Soweto Guided Tours, Hector Peterson and Apartheid Museum tours
What will it cost
Entrance is free of charge.
Length of stay
Give yourself at least half a day for the Kliptown Open Air Museum, a full day if you wish to visit other Soweto freedom struggle sites.
Where to stay
There is a luxury boutique hotel attached to this historical museum in Soweto. There are also a number of guesthouses and B&Bs in the township.
What to eat
There are number of fine restaurants in Soweto serving traditional South African meals.
Part of Walter Sisulu Square is given over to informal art galleries and craft shops.