Museum Africa captures the bitter experience of the Rivonia Treason Trial, and the social effects of the migrant labour system on the gold mines. You can walk into a shebeen, or hostel room of concrete bunks, and discover many fascinating aspects of South Africa's history for yourself.

Did you know?

Museum Africa is housed in what used to be the city's main fruit and vegetable market.

Museum Africa, in Johannesburg's Newtown Cultural District, is not only an important ethnological museum holding artefacts, paintings, photographs, musical instruments and archaeological items, but is also an animated memorial to key phases of Johannesburg’s past.

Its permanent displays are themed to reflect the city's geological, social, political and economic history, with many documenting the social effects of the gold mines on life in South Africa and, specifically Johannesburg.

One of them, Sounds of the City, traces South African music from the Marabi music and dance of the 1920s slum yards to the township jazz of a Sophiatown shebeen, bringing this world vividly to life.
Another permanent display, Tried for Treason, covers the four-year trial of 156 people opposed to apartheid, including Nelson Mandela.

In the exhibition titled Gandhi's Johannesburg, you will discover the city landmarks associated with the man who pioneered the philosophy of passive resistance. There’s another long-term exhibition called Cartoons in Context, looking at South African history through the eyes of some of the country’s leading visual commentators and satirists over the decades. Johannesburg Tracks: Mapping sexuality in the city explores the gay experience of Johannesburg.

Attached to Museum Africa is also the Workers’ Museum, telling the story of migrant labour in southern Africa.

The museum also collects southern African exhibits from the Zambezi River down, and a highlight is an Iron-Age Tswana house, including a furnace for working iron.

The Africana Museum, formerly housed in the Johannesburg Public Library, has also been incorporated into Museum Africa, with its collection of historic utensils and furniture used by the Zulu, Xhosa, Tswana and Afrikaner. Two other museums have also moved to the Museum Africa: the Bamberg Museum of Fashion, with its gowns and accoutrements, and the renowned Bensusan Museum of Photography.

The latter traces the history of photography from Louis Daguerre in 1839 to the latest digital images, and there is a fine collection of equipment for both photography and cinematography.
Contemporary exhibitions on Southern Africa's socio-economic history, featuring traditional as well as fine art, are also often presented at this South African cultural museum.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Museum Africa
Tel: +27 (0)11 833-5624

How to get here

Museum Africa is found at 121 Bree Street in Johannesburg's Newtown Cultural Precinct, on one of the main taxi and bus routes in the city.

Best time to visit

Open Tuesday to Sunday, 9am-5pm

Around the area

Some of Johannesburg's best live music venues are located in the Newtown Cultural Precinct, as is the famous Market Theatre and Gramadoelas Restaurant.

What will it cost

Entrance to Museum Africa is free.

What to eat

Museum Africa has a small coffee shop on site. There are also numerous restaurants and fast food outlets in the Newtown Cultural Precinct.

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