The Nelson Mandela Museum is situated on the N2 highway in Mthatha in South Africa's Eastern Cape province. It promises visitors a memorable cultural experience and insight into the life of Nelson Mandela, with guided tours and a heritage trail that follows his in his footsteps.
Comprising three separate locations, the Nelson R. Mandela Museum consists of the Bhunga Building in Mthatha, the Qunu component and an open-air museum at Mvezo. The historic Bhunga (translated loosely as council or caucus) building accommodates an exhibition tracing Nelson Mandela’s journey, as told in his own words, and narrated in part from his acclaimed biography A Long Walk to Freedom. It also showcases a diverse selection of the gifts bestowed on South Africa’s most-beloved statesman, Madiba, during his presidency.
From here visitors can visit Mvezo, Mandela's rural birthplace, to gain an understanding of his humble beginnings. Born into a chiefly lineage within the Tembu people, his inkaba (umbilical cord) is buried here in accordance with Xhosa tradition, and it is where his father was stripped of his authority by the apartheid government and forced to flee while Mandela was still an infant.
From there he proceed to Qunu, where his family took refuge and he spent his childhood. Here he assumed a Christian name, Nelson, in place of his Xhosa name Rolihlahla (which means shaking the branches of a tree, or trouble maker), as was the custom at the missionary-run school he attended. He spent his boyhood here diligently doing herd-boy duties and playing in the river.
The Nelson Mandela Youth and Heritage Centre is located at Qunu and comprises the second component of the Nelson Mandela Museum. This unusual heritage tour allows visitors to ‘meet’ Madiba the man, activist, father, liberation struggle hero and former president.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Nelson Mandela Museum
Tel: +27 (0)33-3451404
Fax: +27 (0)33 3450561
How to get here
Nearby East London Airport is accessible from major South African airports. Mthatha is a three-hour drive from East London. The Nelson Mandela Museum is located on the N2 and is a natural stopover between major centres.
Tours to do
OPTION 1: HALF DAY
A visit to: Bhunga Building in Mthatha, Nelson Mandela Youth and Heritage Centre in Qunu and other sites of historical significance.
Qualified museum site tour guide available.
OPTION 2: FULL DAY
Visit to: Bhunga Building, Qunu, Mvezo and Mqhekezweni great place
Qualified tour guide available
OPTION 3: THREE DAYS
Visit to: Bhunga Building, Qunu, Mvezo and other local historical sites of significance associated with Nelson Mandela in Qunu, Mqhekezweni Great place, Clarkebury, Healdtown and to the University of Fort Hare.
OPTION 4: HIKES
Hiking around Qunu allows visitors to tour sites of historical significance such as the stone church where Nelson Mandela was baptised, the sliding rock where he used to play with other children, and includes Qunu village tours.
Visit to: Mthatha, Mvezo, Mqhekezweni, overnight in Qunu and Wild Coast
Hike from Coffee Bay to Hole in the wall.
Where to stay
The museum in Qunu boasts upmarket accommodation suitable for leisure and business travellers.
Local curios and traditional meals.