South African Cultural Museums
Did you know?
The Castle of Good Hope is the oldest surviving building in South Africa.
Museums reveal what has shaped us, our society and environment, and South African museums serve this discipline very well.
The oldest of the museums in South Africa is the Iziko South Africa Museum in Cape Town, opened in 1825. It has unrivalled exhibits on South Africa's earliest inhabitants, the San Bushman, including sections of caves adorned with their world-renowned rock art.
Prominent among South African museums in Cape Town is the Castle of Good Hope, built between 1666 and 1679, and the more recently proclaimed Robben Island, a huge drawcard as the prison of Nelson Mandela for 25 years.
Johannesburg's Apartheid Museum, meanwhile, gives the fullest account of 20th century South Africa and its premier cultural museum, MuseumAfrika, has an impressive collection of Africana.
The National Museum in Bloemfontein, dating from 1877, is strong on archaeology and dinosaur fossils, the Durban Museum has a rare dodo skeleton, and the Origins Centre attached to Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg traces early man.
The Port Elizabeth Museum and East London Museum (of coelacanth fame) highlight Eastern Cape indigenous culture, while the Albany Museum in Grahamstown highlights the 1820 British settlers and Xhosa culture.
Other important cultural museums of South Africa are the Bo-Kaap Museum in Cape Town (history and culture of Islam in the Cape dating from 1658), the SA Jewish Museum in Cape Town and the Jewish Museum in Johannesburg, the Huguenot Memorial Museum in Franschhoek, the McGregor in Kimberley (ethnological displays such as San art), Vryburg on the edge of the Kalahari (San Bushman culture), Shakaland in Eshowe (authentic Zulu village), and the Bushman Cave Museum on Giant's Castle Reserve in the Drakensberg.
Afrikaner culture offers the Voortrekker Museum in Pietermaritzburg, the National Women's Memorial and War Museum in Bloemfontein, the Voortrekker Monument and Transvaal Museum in Pretoria, and the Klein Plasie Open-Air Museum, Worcester.