We start today's holiday (The Freedom Day) very active. So we meet early in the morning at seven for a small workout. Six students and Prof. Dr. Wolf are on their way to turn a few laps around the block. With a following breakfast we strengthen ourselves for our current trip to Johannesburg.
Two cars packed with mix feelings, we arrive there around 9 a.m. to the most populated city in Africa. It is one of the most dangerous cities in the world. This gives many students a queezy feeling in there stomachs.Upon arrival to Johannesburg, we first visit the Apartheid Museum. In keeping with the Freedom Day, we get free admission. On this day, the end of apartheid is celebrated, something we will hereafter learn very much in the museum. Apartheid is the time of racism, racial segregation, and finally the resistance of the oppressed population in 1948 to 1994. It ends with the election of Nelson Mandela as the first democratically elected president of South Africa.
The museum visit leaves many impressions and images in our minds. Left or right, black or white, European or colored? The entrance to the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg shows painfully the inhumanity of a system that is not yet a century away. By coincidence, the admission ticket decides which way you may enter the exhibition. Along with old identification documents show how meticulously and arbitrary exclusions in the apartheid system were. It changed white in the status of color, indigenous were to Asians or Europeans saw their status reduced to that of the native blacks. How do you recognize someone´s ethnicity? In the case of the South African system it was handled with a so-called "Pencil Test". In the case of the South African system, if a pencil is stuck in the hair, instead of falling through, a white-skinned European is lowered to the equality of a lawless African.
The museum is divided into two permanent exhibitions, one about the time of apartheid and the other is dedicated to the life of Nelson Mandela. He grew up in a traditional and conservative village setting that is contrasted by a progressive study of the law. Nelson, the family man and Mandela, the stubborn leader is shown in a unknown close up. Despite his 27-year ordeal in the torture prisons apartheid government and countless personal low blows, the delicate but clear handwriting of his letters from prison leaves a look into his unbroken soul. The inspiration that Mandela represents for people around the world is depicted by bundles of colored wooden sticks that are available for the various aspects of his ideology and is expanded by every visitor. In the last room, accompanied by musical hymns to the life of Mandela, one visitor is particularly striking us. A young African mother who educates her 8 year old daughter with joy and pride over this giant human. Again and again, she pulls the little girl toward her and declares a new stage on the way out of apartheid. The emotional high, which exuberates the Mandela exhibition in us, lets us plunge more deeply, as we enter the main exhibition of the museum around the corner. Screenings and video recordings provide a constant background noise. Photos of arrested Africans, raids on villages and their consequences are reminiscent of the documentation of the atrocities of the Nazis. The dark and narrow spaces restrict us in addition to our already depressed mood. The contrast between the hanging gallows countless strands and the presentation of the "peace machinery" leave behind an inexplicable feeling of guilt. But another, in German schools largely untreated side of the time is illuminated. Massacres like that of Soweto, is equally surreal in its incomprehensibility as human rights violations on the part of the ANC. The recordings of street fighting so close to our time, resulting in a general speechlessness and thoughtfulness of the entire group.
It continues with a Red bus sightseeing tour of Johannesburg. We drive past landmarks such as the Gandhi Square, Mining District and the Gautrain Park Station. At Constitution Hill we see a flame, which symbolizes democracy and persistently burns evermore. Striking is the huge difference between modern glossy buildings and the ever gaping void of many abandoned structures. Also not to be overlooked, the large amount of homeless natives, people who with their few belongings sit along the roadsides.
At the Carlton Center, we leave the bus with a guide who accompanied us to the 50th floor of the 223m high building. From the tallest building in South Africa, we have a wonderful view of Johannesburg. We wanted to explore the city on our own, but the guide told us not to do so.
However, he can not stop us from asking two students to meet in the Carlton Centre. After a short photo session they agree to show us around a little. From them we learn that there is in fact a very high crime rate in the city and even they must themselves be very careful. We attract high attention to ourselves since we obviously are the only European tourists on the street. The small and short walking tour 'does not last long, because it is very troublesome to have to take care constantly of our belongings. So we can perceive very little of the city. Back at the bus stop, we are held by two security guards who ask us to wait with them until the Redbus arrives which takes us to the Apartheid Museum again. Both on the drive as well as throughout the rest of the evening, we exchange thoughts and impressions that we experienced.
Contact: Prof. Dr. Hans-Georg Wolf
Am Neuen Palais 10
E-Mail: hgwolfuuni-potsdampde, presseuuni-potsdampde
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Text: Joana Schmidt und Julius Wolf
Online-Editing: Agnes Bressa, Translation: Diana Banmann
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