South Africa's Freedom Park
14 December 2012
People in Gauteng province can take the opportunity to reflect on South Africa's liberation struggles on Reconciliation Day, 16 December, by visiting Freedom Park, a remarkable museum and memorial that tells South Africa's rich, diverse history in a visual and interactive way.
Founded on the values of human dignity, rights and freedom, the park is a reflection of the sacrifices the nation has made, its reconciliation process and the advancement of human rights entrenched in the Constitution.
According to Freedom Park Trust executive chairman Mongane Wally Serote, Freedom Park is "a permanent reminder for us, now and for future generations, that South Africans did take a step forward to put closure to the past while not forgetting it.
"By doing so, we give ourselves a chance to address issues of the present and future, and commit ourselves as a generation to handing over an intact, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic, prosperous and powerful nation to our children."
Vision for the future
Situated on Salvokop on the outskirts of Pretoria, the 52-hectare site portrays a vision for the future embedded in the African Renaissance.
A product of the government's efforts to create and foster a new national consciousness of the common legacy that binds South Africans, the park addresses gaps, distortions and biases to provide new perspectives on South Africa's past.
Comprising a memorial, interactive museum and garden of remembrance, the park accommodates all of the country's unfolding experiences and symbols to tell one coherent story of the struggle of humanity for freedom in South Africa - the struggle for survival, land and resources and how they shaped the social, economic, political, cultural and historical landscape of the country.
Situated on the eastern side of the hill is Isivivane, a monument that demonstrates the link between all South Africans, irrespective of age or background using a circle of rocks - with one rock for each of the nine provinces.
"Along with the boulder representing the national government and a boulder representing the international community, these boulders are used to construct the Lesaka - the symbolic burial ground for heroes and heroines to rest," Serote explains.
To emphasise cleansing and purity, the centre is shrouded in mist that is created using a sprinkler system. "It is a sacred space for individual and group spiritual upliftment.
"The garden inspires relaxation and enjoyment of the natural environment."
Wall of names
On the crest of the monument, subtly flowing and blending into the curves of the hill, nestles Sikhumbuto, a major memorial that comprises the Wall of Names, the Amphitheatre, Eternal Flame, the Gallery of Leaders, the Sanctuary as well as the ascending reeds embracing the memorial.
The Wall of Names is a breathtaking 697-metre physical structure, inscribed with the names of those who paid the ultimate price during eight conflicts that shaped South Africa's history.
The Wall can accommodate 136 000 names with additional information, such as biographical information, available on touch screens. According to the Trust, to date, over 75 000 names of our fallen country men and women have been verified for inscription.
Sheltered by the Wall of Names is the Amphitheatre that serves as a multi-purpose space where major national events or celebrations will be hosted.
The Sanctuary on the other side provides a serene environment in which visitors can interact with the spirits of loved ones that have passed on, while the Internal Flame within the Sanctuary calls on visitors to remember those unknown and unsung heroes and heroines who lost their lives in the struggle for humanity and freedom.
The Gallery of Leaders portrays South African, continental and international leaders for their contributions in the road to humanity and freedom. The gallery showcases those leaders whose contributions stand out in human memory, seeking to inspire visitors to follow their examples.
Monument to democracy
The spiral path, known as Mveledzo, links all the above elements into one unified whole that stands as a monument to democracy, founded on the values of human dignity, human rights and freedom.
Another aspect of the park includes the Tiva - a still body of water symbolising peace and tranquillity.
Then there is the Pan African Archives, a collection of materials on the themes reflected in the park and museum. It is a centre of research, documentation and electronic archiving of audio, visual and text forms of a growing body of knowledge.
The park will also soon boast a high-level hospitality suite, Moshate, which will be used for presidential and diplomatic functions, as well as a VIP retreat for negotiations, discussions and the signing of agreements and accords.
Built along African lines, inspired by the designs of South Africa's various chieftaincies, construction on Moshate has been completed, and it is currently being used as a temporary exhibition space.
Freedom Park seeks to help South Africans, Africans, and people in general to glimpse the origins of the earth and life, and to commune with ancestors and gods as native and as various as the people who visit the monument.