There’s no doubt that Johannesburg is a happening city. It started way back when gold was discovered here in the 1880s and has continued as the city has become the economic hub of the country. But you haven’t experienced Johannesburg if you bypassed it’s incredible museums which house its various histories. Here are seven museums you simply must check out if you find yourself in the City of Gold.
Here’s the best part: For one night only, entrance to these museums will be completely free! Museum Night, which started in Cape Town in 2015, is finally in Joburg. This means on September 19 from 5pm to 10pm, the public can visit these museums free of charge. Mark your calendars Jozi, it’s time to learn our history.
You can’t discover the rich and complex history of Africa without beginning at the Origins Centre. Located at Wits University, President Thabo Mbeki opened the Centre in 2006. It’s dedicated to exploring and celebrating the history of modern humankind. There’s evidence of ancient stone tools, symbolically and spiritually significant artefacts, and examples of stunning regional rock art. The Centre also shows the impact of the colonial front and examples of resistance. Aside from that, there is an extensive collection of rock art from the Rock Art Research Institute at Wits.
Wits Art Museum
To see an incredible collection of African art, contemporary and historical art from South Africa, and from West and Central Africa, visit the Wits Art Museum (WAM). The collection started as a small teaching collection in the 1950s, while the museum itself was completed in 2010. Best of all, WAM hosts the coolest temporary exhibitions throughout the year.
Constitution Hill is a living museum. It used to be a prison, and even a military fort for a century, which imprisoned men, women and children. Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Joe Slovo, Albertina Sisulu, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, and Fatima Meer all served time there. The site is now home to the highest court in all the land: the Constitutional Court. ConHill shows South Africa’s journey from colonialism and apartheid to democracy, along with all the pain and healing that the story entails.
Johannesburg Art Gallery
Standing since 1915, the Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG) stores one of the biggest art collections in the country. Actually, JAG is the biggest gallery in sub-Saharan Africa, boasting over 9,000 works of art, displayed in 15 exhibition halls and sculpture gardens. Get ready to see works by some of the greats: paintings by Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet, Gerard Sekoto, JH Pierneef, Walter Battiss and Salvador Dali and sculptures by Rodin, Henry Moore and William Kentridge. As you can imagine, it’s a feast for the eyes.
Have you even been to South Africa if you haven’t visited the Apartheid Museum? Opening its doors in 2001, the Apartheid Museum is one of Johannesburg’s most well-known museums, and takes visitors through apartheid in South Africa. The museum has both permanent and temporary exhibitions, which cover everything from daily life under apartheid, to the legal processes that propped up the system. It’s painful but definitely worthwhile to visit.
Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre
The Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre (JHGC) aims to show the evils of genocide. It focuses particularly on the Holocaust and the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The new building opened its doors in March 2019, and hosts permanent and temporary exhibitions teaching the public about the dangers of discrimination including racism, antisemitism, homophobia and xenophobia. The JHGC also aims to help to create a more just and caring society which respects and values human rights and diversity.
James Kitching Gallery
Calling all those into paleontology, the James Kitching Gallery displays some of the most stunning examples of South Africa’s fossil record. Named after James Kitching, one of the world’s most remarkable palaeontologists, the museum displays many specimens that Kitching himself found. The museum also contains life-sized reconstructions of some of the weird and wonderful animals that inhabited Africa millions of years ago. You’ll want to meet Fang the African Hunting dinosaur, George the sabre-toothed gorgonopsian mammal-ancestor, Albert the tusked plant eating mammal-ancestor, and Frieda the dome-headed mammal-ancestor. It’s wild.
Have you visited any of the museums or are you planning to? Let us know. Tweet us @thedailyvox.