From the list of reasonable entry fees, with Wednesday afternoons free to the unemployed, it’s clear the that the Red Location Museum is not only built for tourists, but also as an integral part of the surrounding community through making education, arts and culture available to everyone.
Located in the heart of the Red Location shack settlement, a low-income community, the Red Location Museum complex is located in New Brighton’s oldest neighbourhood and there’s no enchanting way of saying “the ghetto,” where one of the first displays of public disobedience against the apartheid took place.
Designed by Jo Noero of Cape Town-based Noero Wolff Architects, the Red Location Museum complex is a RIBA International Award winner, and is an incredible display of architecture that merges the old with new and encourages reconciliation through design, which challenges conventional views of museum design. There’s nothing glamourous about the Red Location Museum, and deliberately so.
As you enter the main hall of the museum, guests are welcomed with striking high ceilings and tall concrete columns that look like totems, celebrating important heroes that gave their lives during the struggle. Exhibition halls are cleverly situated in pod-like memory boxes constructed out of oxidized corrugated iron; which echoes the feel of informal settlements, the red tinge reminds you of the bloodshed, and together illustrates how raw the struggle against the apartheid was.
The most powerful of the exhibitions was the one with wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling police files of those who were murdered during the struggle against apartheid. Above the towering stacks of paper and names hung three nooses. The feeling in the room was incredibly morbid, stale and uncomfortably full of grief.
The exposed structural details of the museum – wood, corrugated iron, steel and bolts – ensured that visitors would not feel removed from the shanty surroundings, which ultimately made one feel entrenched in the exhibits.
Why you should visit the Red Location Museum?
Aside from being a great educative experience for the community and also foreign visitors, the Red Location Museum complex has a lot to offer – library, adult literacy program, conference center and even a restaurant.
It’s really an extraordinary achievement that the architects were able to design a museum that eloquently emoted what the apartheid struggle would have felt like. And, to erect the complex which housed all these negative memories of the struggle in the midst of the very community that acted as the catalyst for the fight, makes this museum even more worthy of a visit.
The Red Location Museum touches everyone a little differently. Some may leave the museum with tears, like the group of retired ladies in pink that we came across, and some may leave with renewed excitement from their new knowledge.
One thing is for sure, you must have an open mind. If you can look past the ghetto that surrounds the complex and the deathly stares that you may meet as you drive through the streets – the Red Location Museum is well worth a visit!
PHOTOBLOG: Photo Credits Susan Wong