If there is one address you should visit when in South Africa, it would be 8115 Vilakazi Street, Orlando West, Soweto.
Former home to the South African and global political icon Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the Mandela House touches everyone who walks through its doors.
For some, in more apparent and poignant ways, such as for myself, a Toronto-native, seeing Mandela’s Honorary Citizen of Toronto certificate from 18th of June 1990 hanging in the living room, symbolizing Mandela’s influence on even people from my home weighed heavily on me. For others, the Mandela House’s influence was more on an emotional level through quotes that could be found cemented in the exterior brick wall and showcased inside the small but precious home.
Follow In Nelson Mandela’s Footsteps
“A man is not a man until he has a house of his own.” So says Mandela.
To understand the apartheid and the struggle for freedom, one must follow the footsteps of one of the central characters who guided South Africa to democracy – from his home.
The four-room house was where Mandela lived with his first wife and later with his second. The popular heritage site underwent major restoration and renovation and re-opened to the public in 2009, revealing a site that has truly encapsulated the dignity of its former residents. The authentic portrayal of the site reflects the various layers and eras during which the Mandela family lived at this address through sound, film, photos, videos, furniture and guided tours.
The short but intriguing guided tour begins by the washtub that hangs outside the house, next to the garbage bin that is clearly marked with the famous address. Though during the renovation, some of the walls had been removed, one bullet hole remains – reminding visitors how apartheid police regularly harassed the family. In the small garden, buried under a tree are the umbilical cords of Mandela’s children. Mandela’s bedroom is recreated and many of the honours bestowed upon him hang proudly on the walls.
A visit to Mandela House is a must for all visitors. An emotional and inspiring experience for visitors of Johannesburg perhaps before heading-off to Robben Island, the remote and depressing prison off of Cape Town’s coast to where Mandela and other political prisoners were incarcerated for two decades.