By Anton Swanepoel
Copyright © 2016 Anton Swanepoel
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The Freedom Park is a combination of information found in the apartheid museum, and the origins centre. Situated on 2.5ha of amazing highveld landscape in Pretoria, the park consists of the Hapo museum that offers insight to a 3.6 million-year history of South Africa, the sacred Isivivane, the spiritual path Mveledzo, the main memorial S’Khumbuto, and a picnic area called the Uitspanplek.
The park was opened on 27 April 2004, the day marking the first decade of democracy. Today, the park is seen as a symbol of freedom and a beacon for hope, unity, and forgiveness. (In April 1994, all South Africans were for the first time ever allowed to vote.)
Some of the more prominent attractions in the park are the wall of remembrance inside the S’Khumbuto in honor of those who gave their lives in the conflicts, which shaped South Africa. In addition to the Lesaka and Boulders, which is seen as a spiritual resting place of those who played a part in the freedom and liberation of South Africa.
The park is a tranquil space that invites reflection and prayer, while being surrounded by beautiful natural landscape. Footpaths in and around the park allow one views of Pretoria, with the Voortrekker Monument and Union Buildings visible in the distance. The Reconciliation Road links the Voortrekker Monument and Freedom Park, allowing one to move between the two attractions directly without the worry of traffic. President Jacob Zuma opened the Road on 16 December 2011. On 3 August 2013, women of all races held hands in the road, and formed a 2 km (1.24 miles) chain. The aim was to create awareness of the struggles women had in history, and their ability to unify and heal the nation.
Address: Corner of Koch and 7th Avenue, Salvokop, Pretoria
GPS: 25°45’40.7“S 28°11’12.8“E
[*Date Construction Began: *]July 2003
Inaugurated: 27 April 2004
Phone: +27 (0)12 336-4000
Open: Seven days a week from 8am to 4:30pm
Entrance Fee: R100 Foreigners / R50 South African Residents
Guided Tours: Available at 9am, midday, and 3pm
Time to Visit: 1 hour for Hapo museum and 1 hour for S’khumbuto and Isivivane combined.
Importance: Symbol of freedom and a beacon for hope, unity, and forgiveness for South Africa
My Impression: The museum is compact and has a lot to offer, giving a lot of information about the history of South Africa, especially during the apartheid years. I loved the trail or Mveledzo, with its stunning scenery of Pretoria. Although there are larger museums with more information, and bigger nature reserves with longer walks, this place combines both, allowing one to have a unique experience in a short space of time.
Mveledzo is a spiritual path that runs through the entire complex and links all the different sections together. The path runs all around the edge and provides breathtaking scenery with Pretoria and the nearby hills in the distance, while local bush and scrubs hug the path.
You can follow the path from the Hapo museum to the Uitspanplek (picnic area) and around to Isivivane and from there up to S’khumbuto and Moshate. You can also drive up to S’khumbuto, then walk down to Moshate through the Wall of Names and then around to Isivivane and from there to the Uitspanplek, and back up to the parking area of S’khumbuto.
On the section between Moshate and Isivivane, you will see the Voortrekker Monument on the opposite hill, and on the section between Isivivane and the Uitspanplek, you will have most of Pretoria on your side. Unisa (University of South Africa), the Guatrain station, Loftus Versvled and the Union buildings are important landmarks that are visible from this section. All along this section are lookout posts to allow you to marvel at the magnificent Pretoria. One of the best places to start the Mveledzo path is at the Tiva Origen, pictured below.
The pond pictured above is the main start of the trail.
The Uitspanplek (Afrikaans for picnic area) is a tranquil area where you can sit back and relax for a while. The area offers nice shaded grass to picnic on, as well as benches. The concept of eating outdoors is derived from the Groot Trek where Voortrekkers would interrupt their journey to stop and eat. South African holidaymakers often stop along the road to eat Padkos (food that has been prepared beforehand). Favorite items include sandwiches, boiled eggs, meatballs, biltong (jerky), and coffee. Interestingly, the South African pastime of Braai (cooking meat on a fire outdoors), became popular in 1938 when two re-enactment treks set out from the Cape. As the ox-wagons made their way through towns, locals dressed in traditional Voortrekker clothes and cooked meals outside on the fire as the Voortrekkers did. This instantly was a hit and became a national pastime.
S’Khumbuto is the main memorial and comprises of eight symbolic elements: The Wall of Names, the Amphitheatre, the Sanctuary, the Eternal Flame, the Gallery of Leaders, the Reeds, the Presidential Tree, and the Moshate. The area stands as testimony for the eight major conflicts that shaped South Africa, namely; the Pre-Colonial Wars, Slavery, Genocide, Wars of Resistance, The Anglo Boer War (South African War), The First World War, The Second World War, and The Struggle for Liberation. The area is not a place of grief, but rather a place of celebration and renewal. A place where the past can be remembered without hate and a place where the nation can decide on the future as one. It is seen as a holy and spiritual place, where the ancestors can be called upon to give guidance and assistance.
The Wall of Names is a 697-meter (2286 feet) long structure that features multiple walls. The walls carry the names of people who made a significant difference in South Africa and who died in one of the eight conflicts. The walls currently have space for 150 000 names, of which 75 000 have been filled. The area is on the edge of the hill, with the Voortrekker Monument visible in the distance. Passing through the Wall of Names, one can follow the path down to the Moshate and onwards to Isivivane.
Each wall is marked on the end to show what war it represents. The first and last name and year of death, as well if know the year of birth is shown for each person. The area has a few rest spots, as well as fountains with drinking water.
The Amphitheater is an impressive area covered in grass that overlooks the Sanctuary and Eternal Flame. The Reeds flank the Amphitheatre. The area can accommodate an impressive 2000 people, and is used for major national events and celebrations.
The Sanctuary is an impressive building used for religious ceremonies as well as personal emotional healing. Visitors can sit in silence or light a candle for loved ones lost or give thanks to life and blessings. At times, ceremonies are held inside, and the space is closed to visitors for a short period.
The sacred area is seen as a place where you can communicate with your ancestors, asking for guidance and assistance while honoring them as well as the South Africans who sacrificed their lives to ensure freedom for all.
The Eternal Flame is a symbol for the unsung heroes and heroines who gave their lives in the struggle for freedom and equality for all without their names being recorded in history. The flame is visible from across the amphitheater, but is mostly viewed from inside the sanctuary where it also stands for a symbol of hope, as its ever-burning flame is like the passion for freedom, a force that cannot be extinguished.
As an honor flame, it serves as a beacon of humanity’s ability to change its environment, while also symbolizing change, enlightenment, destruction, purity, and energy. Many visitors come to the flame, to ask for the strength to tolerate current conditions, as well as the knowledge to change conditions for the better of all of humanity.
The gallery of leaders is in a building adjacent to the amphitheater, and displays pictures and famous quotes of prominent people whose contributions to human progress stand out in history. The aim of the area is to serve as inspiration for future leaders and people of power to follow in the footsteps of these people and dedicate their lives to the better of humanity.
With almost 200 reeds on display, the tallest 32 meters (105 feet) high, they are beacons calling attention to the Freedom Park from all around Pretoria. They are symbolic of South Africa’s rebirth as a nation of unity that now embraces its future together regardless of color. At night, the reeds light up, creating a magnificent scene from afar.
Former President Thabo Mbeki planted the African olive tree in June 2002. African olive trees are traditionally seen as a symbol for peace and unity. Standing high above the sanctuary and amphitheater, the tree reminds all visitors that peace and unity should be the primary focus if their efforts, and that it should also be the main aim of all negotiations.
With olives and olive oils traditionally seen as sacred and pure, it stands as a symbol that peace is sacred and all your intentions should be pure of heart.
The Moshate is a private high-level accommodation, reserved for presidential and diplomatic functions, as well as an isolated retreat for important negotiations and discussions. With the sanctuary close by, and the help of the ancestors from the Isivinane nearby, it is seen as an ideal place for the president to discuss and meditate on difficult matters involving the nation.
The design of the building incorporates different styles from various kingdoms within South Africa, and as such, gives honor to the traditional leadership of Africa.
The Mveledzo footpath starts at the bottom of the Moshate near the Tiva Origen, and leads to the Isivinane while snaking through the beautiful countryside.
The Isivivane is a sacred area that is seen as a spiritual resting place of those who played a part in the freedom and liberation of South Africa. The place encompasses The Lesaka and Boulders, The Lekgotla, Water Points, as well as Umlahlankosi. The above picture is of one area, water, which is symbolic of cleansing and tranquility.
The area reminds people to always keep in mind our humanity, and unite as one, despite out differences in race, culture, color, and creed. In essence, we are all the same, as we all experience pain, joy, loss, and love in the same way. The Isivivane also serves as a spiritual place for South Africa. From time immemorial, people have always held sacred spaces in their houses, either for a deity they pray for, or a special place The Bible was stored in, Isivivane serves that special place for the country.
Lesaka is a circular area that consists of 11 large rocks. Each of the nine provinces in South Africa donated a rock, and two additional rocks were added to represent the national government and international community.
The place is also seen as a gateway to communicate with the ancestors, asking them for guidance and assistance. There is a fountain in the middle of the rocks that is active at times, giving life force to the nation as it feeds the rocks.
As the area is sacred, visitors are asked to remove their shoes before moving down to the boulders.
The Lekgotla is a semi-circular structure that is built around an uMlahlankosi tree. The half circle bench allows people to rest, or meet for discussions in the presence of the ancestors. A short distance away, is a row of uMlahlankosi trees that each was donated by a province in South Africa to represent that province at the Lekgotla.
Life-giving water flows through the park and is a testament to its healing and cleansing ability. Water is extremely important for us, and plays a significant role in cleansing, not only physically but also spiritually. Visitors are asked to clean their hands before they enter or leave each area.
Water also gives life, and is seen here as giving new ideas and washing old stuck believes away to help the nation move forward in unity. Water is also flexible, able to work easily around obstacles, rather than try to force its way forward, however, if need be water can be ferocious and violent and break through almost any obstacle.
These trees were donated by the provinces in South Africa to represent their voice at the Isivvane, and is seen as a spiritual representation of the provinces when important discussions are held at the Lekgotla.
In some South African cultures, the uMlahlankosi tree is seen as sacred, and used to take the spirit of the dead home (ukubuyisa). When a family member dies, a branch of the tree is taken to the spot or nearby where the person died. An impepho (witch doctor or sangoma) will then use the branch to communicate with the lost spirit, and help the spirit to its home it had in life, so that it can rest. The branch is also used to cleanse the physical body and spirit of the person. At the Lekgotla, the trees are used to call up ancestors, and then send them back after communicating with them. uMlahlankosi is a Zulu name, and translates to, which buries the chief.
The Hapo Museum depicts the history of South Africa, focusing mainly on the apartheid era and Boer wars. In the future, the Pan African Archives that stores research data will be housed here. The museum is split into seven distinct sections, each showing the progress of South Africa from 3.6 billion years ago to the present.
The museum does not only give archeological facts, but mixes in cultural and religious beliefs to give a different viewpoint of how we came to existence. Visual aids and interactive displays blend with artifacts to create a unique experience.
The word Hapo, is a Khoi proverb that translates to, dream. The meaning of which is that a dream is not a dream until shared by the entire community.
Epoch 1 focusses on the very start of our planet and focusses on the time from around 3.6 billion years ago. Multiple rock samples are on display, with a timeline of how things formed. On display, are some of the oldest rocks and artefacts on earth.
Epoch 2 focusses on the ancestors of South Africa, both in a spiritual and physical matter. There are displays that show how the early Africans gained control over their environment and mastered fire, as well as how ritual ceremonies and practices impacted their culture and its importance in the development of the people.
Epoch 3 focusses on people and the different cultures and how they moved through South Africa during a 4000-year time span. Artifacts show the development of science, mastery of fire and metal shaping, as well as advances in cultural and spiritual fields.
Epoch 4 shows the struggle against colonization and the resistance the local people gave, with details on conflicts, revolts and its effect on their culture. The early conflicts had a major impact on the current South Africa. Weapons used during the struggles are shown, as well as the different forms of subjugation, separation and exploitation experienced by the people.
Epoch 5 focusses on Industrialization and Urbanization. Mining and the conditions early miners worked in are looked at, as well as the exploitation of South African minerals during the colonization period. A lot of focus is given on how the people had to adapt to survive, and the onslaughts they endured.
Epoch 6 is probably one of the most talked about early eras. This area focusses directly on the struggles against nationalism and apartheid. Various implements of war are show, as to major events during the struggle for a democratic society. The hardships that were endured by the elders as well as their current role in South Africa are also looked at.
Epoch 7 is the last stage in the struggle to freedom and equality for all. The area focusses on National and continental building, focusing on the last decade of the 20th century. The dramatic transition from apartheid to democracy is shown, with the different ways, South Africans can unify to create a better future for all.
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Anton Swanepoel @ Pol Pot’s house on the mountains in Thailand, and on his way to Preah Vihear Temple.
For seven years, I worked as a technical diving instructor in the Cayman Islands. I am a Tri-Mix instructor in multiple agencies, and dove to over 400ft on open circuit. While on Grand Cayman, I started a passion that I always had, writing. For a number of years, I saved what I could, and in Jan 2014, I moved to Siem Reap, Cambodia, to focus full-time on my writing, while travelling. If you want to follow my adventures, see my blog www.antonswanepoelbooks.com/blog
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The site overlooks the nearby Voortrekker Monument and other key landmarks of the city below. A highlight is the Wall of Names, inscribed with the names of all those who lost their lives in South Africa's major conflicts; an eternal flame; and the Gallery of Leaders, an inspirational look at role models on the road to freedom. Guided tours take about two hours and provide fascinating insight to the stories represented here as well as the symbolic features of the architecture. This book features 29 pictures of various aspects of the Freedom Park, giving you a unique perspective of the place that will add value to your visit. Contained in the text you'll learn the following: Descriptions and information on major objects found at the site Entrance fees, best time to visit, and more 25 pictures of the Freedom Park, including the Mveledzo, S’khumbuto, , Isivivane, and Hapo Museum The Freedom Park showcases a large part of the beginning of the United South Africa, while offering stunning views of Pretoria. Download a copy of this valuable resource today.