On a quiet morning while staying in the township of Soweto I walked from the backpackers hostel to Vilakazi Street. Soweto as a township is steeped in enough history as it is, but this was a special trip to the former house of a man who changed the world: Nelson Mandela.
Nelson Mandela used to live in Soweto, and his house here at 8115 Vilakazi Street has since been turned into a tribute style museum that is popular for tourists. That said, on this quiet day there was just Herbert and I from the hostel plus about 3 or 4 others visiting.
Nelson Mandela returned to his former home here following his release from prison in 1990. I haven’t actually read his famous book “Long Walk To Freedom”, but I visited his home here, went to the permanent exhibition in the Apartheid Museum (in Johannesburg) and read up on the man himself.
The house is now basically a museum tribute, including quotes from Nelson himself plus his children.
I often blag entry fees for cheaper as a student and most places believe me. This isn’t strictly incorrect as I was enrolled in Spanish classes at a school in Uruguay at the time. I liked the way the ticket had Nelson with the World Cup on it and the 2010 thing. Even though I was there in January 2011. I think it was 10 Rand to get in, which is about a pound.
Just some other bricks in the wall.
The house itself.
This was the original front garden, but the glass window and steel entrance frame have been added since the site opened as a museum.
The bricks tell a story, I tried to read them all. It was 1964 when Mandela was sent to Robben Island prison.
The man is one of many words of wisdom and quotes. To think that this was the very house he used to live in was quite something. A small, basic house. But this man was clever, well educated, a cut above and he knew the Apartheid System had to be overturned in some way, even if this meant bloodshed.
27 Years of his life was spent in prison. He is a true man of men. A strong person. Rumour has it that if he dies, they may well re-name the city of Johannesburg as Nelson Mandela City. It wouldn’t surprise me and would be a fitting tribute. They tried to do the same in Saigon in Vietnam, changing its name to Ho Chi Minh City.
The house needed a bit of restoration before it was re-opened as a museum to the public. The shell of the house remains. It’s surprisingly small.
It re-opened as recently as March 2009, less than 2 years before my visit.
The front of Nelson Mandela’s old house, slightly restored.
A fitting quote against Apartheid and Segregation. Of only the world was a fair and equal one.
The hall way in Nelson Mandela’s house.
One of the bedrooms in Nelson Mandela’s House.
The pantry. Presumably for food storage and perhaps things like a washing machine.
Massive photo on the hallway of a young Nelson Mandela and his dog.
An older Nelson Mandela when he finally became the leader of the Republic of South Africa.
There’s a souvenirs cabinet and trophy cabinet. He has picked up many awards in his time, and a lot of them are housed here.
The banner to celebrate his return. The date of which was also my brother and sister’s 6th Birthday.
Money tributes to Nelson. Leave your notes here.
One of many awards in the cabinet.
The roof. Basic and simple. Nothing fancy here. That makes Nelson’s story more amazing in my eyes as he had to work hard for everything, nothing fell on his lap.
Side entrance of the house.
The gold World Champion Boxing Belt was given to Nelson Mandela as a gift from Sugar Ray Leonard. We were actually given a full guided tour of the house.
A photo of me in Nelson Mandela’s Dining Room.
In Nelson Mandela’s bedroom.
Where are we? This is my map of Soweto. Number 1 on the map is Nelson Mandela’s House on Vilakazi Street. The X is the Soweto Backpackers I stayed at. The walk there and back was safe and cultured. Herbert and I were the only two white people on the streets. Though we met an Irish Girl inside Nelson Mandela’s House!
The Irish Girl was Sue and apart from another Australian there were just four visitors that morning. It’s not incredibly touristy or obvious, nor is Soweto as a place to stay but I have to recommend it. Amazing place to stay and well worth seeing Nelson’s House. Besides, round the corner is Desmond Tutu’s House, nearby is the scene of the Soweto Uprising and the Hector Pietersen Museum.
Back door at Mandela’s House.
No flash photography, smoking, guns, eating or drinking.
If only freedom was that easy. I would love to see a Northern Ireland together but due to the political situation and differing beliefs, that will never happen. You can draw some similarities between South Africa and Northern Ireland. When ordinary people are restricted in their everyday lives from doing something they want, it’s inhumane. A sectarian, divided society is not the dream. If whites and blacks can come together as one and enjoy a new South Africa, perhaps Catholics and Protestants will be equally proud of being Northern Irish one day.
Of course I paid and it would be a disgrace not to – the people here have put on an excellent museum that is rich in history, relevance and culture. As for talking on phones, I hate them and I wasn’t travelling with a phone!
Out the front of Nelson Mandela’s House. A great place to get an insight into the man himself.
A big thumbs up from me.
Plaque to mark its opening in 2009.
And that address. Don’t forget it. From this modest family home, a world leader grew up and changed the world, for the better.
Where – 8115 Vilakazi Street, Orlando West, Soweto, Gauteng, SOUTH AFRICA
What – The house where Nelson Mandela lived
When – From 1946 – 192 Nelson Mandela lived here, in 1997 he handed it over to the Soweto Heritage Trust, in 2009 it opened as a museum
Why – Because this is a little piece of world history that you can see for next to nothing
Random Fact – In the hit BBC Sitcom Only Fools And Horses, the Trotter Family live in a high rise council flat block known as Nelson Mandela House!
What – A lot to read up on, but here’s a bit from the official website:
The Mandela House at 8115 Orlando West, on the corner of Vilakazi and Ngakane Streets, Soweto, was built in 1945, part of a Johannesburg City tender for new houses in Orlando. Nelson Mandela moved here in 1946 with his first wife, Evelyn Ntoko Mase, They divorced in 1957, and from 1958 he was joined in the house by his second wife, Nomzamo Winifred Madikizela (Winnie).
He was to spend little time here in the ensuing years, as his role in struggle activities became all-consuming and he was forced underground (1961), living a life on the run until his arrest and imprisonment in 1962.
Nelson Mandela returned here for a brief 11 days after his release from Robben Island in 1990, before finally moving to his present house in Houghton. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, herself imprisoned several times, lived in the house with her daughters while Nelson Mandela was in jail, until her own exile to Brandfort in 1977, where she remained under house arrest until 1986. The family continued to occupy the house until 1996, when the Mandelas divorced. The house was subsequently turned into a public heritage site, with Nelson Mandela as the Founder Trustee.
‘The house itself was identical to hundreds of others built on postage-stamp-size plots on dirt roads. It had the same standard tin roof, the same cement floor, a narrow kitchen, and a bucket toilet at the back. Although there were street lamps outside we used paraffin lamps as the homes were not yet electrified. The bedroom was so small that a double bed took up almost the entire floor space.’
‘It was the opposite of grand, but it was my first true home of my own and I was mightily proud. A man is not a man until he has a house of his own.’