After multiple visits in Johannesburg, spending most of our time in the city, we finally made our way to Soweto and spent the day at 8115 VILAKAZI STREET, ORLANDO WEST, SOWETO. Like most of my adventures, I had great company in viewing the Mandela Museum, better known as the Mandela House.
It was a hot Sunday in Johannesburg and we decided to road trip to Soweto, it was a wonderful drive through the city of Gold, albeit through long straight quiet roads, but once we got to Soweto, the fun and noise began. Children were running through the streets, music playing in every corner and the area was inundated with tourists and locals from different parts of the city.
It was definitely not what I expected; the area was rather developed and full of atmosphere. 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. On this particular day , there were heaps of people gathered , entering the house to view its’ history, outside the house selling souvenirs , musicians playing wonderful music and across the road was a local restaurant so busy , you had to wait in lines in order to get a table.
The first thing we did once we got to Soweto was make our way to the house. The house is now basically a museum tribute, including quotes from Nelson himself plus his children. As you walk through the house you are greeted by portraits of Madiba, quotes from himself , his children , as well as letters to and from him.
The bricks of the house tell a story of a small quaint house of a man destined for greatness. While viewing the house there is a register book for visitors to sign, really adding to the sense of occassion.
Visiting this site is a truly magnificent experience. After taking it all in , and walking out the house , we were greeted by a little restaurant owned by Winnie Mandela, as well as adorable stalls where we found delicious cooling Pina Colada mocktails .
Below are some details from the website as well as some information on the house.
|‘That night I returned with Winnie to No. 8115 in Orlando West. It was only then that I knew in my heart I had left prison. For me No. 8115 was the centre point of my world, the place marked with an X in my mental geography.’
Nelson Mandela, The Long Walk to Freedom, on his return to 8115 Orlando West after his release from prison in 1990.
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.’
Nelson Mandela, The Long Walk to Freedom
Ticket prices range from R40- R60