Heritage: Treasure trove of the liberation

2015-03-15 14:30

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It’s hard not to be overcome by emotion every time you enter the Liliesleaf memorial site in Rivonia. So much of our history is held within the towering walls of this architecturally spectacular suburban enclave of strife.

It is the home of moments we owe our freedom to – from the historic Liliesleaf captures, where liberation leaders like former president Thabo Mbeki and freedom fighters Ahmed Kathrada and Walter Sisulu fiercely struggled to escape the clutches of apartheid security police, to the hollow cries of the Rivonia Trial, where those men – considered terrorists – narrowly avoided the death sentence for their covert activities.

Now a new exhibit at Liliesleaf unveils a nearly 40-year-old secret of espionage, bravado and selfless activism undertaken by The Internationals – a community of global activists, spies and renegade soldiers who, under the guidance and instruction of Ronnie Kasrils, took it upon themselves to fight apartheid.

The exhibition documents and displays (in a newly built structure designed by pioneering architecture firm Studio ZA) what London’s Victoria and Albert Museum beautifully named Disobedient Objects at a similar exhibition held there in 2012.

Crazy items like the 70s leaflet bombs that would discharge a confetti of thousands of African National Congress leaflets smuggled from London are exhibited alongside the suitcases that so exquisitely hid the millions of propaganda pamphlets.

Top-secret classified documents between Umkhonto weSizwe veterans and the ambassadors of Cuba, Sweden and the Soviet Union are displayed next to the Africa Hinterland Safari truck – named after the tour operators who stashed more than 400 tons of ammunition in a secret compartment under the vehicle they used to transport tourists around game farms.

It is a vast treasure trove of the liberation movement’s efforts to survive the threat of oppression, and works to ensure that the memory of the liberation struggle and the many diverse stories, testimonies and events that took place are never forgotten.

*Africa Hinterland Safari Truck is a permanent exhibit at Liliesleaf in Rivonia.

Visit liliesleaf.co.za

The display at the new museum

From left: Essop Pahad, Sydney Mufamadi, Kgalema Motlanthe, Ronnie Kasrils and Aziz Pahad at the launch

Ronnie Kasrils in a video display at the new museum

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