Every South African should have the opportunity to visit the Iziko Slave Lodge.

Every Capetonian, in fact, every South African, should visit the Iziko Slave Lodge near the Cape Town Company Gardens. Today, our education district, accompanied by learners from Aloe Secondary School, commemorated Human Rights Day by touring the Slave Lodge.

Listening to the Slave history

Be warned. The experience can be emotional as you confront our history from the the Cape's role in the Indian slave trade route to the bitter struggle to free South Africa from the clutches of Apartheid.

Aloe Secondary School learners with from left: Dhanan Naidoo, Annette Fella and Glen van Harte, Director of MSED

Our tour guides, coordinated by Nadjwa Damon, the Social History Educator at Iziko museums, ensured that the experience of our heritage was soul-enriching. Nadjwa narrated our slave history sensitively,  enhancing our knowledge of our rich past and acknowledging those experiences which we have shared in our lifetime.

We were given time to absorb the information and to reflect on the journey into our past. We slipped into the world of our slave forefathers via the many original prison documents, birth certificates, private letters, photos and recordings. Deep sighs and tearful eyes told their own story as past met present.

Understanding the future by understanding the past

Experiencing the life of slaves in the Slave Lodge and aboard a Slave Ship

One of exhibits mimics the cramped, dark conditions that slaves were subjected to on the slave ship. We were herded in this area to experience the harsh, humiliating treatment that slaves had to endure. They were seen as cargo and treated as such. We were in this cubicle for a short while, yet colleagues couldn't handle the pressure and claustrophobia. Imagine what the slaves experienced on those long, dangerous trips!

Another exhibit creates the tiny spaces in which the slaves were housed when they were imprisoned in the Slave Lodge. There is also a room where visitors can watch animations and visuals on screen, recreating the horrors of slavery.

While these realities were related by Nadjwa, she stressed that the slaves who were treated like animals and cargo, were in fact, brilliant, knowledgeable folk. The very slaves were the ones who could teach their oppressors and their own community about many things, including science and medicine. Slaves were the teachers, doctors and the engineers. 

MSED staff regrouping after the inspiring Slave Lodge tour.

The Slave Lodge is a tribute to the slaves. In an alcove, there is a column of white light that is inscribed with the names of slaves. This impressive column with its wide bands of names illuminated by the bright, white light, commemorates our slave ancestors and places them- rightly- at the centre of who we are today. The Slave Lodge intentionally ensures that we embrace our past and pay tribute to those who suffered greatly. 

artifacts of the Carneson Family history

The Red in the Rainbow Exhibition

The Red in the Rainbow exhibition tells us about the Carneson family who was an anti-apartheid family. Through a montage of photographs, various documents and personal letters we relived the sacrifices families like the Carneson had to make to help bring about democracy in our country. The moving, handwritten letters written by the Carneson children to their mother, Ruth, while she was in prison, touch a raw nerve.

The column of light commemorating and paying tribute to the slaves

We need the Slave Lodge to remind us to fight injustices.

The Slave Lodge serves as our collective conscience. The Slave Lodge with its various exhibitions raise human rights issues that we have been grappling with through the ages AND it is a grim reminder that we are still faced with modern day slavery where millions of people still don't enjoy basic civil and human rights.

We must never surrender our fight for equality for all human beings in the various spaces we find ourselves in. We can't go down in history as the modern day slave drivers. That is why the Slave Lodge is there as our visual and physical reminder.

Go and spend some time at the Slave Lodge if you have never been there. The visit will be well worth the experience.

Colleagues and I play on ghoema drums made from recycled materials.


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