Singing Freedom

  • Posted: Apr 17, 2014

Wedged between St George’s Cathedral and Parliament is one of the oldest and most notorious buildings in Cape Town. The Slave Lodge was built in 1679 as the slave quarters of the Dutch East India Company (VOC). However, under the theme, ‘From human wrongs to human rights’, the Social History Collections department of Iziko Museums of South Africa is helping to transform this dark chapter of our history. It now hosts temporary exhibitions related to the legacies of slavery and the more recent history of South Africa. One of these is Singing Freedom: Music and the struggle against apartheid, which tells the story of the role music played during the struggle for freedom.

Under the VOC, it is believed that up to 9,000 slaves, convicts and mentally ill persons lived in the Slave Lodge, under incredibly harsh conditions. In 1810, the building was modified to serve as government offices before it was restored in 1960 for use as a museum. The then SA Cultural History Museum opened its doors on 6 April 1966, and in 1998 the building was renamed the Slave Lodge. In 2000, the museum was incorporated into Iziko Museums of Cape Town.

Through our changing, temporary exhibitions, we address issues around and raise awareness of human rights. Exhibitions on the lower level of this museum explore the long history of slavery in South Africa. The upper level galleries showcase some highlights from our ceramics, silverware and Egyptology collections, to name a few. These and other spaces in the museum will be renewed in the coming years to draw links to national heritage and history.

It is poignantly appropriate that the Iziko Slave Lodge, a site associated with the brutally oppressive system of slavery, is the venue for an exhibition that celebrates through music the undying yearning for freedom that characterised the resistance against apartheid.

Singing Freedom: Music and the struggle against apartheidtells the story of the role music played during the struggle against apartheid. The exhibition uses freedom songs as a window into the history of the organisations, events and individuals that were part of the struggle. It focuses on some of the musicians and bands from different musical genres – from jazz to hip-hop – who used music as a voice against oppression. Oral history interviews conducted with a range of former activists and musicians provide an opportunity to hear first-hand from those who were intimately involved in some of the events and activities explored in the exhibition.

Singing Freedomwill be on display at the Iziko Slave Lodge until the end of April 2017.

School groups who would like to visit the Iziko Slave Lodge can book lessons with our educators. For more information about school visits see the Education and Public Programmes section of the Iziko website, and read more about the history of slavery and the building on the website.

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