This exhibition, Singing Freedom, shows that music was integral to events such as the Sharpeville massacre and other turning points in our history. Through its focus on freedom songs the exhibition tells the story of the various organisations, events and people who were involved in the struggle for an end to apartheid. While some of the events are well known, such as the Sharpeville massacre and the Soweto Uprisings, others are either unknown or forgotten. For example, I wonder how many of you here would be familiar with the story of the Ngquza Hill massacre; an incident that took place in the Eastern Cape in June 1960 when police opened fire people protesting against Transkei independence and the pass laws. In similar vein, while the names of people like Vuyisile Mini, Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela are well known, how many of us will recognise that of Reuben Caluza, Mabel Mafuya or James Madhlope Phillips? There are therefore still many stories that need to be told. In order to allow for the inclusion of multiple voices, the Singing Freedom exhibition has drawn on oral histories and the memories of a number of activists as well as musicians. The freedom songs too, some of whose lyrics are displayed in the exhibition, have their own powerful stories to tell.
As we view this exhibition, listen to the music and watch the audiovisuals, we are mindful of the courage, determination, resilience and vision that made it possible for us to reach this stage where we can celebrate 26 years of freedom and democracy. Perhaps, as we continue to strive to deepen democracy and freedom, we do need to be reminded, as the words of one of the freedom songs mentions, “Freedom isn’t free; we have to pay the price we have to sacrifice”
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