Monday, January 11, 2010

Some South African cultural experiences

We did a couple cultural things around Johannesburg. We went to the Apartheid Museum and the Cradle of Humankind. Both were very well worth the time.

The Apartheid Museum is a museum and a memorial to the memory of the apartheid years in South Africa. There as a very interesting special exhibit on the life of Nelson Mandela, and then the resident experience of the history of this political construct. It was interesting to me because they created a chronology that helped put things into perspective, and it was interesting to Eric because he wasn't aware of the specifics of South African history in that way.
It is a very modern exhibit that allows you to learn while experiencing as they move you through the spaces in the exhibits. There are photos, stories, and artifacts. I would recommend that everyone go check it out when they are Johannesburg.

The Cradle of Humankind is on the complete opposite side of Johannesburg and encompasses a large piece of land were the majority of evidence for early hominid development has been found. We toured the Sterkfontein caves and walked through the exhibits at Maropeng. If you have a strong opposition position to evolution, you would have a serious issue with this facility. They have very good timelines showing the development of our planet and how it has evolved to support life. They talk about each period of mass destruction, what was lost and what was gained. They have experiential exhibits that demonstrate the uniqueness of humans, interspersed with skulls and figurines that show the differences and similarities between us and the other hominids. It was also a very interesting museum, well worth the trip.

We talked about these museums between ourselves and with my family. We imagined that neither of these locations would have existed during Apartheid. Obviously not the apartheid museum, but Maropeng celebrates the inhabitants of Africa, and focuses on them as the first people to live on the earth (we also didn't think that a museum like this would ever be built in America... or if it was, it would say "the Theory of Evolution this..." and "the Theory of Evolution that...".

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