Cover Story - The voice of our nation

Written by Emma Dawson • Online since 5.09.2017 • Filed under Advertorial • From Issue 6 - September 2017 - February 2018 page(s) 9-11
Cover Story - The voice of our nation

Perched on the Salvokop Hill in Tshwane, Freedom Park is a one-stop heritage site that tells an interwoven tale of our nation’s unique culture, heritage and spirituality. Without prejudice, it reflects who we are, where we’ve come from, and where we want to go as a nation. Emma Dawson talks to Freedom Park’s CEO, Jane Mufamadi, about the significance of Freedom Park and what it means to our nation.

Everything at Freedom Park is representative of our history, heritage, culture, spirituality and indigenous knowledge. Even the 360° view of the capital city from Salvokop Hill symbolises a link between the past, present and future. From here you can see the Voortrekker Monument – a reflection of the past; the Union Buildings – our current governance; and UNISA’s Centre of Knowledge – engendering a sense of knowledge and development for the future. Freedom Park is a monument to human rights, dignity and freedom, and a memorial to those who have sacrificed their lives to secure liberty.

 It tells the South African and African story, dating back 3.6 billion years to the dawn of humanity, through the rise of African civilisations, colonialism, the struggle against apartheid, and on to present-day democracy. It is primarily a cultural institution comprising a series of memorial sites that express the common themes of humanity and freedom. Compelling and distinctive African architecture, archives, landscaping, sculpture, and imagery explain the history and heritage of the region.

‘We call Freedom Park a one-stop heritage destination because we narrate the history, heritage, culture,

spirituality and indigenous knowledge systems of our nation,’ explains Jane Mufamadi, Freedom Park’s CEO. ‘Everything at Freedom Park is symbolic and every element’s design has been carefully chosen and integrated to reflect the holistic nature of humankind. We believe that it is this that makes us unique,  ambitious and different from other heritage destinations.’ Jane adds: ‘Fostering a sense of social connection for all South Africans, and always remembering those who died for our freedom is important in what we do.’ This is reflected in Freedom Park’s vision to be a leading national and international icon of humanity and freedom.

Storytelling

Freedom Park’s elements are particularly special, reflecting our nation’s diversity using names from  languages spoken in South Africa – and not only official languages. ‘We also adopted names from heritage languages, for example, the name of our museum is //hapo, which means dream.

//Hapo ge //hapo tama /hapo hasib dis tamas kai bo” is a Khoi proverb that means “A dream is not a  dream until it is shared by the entire community”,’ Jane explains. ‘This is central to the message we tell at Freedom Park. At our museum, we recount the rich and colourful story of South Africa through what we call epochs. These epochs chart events that have changed the course of history in Africa and particularly in South Africa.’ They include an African perspective on the origins of the universe; African innovations and the many vibrant civilisations and ideas that have influenced developments in the modern world; resistance and colonisations, industrialisation and urbanisation; nationalisms and struggle; and, finally, nation and continent building.

Those who have gone before

Another of Freedom Park’s elements that Jane highlights is S’khumbuto, a siSwati word meaning memorial. S’khumbuto bears testimony to the various conflicts that shaped present-day South Africa and remembers those who died during these struggles. It comprises six symbolic elements, the main being the Wall of Names – a 697-meter long wall that is currently inscribed with 85 000 names of those who played a significant role in the eight conflicts that have shaped South Africa.

‘It is also important to know that in honouring and remembering these heroes, we’ve been deliberately inclusive. We’re telling the story of reconciliation and unity, and honouring all those who died for freedom and humanity.’ Another element within the S’khumbuto is the Gallery of Leaders. ‘Here we honour national, continental and international leaders who are unimpeachable and have been highly influential in inspiring our understanding of the concept of freedom and humanity,’ Jane points out.

‘There are currently 41 names in the Gallery of Leaders. Because we’ve invited public participation, as we receive names they are presented to our independent committee and, once approved, are added to our Gallery of Leaders.’ Freedom Park also has a spiritual space called Isivivane – the symbolic spiritual resting place for the spirits of those who died in their quest for our freedom and humanity. ‘One of our African practices is that when somebody dies away from home, we symbolically and spiritually bring the spirit home. Isivivane symbolises this,’ says Jane. Another important aspect of Isivivane is that it’s a space for people with all religious beliefs to come and pray and worship in their own way.

Respect and tolerance

Freedom Park is not only mandated to address reconciliation and nation building, it also purposefully strives to highlight the heritage that our forbearers bequeathed to us. ‘We believe that our heritage and the heritage of the spirit of ubuntu is at the root of respect and tolerance of diversity. It is our aim to restore that link with those who came before us. It’s this link that forms the basis of how, in our diversity, we feel we are equal and respected and able to interact and tolerate each other,’ explains Jane.

This, she adds, should not just be reflected in our dayto- day interactions but also in our religious tolerance. ‘At Freedom Park, we have an interfaith committee – religious leaders from different faiths sit, pray and eat together. We believe this heritage can be bequeathed to the world. We show that it is possible to be different and yet still be united in our diversity,’ Jane insists. It’s also important to note that Freedom Park’s message is told from a multicultural perspective. It is not  biased towards one nationality but rather to a diverse community, both black and white. ‘Freedom Park is not a place for guilt; it’s a place to celebrate our collective achievement. It’s a story of hope, persistence and of the triumph of the human spirit.’

Dialogue with the elders

Understanding who we are and where we come from is central to activities at Freedom Park. ‘Our elders have gifted us our beautiful heritage and the freedom we appreciate today. We believe that without their wisdom we will lose a link with our own identities and our own heritage,’ Jane insists. ‘We have a programme that we call “Youth in Dialogue with the Elders”, where we create opportunities for young people to engage with the elders and learn about our heritage.’

The elders also played a significant role in the design of Freedom Park. ‘We established an Indigenous Knowledge Committee, comprising elders from different communities, and asked them what their understanding was of our culture and heritage, and what needed to be built to signify who we are as South Africans. Freedom Park’s design is largely inspired by these dialogues,’ Jane fondly remembers.

Freedom was not free

Freedom Park emanates from fulfilling a recommendation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which outlined a need for a memorial to remind the nation that our freedom was not free. Freedom Park fulfils this mandate to contribute towards healing and nation building. ‘We have a popular phrase we use,’ says Jane. ‘Freedom Park is about transforming individual pain into a shared national pain. It’s about remembering our painful experiences, not to harbour a spirit of revenge but to draw lessons from the past and build a better socially-cohesive nation where all of us in our diversity have a sense of belonging.’

Community outreach

Although Freedom Park is one of the foremost heritage destinations, it is committed to its many outreach programmes. ‘We want to be in touch with South African communities,’ Jane notes. A recent project that highlights this is the Calvinia Reconciliation Project. ‘Calvinia was a divided community. We brought the community together, assisted them to get funding, and now the whole community is building a Garden of Remembrance together to honour their diverse heroes,’ Jane enthuses.

‘Another programme we’re proud of is Spiritual Repatriation. We work in collaboration with the Department of Justice, the Missing Persons Task Team, and the TRC Unit. There are still many people unaccounted for. We ensure that the repatriation, digging of graves, and handing over of people’s remains to families is done in the most dignified and culturally-relevant and appropriate manner.’ In terms of education, Jane adds that Freedom Park is leading the Time Travel Educational Method in partnership with Sweden and Finland. It’s a participatory (role playing) method of teaching young people about their country’s history and culture, which is proving very successful. Freedom Park is also proud of its Digital Pan African Archives – a digital collection of stories from ordinary people who contributed to our freedom in various ways.

Educating our nation’s youth

‘We have a fully-equipped education unit and arrange activities that bring together youth from diverse backgrounds to talk about culture and heritage. We also have specific programmes for basic and tertiary education and a special Youth Out of School programme that teaches young people about where they come from and assists them to develop a sense of pride in their own identity. We teach young people about tolerance and acceptance, and to understand and respect each other.

We believe that racism and intolerance often result from ignorance and misconceptions about who you  are.’ Freedom Park also focuses on school tours but is aware that accessibility becomes an acute challenge; hence the outreach programmes that aim to take Freedom Park to the people.

‘We have ambitious plans for the future, and my dream is that every South African child can visit Freedom Park at least once in their lifetime. We believe that we are the foundation of identity and heritage, as well as the foundation of unity and diversity. I hope that the nation will rally to support us, and particularly corporate South Africa, which can potentially help to fund visits for children from some of the smaller, poorer schools,’ Jane implores.

Award-winning location

Besides visiting Freedom Park for a tour, or to spend time learning, reflecting and praying, it is also the  perfect location for corporate functions and retreats, picnics, and even concerts. This beautiful and inspiring venue offers state-of-the-art technology and facilities, as well as a peaceful space for walking, hiking and bird watching. ‘When you’re at Freedom Park you’ll forget that you’re in the city centre,’ Jane quips. Last year, Freedom Park was voted among the top 10 architecturally outstanding museums in the world and Pretoria’s best heritage destination. We believe these are testaments to the beauty and uniqueness of Freedom Park,’ Jane says.

The heart and soul of South Africa

‘We believe that Freedom Park is the voice of the South African people. Bringing together threads of our nation’s unique culture, heritage, history and spirituality, Freedom Park weaves together the previously untold South African story. We believe that Freedom Park reflects the heart and soul of South Africa, captured in one breathtaking space. For that reason, we encourage all South Africans to visit,’ Jane concludes.

Freedom Park

Corner Koch and 7th Avenue, Salvokop, Pretoria

T +27 012 336 4000

W www.freedompark.co.za

Issue 6 - September 2017 - February 2018

Issue 6 - September 2017 - February 2018

This article was featured on page 9-11 of SABI Magazine Issue 6 - September 2017 - February 2018 .

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