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Commemorate the Emancipation of the Enslaved with Iziko Museums of South Africa


Emancipation Day Free entry to selected Iziko Museums, 1 December 2022.

For media images and interview requests, please contact: Zikhona Jafta at

Iziko Museums of South Africa will extend *free entry to selected Iziko Museum sites on Emancipation Day, 1 December 2022. Much of South Africa’s wealth and development was built on slavery – a brutal, dehumanising stain on history. Emancipation Day is observed on 1 December to mark the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833.    

Among Iziko’s thirteen Cape Town museums is the Iziko Slave Lodge. The second oldest remaining colonial building – a site with a traumatic and difficult legacy.  In working to transform the Iziko Slave Lodge from a site of human wrongs to one of human rights’ the museum aspires to be a place of memory. A space to reflect, remember and connect to Cape Town’s slave roots, and to raise awareness of the issues of human rights, equality and justice in the present day.

Visits unearthing [our] stories in the exhibition Who were the enslaved at the Iziko Slave Lodge Museum, 2022. Photograph: Nigel Pamplin © Iziko Museums of South Africa.

In seeking the names, faces and voices of the enslaved, Iziko has renamed the ground floor rooms of the Slave Lodge Museum. Through the special renaming of these spaces, the exhibition: Who were the enslaved? Commemorating lives under enslavement at the Cape of Good Hopeseeks to answer the questions:  Who were the enslaved? What work did they do? How did they manage to survive a new, unwelcoming and often violent environment once they arrived? How were they able to communicate with each other when they came from far-flung regions: South Asia, South-East Asia, Madagascar, East Africa and initially West Africa?

The first known shipwreck with enslaved Africans on board to be identified, studied and excavated brings into to memory the unshackled history, the wreck of the slave ship São José and its ‘human cargo’ – taken from their homes nearly two hundred years ago.

Curator, Jaco Boshoff and guests viewing artefacts from the São José at the Iziko Slave Lodge Museum, 2018.Photograph: Nigel Pamplin © Iziko Museums of South Africa.

The enslaved of the Cape of Good Hope become an integral part of the city’s culture, lending their trades, language and stories to their new land and despite its hostile welcome, imprinting their own influence onto it. In time, families and community grew again and today many of the city’s residents descend from these ancestral lines. My naam is February looks at how slaves were named and relates the present-day experiences of descendants.

The narratives of the enslaved, free blacks, the formerly enslaved and the Khoi, stories of great resilience amid hardship, courage, bravery and whose acts of resistance are memorialised within the Iziko Slave Lodge Museum.

Messages from the Moat, an installation by Sue Williamson, an artist who has recently been awarded the accolade of being named one of South Africa’s “Living Legends” by the Department of Sports, Art and Culture is on show at the Iziko South African National Gallery. The work consists of 1318 bottles, each of which has engraved upon it the details of the sale of an individual enslaved person, sold in Cape Town. The work reflects upon the brutal practice of forcing people in other parts of Africa and the East Indies to work for the Dutch East India Company during the foundational years of permanent white settlement in South Africa.

Installation shot Messages from the Moat, on exhibition as part of the exhibition: Breaking Down the Walls, 150 years of art collecting at Iziko, at the Iziko South African National Gallery, 2022. Photograph: Nigel Pamplin © Iziko Museums of South Africa.

Free entrance on Emancipation Day, 1 December 2022, includes only the following Iziko Museums:

  • Iziko Bo-Kaap
  • Slave Lodge
  • Rust en Vreugd
  • Koopman’s de Wet House
  • South African Museum and the
  • South African National Gallery

Exhibitions at these museums provide visitors with the opportunity to learn about, understand and challenge institutional narratives – where previously untold histories are brought to the fore.

Free entry excludes the Iziko Planetarium and Digital Dome, Castle of Good Hope and Groot Constantia.

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