Remembering Denis Goldberg: 1933 – 2020

Iziko Museums of South Africa

Iziko Museums of South Africa is deeply saddened and joins the global community in mourning the loss of anti-apartheid activist, humanitarian and icon, Denis Goldberg. 

At the launch of the Madiba exhibition catalogue in November 2015, Prof Dr (h.c) Denis Goldberg stated: 

“We need great leaders who can mobilise our people to make the new South Africa we fought for and so many died for. It is not the work of just one great saviour. That concept demobilises us. We have a democracy and we must use our rights collectively to advance to a mature society where the aspirations written into our Bill of rights can be realised.”


A great leader, Denis Goldberg, not only worked tirelessly alongside Nelson Mandela and many others fighting the injustice of apartheid South Africa, his cultural activism created hope and opportunity for the beneficiaries of the Denis Goldberg Foundation. Goldberg’s optimism, commitment to education and improving the lives of marginalised youth could be seen in the passionate words and memories he shared at a number of Iziko events, as well as through the continued work of the Foundation.  

Prof Goldberg’s participation in critical dialogues and exchanges at Iziko contributed to the on-going transformation of our museums and public spaces. At Iziko, we celebrate his life and the great contributions he made to our nation, our democracy and youth development through arts and culture in the Cape region. 



Iziko Museums of South Africa was privileged to have been associated with this struggle icon, freedom fighter turned cultural activist, and champion of cultural democracy. His conviction in the ability of art and culture as a reconciler and educator, is evidenced though the lives of the young musicians and artists from the Kroonendal Music Academy and House of Hope. His legacy stands as a reminder that strengthening our democracy is of paramount importance, and supporting arts and culture requires consistent, continued and collective commitment from citizens,” says Rooksana Omar, CEO, Iziko Museums of South Africa.

Lifelong activism best describes Mr Goldberg’s struggles and sacrifices leading to imprisonment and eventual exile. Denis Goldberg was first imprisoned for four months for assisting strikers after the Sharpeville massacre in 1960. Later, as a qualified civil engineer, he was recruited by Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) the armed wing of the ANC where he helped set up the first MK camp within South Africa. His involvement in MK was one of the many charges brought against him in the Rivonia Trial of 1963. 




The youngest Rivonia trialist convicted, along with others including Nelson Mandela, Ahmed Kathrada and Walter Sisulu, Goldberg spent 22 years in prison. Upon his release in 1985, he went into exile in London and founded the Denis Goldberg Legacy Foundation Trust where he continued to fight the injustices of apartheid. Right up until his death, Goldberg helped to educate disadvantaged youth on our liberation history and struggle in order to empower them.  

Along with all South Africans, we at Iziko mourn his passing and extend our condolences to his family, friends and those whose lives he has touched. 


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