Day 4- Sophiatown/ Liliesleaf Farm

Picture 1: Photograph taken in Sophiatown during the forced removals of black people within the community. This message was on most of their homes.

Picture 2: Mural of Trevor Huddleston, a white British priest, who actively fought in the resistance. He is painted black to honor his role. 

Today, plagued by torrential rain, we went to Sophiatown and Liliesleaf Farm. Prior to apartheid, Sophiatown was a diverse community. However, in order to enforce apartheid, whites, coloreds, indians, and blacks needed to be separated. Therefore, based on the racism of apartheid, blacks living in Sophiatown were forcibly removed from their homes and beloved community. Most of their homes and businesses were demolished in the process. We were able to visit one home of a respected black doctor, who because of his class was able to sell his home rather than be stripped of it. Also, interestingly, we learned of a white woman in Sophiatown who had a relationship with a black man during the beginning stages of apartheid. Interracial realationships and the children of such were illegal during this time so in order to keep her children she appealed to the courts that she was black by speaking Zulu rather than English. She is the only person to ever “demote” her racial status and disregard that privilege. As a woman proud of my own interracial relationship, I admired her. Also, we learned about Trevor Huddleston, a British South African priest witihin Sophiatown, who actively fought in the resistance against apartheid, so much so that he was exiled by the government. A painted mural of him walking through Sophiatown with children depicts him as black because the community views him as an honorary black man for his service. 

In the afternoon we visited Liliesleaf, a farm owned by a white family, that was used as the underground resistance’s headquarters. Once the ANC was banned from apartheid South Africa, those members such as Mandela, Tambo, and Sisulu, we forced to continue their efforts secretly. The police got wind of their operation and arrested the members at the farm (Mandela was not there because he was already serving a 5 year term for other “crimes”). The evidence found at Liliesleaf was substantial enough to sentence Mandela, Tambo, Sisulu and others to life imprisonment in the famous Rivonia trials. This museum is located throughout the orginial buildings they used in the resistance. Furthermore, it goes on to disclose other underground mission operations such as smuggling bombs in safari vehicles and in suitcases to breaking out of prison. This whole trip we’ve gotten the anti-apartheid perspective from multiple sources and the apartheid perspective only from the government justifications so it was interesting to listen to the interview of the guard who helped resistance prisoners escape. He was bribed to help them, but was caught by his superior and therefore, he served jail time. In the interview decades later, he said he was sorry for disappointing his superiors, his parents, and his country, which in a post-apartheid society is difficult to hear and understand. It made me ponder whether the white population values the democratic state or since most people lived through it, they still hold on to apartheid principles. After discussing with the group, it seems or we think it seems to be slowly fading as the older generations pass on and the new generations emerge, much like the United States. (We hope). 

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One thought on “Day 4- Sophiatown/ Liliesleaf Farm

  1. The museums have presented their information in a wide variety of ways with various rhetorical strategies…have they given you a lot to think about in how the exhibits are constructed?

    Like

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