Cape Town – Nothing distinguishes the village of Qunu from any other in the Butterworth surroundings.
Even the large pink home built for the Mandela family does not ridicule the colourful, round huts standing alongside it. It is puny compared to the stately resort erected for South Africa’s latest president.
Life in Qunu is quiet and peaceful. Goats frequent the streets of the village hub, where a single fuel station and one or two supply stores can be found.
But people don’t come to Qunu for supplies. They come to remember and see what it was that made a ‘Father of a Nation’.
The Nelson Mandela Museum is the first stop to getting some insight into this quest. It is a newly erected yet modest exhibition building overlooking the tiny villages surrounding Qunu.
In the museum, world-renowned photographs of the world leader are mounted on the walls, and tell the story of his life.
However, Madiba's life - where it began and the impact it made - lies far beyond the walls of this place of remembrance....
The museum humbly illustrates the sacrifices Nelson Mandela had to make to become the world leader he was.
In the caption of one of the photographs – where he is seen standing next to the "unadorned" grave of his long-deceased mother – Madiba says how gutted he was for having missed his mother’s funeral while he was imprisoned on Robben Island.
The photographs and Nelson Mandela's quoted captions also illustrate how this ‘Father of the Nation’ in some ways felt like an inadequate Father for his own children and loved ones.
The museum shows visitors that Nelson Mandela was merely a man – and this is both disenchanting and inspiring.
While in Qunu, you can visit some of the graves of the Mabida family.
The graveyard where his two sons, daughter and parents are buried are not controlled by the Museum, but are open to the public. Nelson Mandela's grave is not accessible by the public.
Here are 3 more reasons why we loved Qunu:
You get to play the games Madiba played as a child
There is a large granite ‘sliding’ rock he used to slide down with friends as a child. Visitors can have hours of fun sliding down the rock on an old chair back.
You get insight into Nelson Mandela’s very humble beginnings
Like I said, Qunu is small and there aren’t many supply stores. The community is still largely reliant on subsistence farming and traditional ways of life. Some people have started seeing the influx of visitors to the museum as a good business opportunity. The people of Qunu are very hospitable and eager to share experiences and stories with tourists.
You’ll leave feeling inspired and full of pride and hope
Not only do you leave feeling thankful to live in a country that has produced such an inspiring leader, you feel thankful for the opportunities you have. If the Nelson Mandela Museum is anything, it is a manifestation of hope for the future.
Want to visit? Here you go:
Nelson Mandela Museum and Nelson Mandela Youth and Heritage Center - Qunu
Opening hours: Every day from 09:00 to 16:30
Entry charge: FREE
Contact Velile Ndlumbini for Imonti Tours on 083 487 8975 to arrange a visit.
Hiking tours in the area can also be arranged.
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