The Walls Can Speak

We visited the Origins Centre Museum and the Liliesleaf Farm, a national heritage site treasured in South Africa as a reminder of its history. At the Origins Centre, we learned the “Out of Africa” theory on the beginnings of early human civilization. The exhibits with casts of prehistoric skulls were used to explain that we share 99.9 percent of our DNA with the people of Africa. Visiting Liliesleaf was one of my favorite experiences so far in South Africa. I felt deeply connected to the efforts of the Freedom Fighters who hid out at the farm in Rivonia, then on the outskirts of Johannesburg. A July 11, 1963, raid by police on the farm led to the arrests of 19 leaders of African National Congress, the Communist Party and Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation). The farm was owned by Arthur Goldreich, who allowed it to be used as a safe house, or a hideout. The Rivonia Trial occurred in 1963 and 1964, when 10 leaders of the African National Congress were tried for 221 acts of sabotage designed to overthrow the apartheid system. Nelson Mandela was already in jail at the time of the raid, but he had lived at the farm in October 1961 and evaded security police while masquerading as a gardener and cook called David Motsamayi (meaning “the walker”). The Freedom Fighters were black, white and Indian. I felt that the walls in the thatched cottages and in Mandela’s room spoke to me. It was powerful being in the place where so much of the resistance against Apartheid was formed. Specifically, lawyer Bram Fischer’s work inspired me. Fischer led the defense team at the Rivonia Trial, and eventually went to prison himself. He was disowned by his family, disbarred and died of cancer. Mandela said he fought for his own people, but Fischer fought against his people—for everyone’s freedom.
–Colin Wallace