One of South Africa’s foremost national heritage sites
It is no understatement to say that Liliesleaf is one of South Africa’s foremost national heritage sites. Between 1961 and 1963 Liliesleaf served as the secret headquarters and nerve centre of the ANC, SACP, Umkhonto we Sizwe and the Congress Alliance. The Museum opened to the public in 2009, serving as not only a world class heritage site but also an archive and centre for discussion of the key topics of Liberation and Democracy. The exhibitions broadly cover the period from 1956 to 1994 and include one of the few remaining signed copies of the Freedom Charter, as well as biographies of the Rivonia Accused housed in a combination of new and restored historical structures.
The innovative exhibition
The innovative exhibitions cover the history of Liliesleaf Farm, putting it into historical context. Good use is made of technology to deliver audio and video clips throughout the site, including an interactive table that was way ahead of its time in 2009. The interactive table utilised a Nintendo Wii engine for positional tracking, winning a Gold Loerie award in that year.
Interactives range from motorized drawers and ringing telephones to simple lift out slide panels. The Main House has a number of innovative exhibitions relating to the raid and an exhibition on Chief Albert Luthuli. Different rooms hold different exhibitions including exhibits focused on International Solidarity, insights into the Rivonia Trial, and an Umkhonto we Sizwe memorial for all the MK soldiers. Visitors are able to take a 90-minute guided tour or to self-navigate the site, which is equally accessible as a non-linear journey.
Digital Fabric’s involvement spanned nine years, from the time that the property was reclaimed and developed into an active heritage site. Starting as AV and lighting consultants, our role grew to include oral history gathering, archival development, exhibition design as well as many aspects of the site’s operations. Together with close working partners Cultural Kaleidoscope in excess of 150 interviews were filmed across the globe, with many key role players tracked down for interviews including the last living policeman from the raid, an international spy with links to the CIA, and several of the farm labourers from the period. Amongst many other highlights, we were privileged to be involved in the acquisition, authentication, and display of one of the last original Freedom Charter documents. Projects were also undertaken with National Lotto and several foreign embassies, from concept to funding to final execution.
Liliesleaf Farm is a living site that continues to function and grow on the strong foundations of the many professional team members and contributors. It is well known for its human approach to storytelling that showcase the events that lead to a free and democratic South Africa.