A ‘Creative Uprising’ is taking place on the Hill
Event Africa Contributor 01/05/2022 Uncategorized
When the Old Fort Prison complex closed in 1983 it created an atmosphere of ominous foreboding as the high, thick walls echoed a painful reminder of the suffering that occurred within.
Hundreds of thousands of people had been jailed and tortured at the Old Fort Prison since it was built in 1892. Prominent political activists including Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Ghandi, Albert Luthuli, Albertina Sisulu, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela were detained there under the apartheid regime.
Historically a site of pain and suffering where basic human rights were severely neglected, it was this site that was chosen to be the home of South Africa’s new Constitutional Court. In what was a deeply symbolic, carefully calculated decision, the Court was built to act as a bridge between past and present; a structure that embodied freedom, human rights and democracy built upon a site that had for so long strangled these very same ideals.
The success of the precinct lies in its transparency – it remembers apartheid as a painful stain on South Africa’s history and moves forward to ensure the rights and dignity of its citizens are never again compromised. The Court building allows visitors to experience South Africa’s transition to democracy, freely observe the process by which freedom is now protected and learn how South Africa is building the future on its past.
It is perhaps Nelson Mandela’s experiences of the site that best represent its transformation. Mandela, who aptly described Constitution Hill as “a beacon of light”, first visited the fort complex as a young lawyer, then later as a prisoner and finally, he returned to the court as the president of South Africa.
Reimagining Constitution Hill in the face of the global pandemic has seen the reinvention of many of the spaces, including Mandela’s cell. The core themes of art and justice are reflected through the showcasing South African positivity and creativity on the site through the Creative Uprising movement.
Flame Studios, a new music recording studio named after the Flame of Democracy that burns perpetually in front of the court, is in the tunnels beneath the ramparts of the Old Fort. The studios as well as the Speak Truth to Power Lounge were designed by young designers incorporating the aesthetic of South African design, artistic culture, and visual language into the rich tapestry of history at Constitutional Hill that speak a language of rebirth and transformation. The Old Fort new restaurant “Food, I Love You Kitchen” means a foodie space returns to the Hill. Here, music and food meet South African design, architecture, and art in an inspiring showcase of local excellence. Local designer products can be purchased from the new museum shop opening in June. The Queen Victoria Hospital has transformed into a creative hub by providing galleries, a maker’s space, and creative workspaces to super-charge the growth and productivity of the local creative industries. Tours of the creative uprising spaces can be booked by special request.
A new five story Visitors Centre currently under construction includes the Museum and Archive of the Constitution designed in partnership with the Smithsonian. The building will also house a conference centre, museum store, tourism centre of innovation, co-working space, coffee shop and rooftop restaurant.
Constitution Hill; once a place of pain, suffering and imprisonment is now repositioned as a place of creativity and hope.