Nowhere can the story of South Africa’s turbulent past and its extraordinary transition to democracy be told as it is at Constitution Hill. This national heritage site and museum in Johannesburg has witnessed a century of South Africa’s history.
From rebellious British soldiers who fought with the Boers at the turn of the century, to the youths caught up in the Soweto Uprising, to the dawn of democracy and the building of South Africa’s new Constitutional Court, Constitution Hill has witnessed it all.
Visit Constitution Hill, Johannesburg, and learn about the injustices of South Africa’s past while observing the process by which freedom was won and is now protected.
Exhibitions and guided tours have been designed as an interactive experience, offering visitors the opportunity to participate in the building of Constitution Hill.
The Constitutional Court of South Africa is Johannesburg’s newest historical landmark and a unique architectural symbol of South Africa’s democracy. On this site, once the Old Fort Prison Complex, commonly known as Number Four, political prisoners and common criminals awaited trial and sat out their jail sentences. Today, the elegant Constitutional Court presides over this once-reviled place and stands as a proud monument to South Africa’s hard-earned freedom.
The Court extends an invitation to the general public and international visitors to explore the history of South Africa’s political transition. Come and see the splendid and symbolic artwork, sit in the graceful public gallery, watch the 11 justices deliberate the finer details of the Constitution and wander around the largest human rights library in the southern hemisphere. Or simply soak in the atmosphere of one of the world’s most progressive constitutions.
Originally a prison, it was closed in 1983, leaving a scar on Johannesburg’s metropolis - a bleak reminder of our painful past. The site has now been transformed into a modern, living museum dedicated to human rights.
To chart the history of the Old Fort Prison Complex, commonly known as Number Four, is to broadly map the history of resistance to human rights in South Africa.
Constitution Hill Museum helps one experience the unique way that the South African transition has built hope for the future out of the pain of the past.
Constitution Hill’s public participation programme, We the People, has begun the long process of inviting ex-prisoners and warders back on to site to participate in research-based workshops. The images, sounds and voices recorded in these workshops have recreated the tenor of prison life, revealing individual stories and experiences that form the basis of the exhibitions and tours. Objects, photographs and memories give a sense of how power and punishment were inflicted on the minds and bodies of prisoners and demonstrate the efforts that men and women made to overcome prison conditions.
Exhibitions and Tours:
Number Four - The journey to Number Four, the dark heart of Constitution Hill.
The Mandela Cell - View a film documenting Mandela’s time at the Old Fort, and his emotional return to Constitution Hill some forty years later.
The Women’s Jail - The grace of this handsome Victorian-style building belies the pain and suffering that occurred within.
We the People – in the shade of the Constitution - This photographic exhibition is the result of the first We the People road trip that travelled across South Africa’s nine provinces in 2003 from urban areas to isolated rural communities.
Objects from the Past - A collection of prison objects and emblems that sheds light on the system of punishment and incarceration in apartheid South Africa.
Guided Tours - A tour of the old prison buildings and the Constitutional Court is a journey through South Africa’s painful past, but also a celebration of its remarkable transition to democracy.
Contact: Visitor Services Manager
Telephone:+27 (0)11 274-5300
Fax: +27 (0)11 274-5302