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Art & Museums in South Africa

South Africa is a country known for its vibrant culture and diversity, colorful art, and vast history, all of which are incredibly captivating. Here, we will give you some inspiration for the best places to explore South African art and discover the country's fascinating history.
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The art in South Africa is as colorful and varied as the many people and tribes that call this land home. Art comes in so many forms in South Africa. You will find that this differs between the cultures in the way they choose to express themselves creatively, which makes discovering art in such a wonderfully diverse country so intriguing and exciting.

When it comes to South Africa’s history, most of us have somewhat of an idea about the country’s turbulent past, including slavery, racism, colonialism, immigration, and war. Still, there are some incredible sources for those who want to delve a little deeper and learn more, which we will list further along.

This country has many different aspects to it, and you can travel there time and time again and find yourself discovering yet another perspective, which is what makes it such a fascinating destination. If you are a lover of history and the arts, you will be 3surrounded by endless opportunities to learn more during your South African adventure, and we have the perfect recommendations. 

Here are the best places to discover the art and the best museums in South Africa.

The best places for art in South Africa

Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden:

Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden
Source: https://www.ft.com/content/d03fd224-8b12-11e6-8cb7-e7ada1d123b1

Dylan Lewis is recognized worldwide as one of the foremost sculptures of animal forms, and here at the sculpture garden, you can see them up close and personal for yourself. There are a range of incredibly inspiring works of art here, which can easily keep you mesmerized for hours, and if you have the time, you should take it because this is a place worth spending valuable time.

Zeitz MOCAA:

Museum
Photo by Grant Durr on Unsplash

The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa is a genuinely great stop off for the art lover, as it is the largest museum of contemporary African art in the world, featuring an impressive collection of artifacts from the 19th & 20th Century, rotating and temporary exhibitions and of course a specialized space for a permanent exhibition. Located in the Silo district at the V&A Waterfront, this art museum is a one-stop shop for everything you need to know about contemporary African art.

Art Eye Gallery:

COF
Source: https://arteye.co.za/

This contemporary art space, located in Sandton, Johannesburg, has a motto that says ‘unique art for unique people,’ which is precisely what you will find there. Suppose you are looking for a truly individual art gallery to stop by, where you can wander through various exhibitions which feature a host of artists. In that case, this is the place to have that artistic experience. The highly knowledgeable owner will be happy to give you insights into the paintings, so don’t hesitate to ask.

Oliewenhuis Art Gallery:

Oliewenhuis Art Museum
Source: https://themelrosegallery.com/news/14-oliewenhuis-art-museum-permanent-collection-exhibition-noria-mabasa/

This art museum was established in 1985 when the art lovers of Bloemfontein came together and campaigned to have their local museum dedicated to art, and in turn, the state president at the time obliged, and so the museum was set up. Today its mission is to collect, exhibit and most importantly, conserve works of art which represent South African heritage.

You will find the permanent collection on the first floor, which is solely dedicated to artworks created by South African artists, while there are plenty of donated art pieces that have been received over the years to view.

Rupert Museum:

Rupert Museum
Source: https://rupertmuseum.org/exhibition/five/

This art museum is located in Stellenbosch, in the Wineland region, and here you will find the private art collection of Dr. Anton Rupert and his wife Hubert, who certainly had an eye for unique artwork. You can find a world-class collection of artworks created by South African artists, which they had collected since the 40s, and works done by a variety of European artists. In addition, you can expect to marvel at French tapestries, paintings, and sculptures, all of which are housed in over three exhibition halls. 

The Pretoria Art Museum:

The Apartheid Museum
Source: https://www.southafrica.net/au/en/travel/article/pretoria-art-museum-a-poignant-collection-of-local-art

Originally built to house the City of Pretoria’s extensive art collection, which had accumulated since the 1930s, the collection increased when Lady Michaelis donated her late husband’s art collection dating back to the 17th Century. To reflect the historical diversity of art in South Africa, the museum has focused more on urban and rural art, traditional art, new media, and techniques, so there is a real eclectic collection.

The best museums to visit

There are many museums to visit in South Africa, which will take you through various times in the country’s history, each telling its own powerful story. Below are some of the best museums to check out, but be sure to ask your ‘Destination Expert’ for local suggestions and insights. After all, they are there to ensure you have a great experience.

The Apartheid Museum:

Apartheid Museum
Source: https://sites.northwestern.edu/exploresouthafricanlit/2017/04/22/a-visit-to-the-apartheid-museum/

Located in Johannesburg, this has to be the best history museum in South Africa, and anyone who has been there will say the same. This is a museum where you can spend the entire day and still not get a chance to see everything, so if you have the time, try to get there early and take it all in. It depicts South Africa through the 20th Century and focuses on the apartheid regime and Nelson Mandela’s role in society. This is a fascinating place to discover the depths of South Africa and is a place where you can lose yourself in history. 

District Six Museum:

District Six Museum
Source: https://www.historyhit.com/locations/district-six-museum/

Located within an old Methodist church in the former inner-city area known as District Six, this museum is worth a visit if you want to learn more about the forced movement of the local inhabitants during the apartheid regime. This moving and emotional museum puts things into perspective and gives you a real-life look at what times were like during one of the most traumatic times in South African history. You will find memorabilia, and handwritten notes from former residents, showing where they lived, with one notable resident being jazz musician Dollar Brand.

Anglo Boer War Museum:

Anglo Boer War Museum
Source: https://www.historyhit.com/locations/anglo-boer-war-museum/

This museum, which is situated in Bloemfontein in the Free State, is, in fact, the only museum of its kind in the world which is dedicated to the Boer War that lasted from 1899 – to 1902. As well as having art collections and exhibits, the museum aims to give you an insight into why and how the war began all those years ago. The war took place between the British Empire and the two Boer republics and is also commonly known as The South African War.

Nelson Mandela Capture Site:

Art
Photo by Ashim D’Silva on Unsplash

This significant monument is where Nelson Mandela was arrested and then imprisoned for 27 years. This historic location commemorates this moment and features a long path leading to a captivating sculpture representing Mandela’s long walk to freedom. It is a frequently visited site and gives you a real-life image of that very time in history, which makes it very powerful and essential.

For some incredible cultural tours, be sure to check out these top eco-friendly tours:

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