Contemplating our freedom

As South Africa celebrates Freedom Day, we look back on hopeful beginnings to remind us of what we set out to achieve as a nation.

It seems like an age away now. 27 April, 1994 – the first democratic elections in South Africa. It was a day of patience, of quietly waiting in queues. Shuffling forward, a human chain looping and spiralling back on itself, secure in the knowledge that eventually, everyone's time would come. You just had to stand. And wait.

There was the unspoken and unanimous agreement that it was worth the effort to dedicate a whole day to slipping a piece of paper into a box. Unspoken because it was clear that we were riding an unstoppable wave of optimism towards a better future for all. We were turning this corner together and – despite the fact that after casting our votes, we would all disperse to our different corners – in that queue, together, we were all the same.

The picture is not quite so rosy, 21 years into South Africa's democracy. Those who need it most are not quietly waiting for the better life they thought freedom would bring. It is impossible to reflect on this national holiday without acknowledging the pitiful depths we have sunk to in meting out our rage on other Africans living in our midst.

Today, we look back on some moments in time when things were different, to remind us of what was and what still perhaps could be.


Albie Sachs on designing the Constitutional Court of South Africa

In this talk from Design Indaba Conference 2006, the judge and former anti-Apartheid activist says the Constitutional Court of South Africa was envisioned as “a place for everybody”.

A house for Mrs Jonkers

In 2008, Portuguese design journalist Frederico Duarte visited Cape Town to attend Design Indaba. In this Opinion piece, he reflects on design's capacity to help heal the wounds of the past.

Freedom for all

In these three short videos Faith47 talks about the making of her Freedom Charter street art series, inspired by the famous charter drawn up by the African National Congress.

Where black and white melted into brown

American writer Richard Rodriguez goes in search of the "real" South Africa. "I returned to America and told friends that I had been to some great country in the world that did not yet exist," he writes. For so it seemed to him at the time - "some great possibility, a Good Hope is only now being charted".