About Mandela House Museum

Nelson Mandela's humble house in Orlando West, Soweto, now called the Mandela Family Museum, is an interesting stopover for those keen to imbibe a slice of authentic history on the world's most famous former prisoner.

8115 Vilakazi Street, Orlando West in Soweto is known to many simply as Mandela House. It was where Nelson Mandela lived between 1946 and 1962. The house is a humble abode of four inter-leading rooms that today contain a collection of memorabilia, paintings and photographs of the Mandela family. Even a pair of Mandela's old boots lie on a shelf for display – insight into the man the country fondly called Tata (father). For today the house functions as a museum.

Did you know? Mandela describes in his The Long Walk to Freedom, how he knew that he had finally left prison when he returned here with his wife Winnie, for it was 'the place marked with an X in my mental geography'.

A red-brick 'matchbox' house built in 1945, bullet holes are still in evidence in the walls, as are scorch marks from petrol bombs thrown at the house whilst Mandela was in prison. He chose to return here despite having built a new home a little farther away in the interim, because this home was 'the house of his memories'.

Just up the road from this museum, is another famous house. Desmond Tutu also lives in Vilakazi Street. Around the corner is the Hector Pieterson Memorial, for it was here that the 1976 students' uprising began. Even closer to the Mandela home is the actual spot where Pieterson fell.

Mandela handed the house to the Soweto Heritage Trust, after divorcing Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. She, however, refused to relinquish it. Instead she turned it into the Mandela Family Museum and started a restaurant and pub across the road. The house was declared a national heritage site in 1999, and was again placed in the hands of the Soweto Heritage Trust. It has since been refurbished and renovated and includes a visitors' centre and various exhibits.

Some History about the Mandela Family Museum

The museum, a house comprising four inter-leading rooms, contains a rather higgledy-piggledy assortment of memorabilia, paintings and photographs of the Mandela family as well as a collection of honorary doctorates bestowed on Nelson Mandela from universities and institutions around the world. There's also a boxing belt from Sugar Ray Leonard, a multi-coloured cloak presented to the former president and a row of his old boots.

The matchbox home, at 8115 Ngakane Street, was Mandela's first house. He moved there with his first wife Evelyn Ntoko Mase in 1946. After their divorce in 1957, she moved out. When Mandela married Winnie Madikizela in 1958, she joined him at the Soweto home. However, during the ensuing years when his life as a freedom fighter was all-consuming, Mandela seldom stayed there. He was the "Black Pimpernel", living life on the run, until his arrest and imprisonment in 1962.

Madikizela-Mandela continued to live in the tiny house with her two daughters, Zeni and Zinzi, while Mandela was in jail. The house was petrol bombed and set alight several times during this time. When he was released, Mandela refused to move to the more opulent home (also in Orlando West) that Madikizela-Mandela had built during his incarceration. He wanted only to return to the house of his memories. However, after his release, he stayed there for a mere 11 days, as he was moved around from one location to the next until he settled into his Houghton residence.

Mandela separated from Madikizela-Mandela in 1992 and the couple were divorced in 1996. But, although her ex-husband handed the house to the Soweto Heritage Trust, Madikizela-Mandela refused to relinquish it. Instead she turned it into the Mandela Family Museum and set up a pub and restaurant across the road. During the inauguration of the museum, where bottles of "Mandela garden soil" were sold, Madikizela-Mandela said: "A lot of history was made here. This is where the 1976 students' uprising began, where the youth leadership met to change the face of South Africa."

Need to Know

WhereMandela House Museum, 8115 Vilakazi Street, Orlando West, Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa

WhenThe museum is open daily from 09h00 to 17h00.
The museum is closed only on Good Friday and Christmas Day.

Telephone+27 (0)11 936-7754

OvernightStay in Soweto Accommodation, Gauteng

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Nelson Mandela

Fascinated with Past President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela? Nelson Mandela is one of the world's most remarkable leaders. Find out more about his past and his impact on South Africa's present and future, and follow in his footsteps with our curated Mandela Route of South Africa.

A Tribute to Nelson Mandela

The Mandela Route

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