Worker's Museum

Museums in or near Newtown, Johannesburg in Gauteng, South Africa.

Things To Do in NewtownWorker's Museum

Museums Johannesburg

Where? On Mary Fitzgerald Square, opposite the SciBono Centre in Newton, Johannesburg

When? Tuesday to Sunday from 09h00 to 17h00.

How much? Free

Overnight? Stay at accommodation in Newtown, in Gauteng

Today, Newtown is a vibrant suburb of Johannesburg; where cultures, colours and language converge. It is alive with sounds, sights, smells and an undeniable rhythm that is irresistible to the locals. However, this multicultural vibe comes at a price, and the Worker’s Museum in Newtown tells the tale of the immense cost to the migrant workers that were once stationed here.

This museum is especially wonderful because it manages to portray the terrible living conditions, challenges, and those that rose above them, without sensationalising the experience. This museum was the tasteful vision of a local architect, Henry Paine, who has managed to showcase the original migrant labour hostel compound in an authentic way. The museum includes the original dormitories with their cold concrete bunk beds as a painful reminder of the conditions under which these labourers were forced to live. There is also an exhibition that reveals the punishment room, where the workers would be treated severely under the harsh labour system.

These labourers were from various countries in Southern Africa and were brought to South Africa to work in the local factories and mines at a time when the country had just begun to be noticed on the international financial markets. The success of South Africa lay in the hands of these men, who had left their wives and children behind to work under these conditions to support their families. But, instead of honouring their sacrifice, they were often treated abysmally. They had no privacy and every aspect of their lives was under the control of compound managers, who were often tyrants.

The Worker's Museum in Newtown finally pays homage to these men and to the families that sacrificed time with their husbands, fathers and sons. It is only closed on Mondays and admission is free.

Newtown is less than 30 minutes from the OR Tambo International Airport and even closer to the glitzy malls and entertainment centres of Sandton.

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