To give a true overview of Nelson Mandela in all phases of his life, from his youth in Qunu to his role as statesman, the museum built in his honour comprises three separate structures: the Bhunga Building in Mthatha, the Qunu component and an open-air museum at Mvezo, where Madiba was born.
The Nelson Mandela Museum is situated on the N2 highway in Mthatha in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province. It promises visitors a memorable cultural experience and insight into the life of Nelson Mandela, with guided tours and a heritage trail that follows his in his footsteps.
Comprising three separate locations, the Nelson R. Mandela Museum consists of the Bhunga Building in Mthatha, the Qunu component and an open-air museum at Mvezo. The historic Bhunga (translated loosely as council or caucus) building accommodates an exhibition tracing Nelson Mandela’s journey, as told in his own words, and narrated in part from his acclaimed biography A Long Walk to Freedom. It also showcases a diverse selection of the gifts bestowed on South Africa’s most-beloved statesman, Madiba, during his presidency.
From here visitors can visit Mvezo, Mandela’s rural birthplace, to gain an understanding of his humble beginnings. Born into a chiefly lineage within the Tembu people, his inkaba (umbilical cord) is buried here in accordance with Xhosa tradition, and it is where his father was stripped of his authority by the apartheid government and forced to flee while Mandela was still an infant.
From there he proceeds to Qunu, where his family took refuge and he spent his childhood. Here he assumed a Christian name, Nelson, in place of his Xhosa name Rolihlahla (which means shaking the branches of a tree, or trouble maker), as was the custom at the missionary-run school he attended. He spent his boyhood here diligently doing herd-boy duties and playing in the river.
The Nelson Mandela Youth and Heritage Centre is located at Qunu and comprises the second component of the Nelson Mandela Museum. This unusual heritage tour allows visitors to ‘meet’ Madiba the man, activist, father, liberation struggle hero and former president.