As part of its mandate and strategic objectives the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS) launched its Humanities Hubs Programme in 2015. The Liliesleaf Trust was selected as a Humanities Hubs Pilot Project with the objective of developing an outreach programme focused on the history of South Africa’s liberation movement and, crucially, the preservation of memory and the struggle against forgetting.

The Humanities Hub Pilot Project at Liliesleaf was developed out of the recognition that we need to provide our children and students with the necessary knowledge and tools to understand our complex world. Humanities disciplines teach essential information about the world around us and promote reasoned, informed dialogue that is critical to productive civic life and creating deeply engaged, compassionate, active citizens.

The Pilot Project offered two experiences for young people, drawing on the humanities and on history in particular: one a travelling exhibition for university campuses, and the other an educational activity for school learners at Liliesleaf.

The travelling exhibition, which launched at Unisa on 27 July 2016, is specifically aimed at university students. It is a ‘pop-up’ exhibition, structurally based on the Thatched Cottage at Liliesleaf, that focuses on South Africa in the period 1952 to 1966, with particular emphasis on the police raid on Liliesleaf and the subsequent Rivonia Trial. The exhibition uses the Freedom Charter as a vehicle to spark conversations about freedom, democracy and social justice – issues that are as pertinent today as they were back then.

The activity for learners at Liliesleaf was a ‘treasure hunt’, The Democracy Quest, that made use of the space and the information at Liliesleaf. Learners from eight schools in Johannesburg were invited to Liliesleaf to pilot this activity. Learners were challenged to find information in the landscape and in the exhibitions at Liliesleaf. The information explored the strategies (from protest to negotiation, from personal sacrifice to the collaboration of different groups) that secured a democratic future for South Africa. The school visits were complemented by struggle stalwart Denis Goldberg’s first hand account of the liberation struggle, the raid on Liliesleaf, and the Rivonia Trial.

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