A Visit to the Berlin Wall – Monday 20th April

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Cape Town is steeped in history, much of it dark, much of it relating to the gross infringement of human rights.  So, running a Human Rights Club at Scalabrini, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to relevant places to visit right on your doorstep.  Sites like the Berlin Wall, that chunk that was given to Nelson Mandela and South Africa back in the 90’s.  You can find it at the entrance to St. George’s Mall, opposite St. George’s Cathedral on Wale Street.

Yes indeed!  There’s a chunk of the Berlin Wall in Cape Town, the only chunk held in Africa. Its two sides, East and West, clearly discernible by the extent of graffiti on them.  The Western side is covered in scrawl and paint splashes, the Eastern side is as clean as a hospital wall.  In the past, it would have been very foolish to have scrawled anything on the Eastern side of the wall.

Around the world there are 122 segments on show on streets and in museums – 41 in Europe, one in Moscow, 64 throughout the Americas (many in the USA) the one in Israel, and one in Bangladesh, Singapore, South Korea, Australia and Taiwan.

I’d set up an exhibition and a talk around the use of walls, both physical and psychological, to imprison and control people throughout the world. The one in Israel (which has its own chunk of the Berlin wall), that meanders throughout Palestine, and the one that Kenya is building along its border with Somalia.  And I showed a short film of the wall coming down in 1989, making the connection between this major milestone in the ending of the Cold War, and the fall of the Apartheid Regime and the release of Nelson Mandela quite soon after.

Members of the club pretended to spray the word ‘UNITE’ on the Western side of the wall, in the name of freedom and tolerance, mindful of the recent tragic rise of xenophobia in South Africa – a powerful symbol of solidarity and a striking connection to an age old struggle to fight for and maintain human rights for all.

It was a great start to our weekly club activities, setting the tone for lots more exploring to come..

By Neil Goodwin, Human Rights Officer

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