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Kliptown - The Open Air Museum

Johannesburg, Gauteng

Kliptown, a suburb in the heart of Soweto, is the oldest residential district of Soweto and was first laid out in 1891 on land which formed part of Klipspruit (i.e. ‘rocky stream’). From 1903 the area was home to informal settlements and in the well-known Union Street, the architectural history from this era can still be seen. In 2005 the Johannesburg City Council announced plans for renewal of the Kliptown area, including a large-scale housing project and the area now contains a mixture of purpose-built housing, offices and shops as well as the Walter Sisulu Square of Dedication.

Kliptown falls within the “Struggle Route” which takes the visitor along the history of the struggle for freedom. On June 25 and 26, 1955 the Congress of the People met in Kliptown. Organised by the African National Congress, the South African Indian Congress, the South African Congress of Democrats and the Coloured People’s Congress, the Congress saw the declaration and adoption of the Freedom Charter, which set out the aims and aspirations of the opponents of apartheid and a vision of a future South Africa. The Freedom Charter became the manifesto of the African National Congress. The Walter Sisulu Square of Dedication commemorates this event.

The story of the thousands of people who contributed to the drafting of the Freedom Charter is now permanently inscribed at the Kliptown Open Air Museum. The museum, on the western wing of the Square takes visitors through a commemorative history of “The People Shall Govern” and the stories of the drafting of the Freedom Charter and the role of the groups that took part in the process. The story is told using photographs, documents, news clippings and oral testimonies while songs sung during the 1955 gathering play in the background.

Today Walter Sisulu Square is the centrepiece of modern entertainment and community life with shops, restaurants, hawkers’ stalls and art galleries. The four-star Soweto Hotel on the square boasts classy yet uniquely 1950’s township-styled décor with 48 rooms, two suites and two boardroom. A tourist information office is located on the north end of the west wing.

Contact Details:

011 528 8689/90



Opening & Closing Times:

9am-4pm (Mon-Fri).