The Slave Lodge Museum, housed in one of the city’s oldest buildings, is today an informational capsule and memorial dedicated to the difficult history of slavery in Cape Town and around the world.
The refurbished two-story edifice once described as a “shameless fortress of human misery,” was formerly owned by the Dutch East India Company and housed hundreds of slaves between 1679 and 1811. They worked in the adjacent Company’s Gardens, awaited auction on nearby Spin Street, and, some – as many as 20 percent – also died here.
Visitors to the museum learn about the routes that brought slaves to Cape Town via Indonesia, India-Ceylon, Madagascar and Mozambique and the slaving era through exhibits of period artifacts, audio-visual shows, maps depicting the uses of the building’s rooms, and other experiential displays like a reconstruction of the cramped conditions of a slaving ship. A light-infused memorial lists names of known slaves held here. Traveling exhibits on global human and civil rights issues occasionally appear and in the past have put a spotlight on segregation in schools in the United States and the role of women during the South African apartheid.
Also worth visiting: The building’s interior courtyard, which houses the tombstones of the city’s founder Jan van Riebeeck and his wife. Though the museum is expansive, many visitors find even a short visit of an hour or two to be both enlightening and emotional.
The Slave Lodge Museum is located on the corner of Adderley and Wale Streets in Cape Town’s City Center. It’s open from 10 a.m. til 5 p.m. Mon. through Sat. Admission is R 30 for adults and R 15 for children. There is limited dedicated parking, but the building is accessible by taxi or via the Groote Kerk bus.