This morning we rolled out of bed and rolled on to the Origin Centre. While waiting for our tour guide to greet us in the lobby, we hungrily absorbed the words written on the brochure. For one, they were interesting and gave us a glimpse into the exhibition we were about to view. For two, we were more than ready to consume something other than granola bars.
Written on the first page below a photograph of the center was a quote that 9 hours later is still etched into my brain:
“We are who we are because of who we were.”
The week before we boarded our planes to Johannesburg, we discussed as a class the conundrum certain museums face concerning exhibitions that are focused around tragic moments in history. How do they move forward while still maintaining roots in the past? This question was brought up once again while we tried to emotionally digest our experience at the Apartheid Museum and physically digest the lunch we had just eaten in the courtyard. Together, we wondered if the rehashing of these painful moments for those who experienced it firsthand is ethical.
Though at the time I grappled with this question, after hearing our tour guide, Brian, enthusiastically speak about the importance of knowing our roots and history, I have now reached my answer. I believe it is vital that these moments in time be written about in detail, mass produced to the general public in the form of documentaries, testimonies, and journals, and eternalized through museum exhibitions. If we sought ignorance by choosing not to talk about such moments or accurately document them, they would be forgotten forever and therefore teach us nothing. It is through knowing about the oppression of the past that we can pave the way for the equality of the future.
To quote Brian during our guided tour today, “We need to forgive, reconcile, and then move on. But we must never forget.”