An essential destination for locals and visitors alike, the vast Constitution Hill complex in Braamfontein is not short on things to see and learn during a visit, with three historical museums, a rotating collection of art exhibitions on display in the Constitutional Court atrium, and richly symbolic architecture and design throughout. On your next visit, however, go just beyond the perimeter of the former prison complex, and you’ll be rewarded with an impressive collection of bold street art and graffiti.
At the corner of Queens Road and Kotze Street—on a mostly-bare stretch of wall shared with the Old Fort section on the former prison complex — is a moving tribute to some of the female activists who were held in the Women’s Prison under Apartheid. A powerful work by South African artist Nardstar, the mural shines a light on their stories and the contributions they made to South Africa’s fight for democracy. The women’s eyes are painted with a haunting humanity and strength that will stick with you long after you leave the installation.
On the other side of Constitution Hill heading down Joubert Street, look out for a series of commissioned murals honouring homegrown creatives whose work embodies the principles enshrined in the Constitution. The inspirational, lyrical prose of the late jazz musician Hugh Masekela (who died earlier this year) hangs next to a striking blue portrait. Masekela spent years in exile in Europe and the US during the apartheid-era drawing the world’s attention to the horrors of apartheid through his music and activism. A portrait of the late poet laureate and fellow anti-apartheid activism Keorapetse Kgositsile, who also died this year, similarly plays tribute to his wise and inspirational prose
Further up Joubert, towards the top of Constitution Hill is a fantastical installation by South African artist Mr. Slipperz. Bursting with colour and energy, the mural features a quote by Archbishop Desmond Tutu entreating South Africans to “do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world”.
Finally at the bottom of Joubert, just before Sam Hancock Street look out for Afropolitan Teaparty by local Joburg multimedia artist Dada Khanyisa. Painted in his signature style, the mural is a cheeky commentary on contemporary digital social culture.
Constitution Hill plans to build its collection of public art by commissioning more local artists to design installations during commemorative periods of celebration, such as Human Rights and Youth months.
You can visit the murals around Constitution Hill on your own or speak with the Visitor’s Centre for more information about guided walking tours.