Freedom Park is not a place of grief and mourning but one of celebration. Its garden is a tribute to African and human dignity, and a place for the renewal of the human spirit. Stop here; meditate a while on the future, and honour the past.
The final resting place of all those who gave their lives in the conflicts which shaped South Africa are symbolised in Freedom Park's Garden of Remembrance. It is a tranquil space that invites reflection and prayer, interspersed as it is with monuments, statues and sculptures between the beautiful natural landscape of the Highveld.
All of those who contributed to the freedom of the country are acknowledged in the Garden of Remembrance. In 2003, cleansing, healing and symbolic reparation ceremonies took place in each province, acknowledging the main conflicts in South Africa's past, among them genocide, slavery, the wars of resistance, the Anglo-Boer wars, the first and second world wars, and the struggle for liberation from apartheid.
Some soil from the site of each ceremony and a plant unique to each province was collected and sent to form part of the garden, in honour of those affected by each of the conflicts.
Construction of the 2.5ha Garden of Remembrance began in July 2003, and it was completed in March 2004 – just in time for the 27 April 2004 Freedom Day celebrations. This day marked the first decade of democracy.
The tranquil garden houses S'khumbuto, the park's main memorial; Isivivane, the boulders; and Uitspanplek.
S'khumbuto bears testimony to the various conflicts that shaped present-day South Africa and remembers those who died during these struggles. It comprises six symbolic elements:
- The 697m long Wall of Names, which is inscribed with the names of those who played a significant part in the conflicts;
- The evocative Gallery of Leaders, which recognises historic international and local leaders who inspire everyday heroism;
- The 2 000-seat Amphitheatre, a terraced venue for major cultural celebrations and national events;
- The hushed Sanctuary, a serene space where visitors can pray, meditate, hold private ceremonies or light a candle for their loved ones;
- The bright Eternal Flame, surrounded by tranquil water, where visitors can remember and give thanks to the many heroes who played a role in shaping the country; and,
- The impressive Reed sculpture, which comprises almost 200 ascending metal reeds, some reaching up to 32m. It signifies the rebirth of the South African nation and is visible from across the capital.
Isivivane is the spiritual resting place of those who played a role in the freedom and liberation of South Africa. It houses the Lesaka and the Lekgotla.
The Lesaka is a burial ground dotted with boulders from each of the provinces. There are another two boulders that represent local government and the international community.
The Lekgotla is a semi-circular structure built around the bole of an uMlahlankosi tree. It is a place to meet and hold discussions in the age-old traditional African way. The uMlahlankosi trees were donated by each of South Africa's provinces.
Water plays a significant role in cleansing and healing in many belief systems, and visitors to the Garden of Remembrance are asked to wash their hands when they leave each area.
Overlooking the city of Pretoria, Uitspanplek's rolling green lawns and glimmering pools offer visitors a moment to reflect after they have visited the Garden of Remembrance.