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As a multi-ethnic country with 11 official languages, South Africa has produced a number of literary stalwarts from all walks of life. As a result there is a plethora of places dedicated to the written word. Here are South Africa’s greatest literary landmarks to visit.
The National Library of South Africa is the primary provider and custodian of the nation’s key knowledge resources. It is an amalgamation of two national libraries — the South African Library in Cape Town and the State Library in Pretoria — which was renamed the National Library of South Africa in 1999. Situated on the periphery of the historic Company’s Garden, the Cape Town campus is the oldest library in South Africa dating back to 1818.
A reference only library, its collections contain a wealth of information, including rare manuscripts, South African books, periodicals, government publications, official foreign publications, maps, technical reports, Africana and newspapers. Many of these are available on CD or microfilm, in digital format or online. The Pretoria campus is housed in a state-of-the-art building, and offers free internet access, the digitization of the library’s collections and those of other institutions, and a de-acidification plant, the only one of its kind in Africa.
5 Queen Victoria St, Cape Town, +27 21 424 6320
Located roughly 60 km outside of Cape Town, this spiky monument commemorates the creation of the Afrikaans language. It was erected on the 100th anniversary of the founding of Genootskap van Regte Afrikaners (the Society of Real Afrikaners) who helped make the Afrikaans an official language of South Africa.
The Nelson Mandela Center of Memory was founded in 2004 as a publicly accessible archive and center to celebrate the life and times of Madiba and promote his legacy through exhibitions and dialogue. The center — which is located at Mandela’s post-presidential office in Houghton — houses exhibitions that outline his life as a political activist, complemented by many personal artifacts such as letters from prison, personal photographs, books he received from famous writers, and his Nobel Peace Prize. The center includes a recreation of Mandela’s prison cell on Robben Island and visitors are able to walk around the office where Mandela worked from 2002 to 2010. The center’s digital archive project is tasked with locating, documenting, digitizing and providing access to all archival materials related to Mandela.
107 Central St, Johannesburg, +27 11 547 5600
The KwaZulu-Natal Literary Tour celebrates the province’s diverse literary heritage. With a choice of eight literary trails, tourists have the opportunity to connect with their favorite authors from the area, such as Alan Paton, Fatima Meer and Lewis Nkosi, to name a few, by visiting the places that inspired their writings. The KZN Literary Tourism project was established in 2002 and provides trained literary guides and detailed maps to avid readers who wish to embark on the trails around the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg. Over 100 writers are linked to the project, all of whom were either born in KZN or have written about the province and places within it. The literary trails are a fascinating alternative to regular tourism and provide a unique experience to those interested in South African literature.
Various places, KwaZulu-Natal, +27 31 260 2308