Isivivane, Freedom Park: A critical analysis of the relationship between commemoration, meaning and landscape design in post-apartheid South Africa


  • Graham Young University of Pretoria, South Africa
  • Piet Vosloo University of Pretoria, South Africa


landscape design, memorials, commemoration, Freedom Park, postapartheid South Africa, Isivivane


At the dawn of democracy in 1994, the nation was seeking a new identity and for many South Africans it was to be an identity based on their African culture and tradition. Politicians were seeking ways to commemorate those who had lost their lives in conflicts leading up to the first democratic elections when the African National Congress (ANC) came into power. In attempting to achieve this, the Department of Arts and Culture initiated several legacy and heritage projects, including the Isivivane, a memorial place at Freedom Park in the City of Tshwane. This article determines the effectiveness of landscape design in communicating the intent and meaning of commemorative places in a multicultural postapartheid society. In this article, the Isivivane is presented as a case study and the research survey has been used to gauge the visitors’ experience and perception of the Isivivane. Based on the results of a quantitative questionnaire, underpinned by theories rooted in phenomenological interpretation and landscape narrative, the article confirms that peoples’ experience and perception of the Isivivane are influenced by its design and that its landscape features are significant in evoking a response that enabled visitors to identify with the place and assign individual and collective meaning to it. The argument is supported by current theories of commemoration and meaning derived through landscape design. The implications of the study are useful and can potentially open doors for further studies that delve deeper into an understanding of the contribution that landscape design makes in the conceptualisation of commemorative places in a pluralistic and politically charged South Africa.


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