Moving beyond its past as a prison, Constitution Hill now stands testimony to South Africa’s peaceful transition to democracy. The current Mandela Gandhi Exhibition acknowledges this transition and tells the story of two towering figures in the struggle for freedom.

Constitution Hill, in Hillbrow in Johannesburg, is an iconic historical monument; the area houses the Constitutional Court and, as a prison, once incarcerated thousands of apartheid-era petty offenders, and global freedom icons, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi. Currently, an exhibition charts these two towering historical figures’ history.


The exhibition consists of four spaces featuring images of Mandela and Gandhi throughout their lives. Two spaces feature interactive TVs on which exhibition goers can watch interviews with the men.

The exhibition aims to highlight the similarities between the two leaders, even as they lived in different times. Quotes from Mandela and Ghandi echo across the years as each acknowledges the effect South Africa had on them; Mandela gives a nod to Ghandi’s influence on the struggle for freedom, saying: “The spirit of Gandhi may well be a key to human survival in the 21st century,” while Gandhi is recorded as saying: “It was after I went to South Africa that I became what I am now.”

The exhibition will “showcase Madiba’s connections with India and how the Gandhian philosophy of non-violence helped shape his own transformation and adoption of the values of peace and reconciliation”.

The Mandela Gandhi exhibition runs at the Old Fort Hall until 10 August.


Constitution Hill is a multi-million-rand urban regeneration project, funded by Blue IQ, the Gauteng Provincial Government, the City of Johannesburg, the Department of Justice and philanthropic organisations, and delivered by the Johannesburg Development Agency.

The precinct celebrates South Africa’s ability to talk itself out of a bloody racial conflict and into democracy. It is a lekgotla – a place of gathering – where South Africans and international visitors come together for stimulating dialogue and debate. It also homes one of South Africa’s major public art collections.

Before it became an apartheid-era prison, it was known as the Old Fort, built by President Paul Kruger to defend his capital, Pretoria. His soldiers walked its ramparts in the Anglo-Boer War, until the British marched into town in 1900, and took over the fort.

The site houses three notorious prisons: the Old Fort, dating back to 1893, where white inmates were kept; sections Four and Five, now known as Number Four, or No 4, the so-called Natives’ Gaol built in 1904; and the Women’s Gaol, or Women’s Jail, built in 1910.

Now a major tourist attraction, it has become an integrated, multipurpose and multidimensional space that hosts concerts and events. About R460-million has been spent on the development.