Iziko Slave Lodge
Slavery in South Africa

Slavery has for a long time been a forgotten part of South African history even though:


  • There were more slaves than burghers in the Cape Colony for most of the 18th century.
  • The economy of the Cape Colony depended to a large extent on slave labour.
  • Many South Africans of all races and cultural backgrounds are descendents of slaves.
  • Slaves built many buildings that still exist today. Slaves also played an important role in the development of South African culture.

Slaves played an important role in South African history. Yet we learn about governors and explorers, but little about the ordinary people who helped build South Africa under very harsh conditions. We experience the legacy of slavery everyday: in culture, in politics, and in family histories. It is therefore time to recognise the history of slavery at the Cape.


There is another very important reason to reflect on the history of slavery. In some places in the world, there are still people who are enslaved or treated like slaves. Learning about slavery past helps us to become aware of people who are still suffering in similar circumstances today.

Slavery has impacted many cultures within South Africa. Not only did slaves bring their own traditions to the Cape but slavery has impacted existing cultures and languages as well. The exhibition Cultural Echoes within the Iziko Slave Lodge sheds light on aspects of this impact.