Forward To Freedom – The End Of Apartheid

By October 25, 2015


Photo Credit: Polly Foster

Photo Credit: Polly Foster

October is Black History Month, and to mark the occasion Bristol Records Office held ‘Forward to Freedom’, an exhibition on the fight to end apartheid.

The exhibition consisted of posters, news clippings and personal artefacts, with helpful signs explaining the items and their significance. It tells the story of the British Anti-Apartheid Movement, both in Bristol and across the country, and its campaigns to support the people of South Africa in their struggle.

Local anti-apartheid groups from Bristol featured prominently, with information on their activities, protests and campaigns. Before the time of email and internet, much of the groups’ organisation and campaigning was conducted through printed leaflets, examples of which are on display in the exhibition.

Most inspiring was the section on student involvement in the campaigns, with examples of newsletters from the early 90s from the University of Bristol and UWE, or Bristol Polytechnic as it was then known, available to view.

One of the main campaigns run against apartheid was a boycott against South African goods with the aim of putting pressure on the country to change its policies. The exhibition shows examples of posters and photographs of campaigners protesting against Tesco’s sale of South African produce, including a letter from the manager of a Bristol Tesco store responding to an enquirer asking if the store stocked South African goods. Spoiler alert – it did! However, the St Paul’s Community Association did succeed in creating the first Apartheid Free Zone in the country in Bristol. All seven pubs in the area, as well as 21 of the 24 local shops committed to not stocking any South African products.

The exhibition also included news cuttings and items on Bristol’s support of political prisoners in South Africa and Namibia, and the response to the freeing of Nelson Mandela.

Although packed with interesting things, the exhibition itself was quite small, but was held right next door to the Create Centre – a vibrant environment centre with its own events and exhibitions. The two combined to form an interesting and enlightening day out!